“Un ambitieux incapable”, thus chose to translate French official news agency AFP President Erdoğan’s flattering words about his counterpart President Macron. Erdoğan had also chose to appeal to Macron in familiar or condescending second person singular form and had definitely abstained from using “monsieur” although AFP preferred to embellish things on that front.
Whatever, that is secondary for the purpose of this column. Here I will try to have a closer look at those ambitions and capabilities and will argue l that the only way out for both the EU and Turkey is a European Turkey. And I did on purpose not add “in one form or in another” at the end as that wpuld be moving goal posts during the game.
Erdoğan had exclaimed “you (‘tu’) will have even more burden with my person.” That was in response to Macron’s Ajaccio Med7 a.k.a. “Club Med” speech, in which he had insinuated that Turkey deserved better than Erdoğan. For Erdoğan this could only mean one thing: that Macron had invited the Turkish people to an open uprising against his regime and/or that Macron was directly fomenting a coup d’état against him.
Since then the European Parliament entered into foray with a resolution and –surprise!- Mr. Macron switched to Turkish, at least for a single tweet of which the Turkish redaction is attributed to previously Consul General in Istanbul Ms. Muriel Domenach. Mr. Erdoğan on his behalf dialled down the rhetoric as he tweeted back by way of response that Turkey was ready for dialogue.
All along Germany and within NATO many other member countries had played a different tune than France. While writing these lines, for very un-scientific purposes, I had a quick look at La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera websites and did not come across a single news item either on Turkey-France spat or on the Libyan conflict dimensions of the East Med issue. Same for the Spanish daily El Pais.
For sure Greece is another story. On the on hand you have the Ekathimerini English edition’s responsible approach by opening space to opinion pieces by the two foreign ministers Dendias and Çavuşoğlu. On the other, you have Dimocratia’s childish headline in Turkish insulting President Erdoğan. The latter appears rather to be a warning towards PM Mitsotakis and his NDP to abstain from reaching a negotiated solution with Turkey.
Spain and Italy are, like Turkey, geographically two peninsulas and historically two countries with bygone memories of empires. Politically all three have least to say tumultuous recent pasts. Thus, unless one has puts special emphasis on the Catholic character of these two countries, Turkey’s is in a similar position as the other two. Although the “political tumult” is still under way, here.
Now back to Mr. Macron’s ambitions and capabilities. Many claim that all Fifth Republic French presidents try to fill in Charles de Gaulle’s CDG was France incarnate in many ways even if he may be ridiculed by many in our times. Presently, Macron is also seen as emulating the ways of CDG. Many before him, first and foremost Mr. Sarkozy failed spectacularly on that front.
One can only bash Turkey so much. Law of diminishing political returns kicks in sooner rather than later. To avoid falling in the “Sarkozy trap” it will be wiser for Mr. Macron to extend a helping hand towards Turkey to pull it out of that above mentioned tumult and towards the EU where it ultımately belongs.
On the Greek-Turkish front, as endless (over 70 if my memory does not fail me) so-called “exploratory talks” (last one being held in 2016) shows the bilateral disagreements are multi-layered and multi-zonal. According to leaked information to the media not denied by any party a back channel already exists between advisors Ms. Eleni Sourani and Mr. İbrahim Kalın. Dialogue is back on the menu.
Both EP’s holding an international conference and re-opening the direct dialogue with the Turkish parliament proposals are constructive as Germany’s back-door diplomacy with both of its southern flank NATO partners. Extracting and monetizing natural gas from the deep sea floor in the Mediterranean is a flying pig with lipsticks on for the next quarter of a century. None will gain from an armed conflict or even increased military expenditures, all the more so in these pandemic days.
For a change I will cut the agony of the assumed reader short this Monday and try and conclude it on an optimistic note. Mr. Macron has a master’s degree (DEA) in philosophy. He would sure know better than I do the famous quote by James Freeman Clarke: “A politician thinks of the next election; a statement of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of his country. The statesman wishes to steer, while the politician is satisfied to drift.”
To put into question Turkey’s Europeanness is a non-starter. Contradictorily, President Erdoğan himself would be more than satisfied if he could obtain a free travel agreement to EU countries with no legal or political strings attached that full membership would entail. The way out for Turkey’s secular democrats, for the next generation, for both Greece and Turkey as well as for both EU and Turkey is to put back on the table Turkey’s EU full membership vocation fair and square.
There are those who compare Turkey’s future with the EU to post-Brexit UK or to Putin’s Russia. “Tough love” they would say, or “transactional” perhaps. As in COVID-19 vaccine perhaps no remedy is yet to be found for raw nationalism and chauvinism on both sides of the Aegean. Until then, it is better to moor Turkey to the EU accession talks. If Mr. Macron’s France wishes to take the lead, he will be most welcome. To my mind, bold is better than ambitious when it comes to political leadership.