A lot of things were said in the dispute triggered when Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu tried to take Turkey’s domestic politics into other countries like Holland. Dutch authorities denied entry to Cavusoglu, who apparently thinks that Holland is the same country as Turkey and he can campaign at will for a ‘yes’ vote in Erdogan’s constitutional referendum. The referendum in April is about changing the constitution so that Erdogan – as president of the country – would be able to stay for two more terms. He would also hold most of the political power, making him a modern-era emperor.
Not only does this go against the principles of EU-style democracy by consensus, Erdogan has refused so far to end the extended state of emergency in Turkey. Tens of thousands of people have been jailed without evidence. Lawyers, judges, MPs, journalists, academics. The wild purge after the attempted coup in July 2016 hasn’t slowed down. Erdogan is also in a big hurry to claim almost total power over Turkey. This is an alarming situation.
“The proposed Constitutional amendments raise serious concerns at the excessive concentration of powers in one office, with serious effect on the necessary checks and balances and on the independence of the judiciary. It is also of concern that this process of constitutional change is taking place under the state of emergency,” said Federica Mogherini, European Commission vice-president.
Like any dictator, Erdogan expects total and abject agreement from all his subjects.
But the EU slammed the door in his face over the weekend. The message was clear – don’t bring your brand of politics into our backyard. It was a shock for Cavusoglu and Erdogan, who bargained on the EU’s moderate approach so far. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was eager to appease Turkey during the Syrian refugee crisis. To stop Turkey from pushing refugees into running away to Europe. She and the EU approved four billion Euros and handed it over to Turkey to cover the costs of housing the refugees. Their motives were mercy and controlling the influx of refugees into Europe, but Erdogan’s motive is agitation, ruthless political gain and nothing more.
If this sounds uncharitable, consider Erdogan’s and Akinci’s recent strident demands for Turkish citizens to have the four freedoms of movement. The freedoms are owning property, trading and working anywhere in the EU – without Turkey being a full EU member state. Turkey is denied visa-free travel into the EU because it refuses to make the internal changes required to get the deal. So, why would the EU offer Turkish citizens benefits if the political leadership is not willing to adapt to the requirements? But instead of fixing the issues so the treaties can be signed, Erdogan kicks up a huge, egotistical, nationalist fuss.
European Union membership is based on common economic interests and human rights. In recent years, it has grown into a political union. Turkey applied for EU membership, nobody forced it to apply. Unlike Erdogan’s attempts to force his way into membership without fulfilling all the criteria. Compared to other countries, maybe the EU is a country club economically speaking, but that’s because it’s supported by the enormous efforts and hard work of every citizen. People who believe that the EU brings peace and prosperity and are committed to working for it.
When – and if – Erdogan realises he cannot force his way into European Union membership like Turkey forced its way into Cyprus, there’s a chance that the last 20 years of negotiations can lead somewhere.