EU and NATO summits deepened Turkey’s isolation and its anti-Western drive
“The prejudiced, myopic and erroneous stance on Turkey in the Conclusions adopted by the European Council held in Brussels on 23-24 June 2022 is regrettable. (…) The EU must already comprehend that the benefits that will be brought about by Turkey’s accession process and the cooperation between Turkey and the EU must not be taken hostage by and sacrificed to the narrow-minded, unlawful and maximalist claims of Greece and Greek Cypriot Administration” utters the Turkish Foreign Ministry with its traditional undiplomatic tone to the 23-24 June European Council Conclusions.
Whereas the Conclusions of this historic meeting during which the EU-27 have granted the candidate status to Moldova and Ukraine, avoids once again to mention Turkey in chapters relating to the enlargement…
On the contrary the country appears under external relations as: “The European Council expressed deep concern about recent repeated actions and statements by Turkey. Turkey must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU Member States. Recalling its previous conclusions and the statement of 25 March 2021, the European Council expects Turkey to fully respect international law, to de-escalate tensions in the interest of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to promote good neighborly relations in a sustainable way”.
In its haste to respond without properly reflecting, the Ministry has omitted to point at the de facto exclusion of Turkey from anything that relates to enlargement, as though it is happy with it. Needless to recall that Turkey’s membership bid is dead and buried on 26 June 2018, i.e. two days later the referendum on the change of regime when the EU declared: “The Council notes that Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union. Turkey's accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen”.
Despite the cynical approach of some Turkey observers in and out the country who pretend that the membership process is still on track, these conclusions are binding.
NATO’s Madrid Summit of 28-30 June was another international gathering with higher load of drama completely fabricated by Ankara regime who immaturely blocked the membership bids of Finland and Sweden to the Organization.
As always Ankara had unsubstantiated, ill-prepared and unworkable requests from two Nordic countries. At the end of the day on 28 June a tripartite memorandum of ten paragraphs has been signed by the representatives of three countries in which the unique concrete paragraph pertains to the lifting of Ankara’s initial objections to Finland and Sweden’s memberships. All others are truisms, recriminations and unrealistic demands that we have heard countless times from Turkish officials since years, every time they had to deal with Westerners.
Next to these clichés Turkish officials pushed for totally unworkable demands such as “the widest possible inclusion of Turkey and other non-EU NATO Allies in current and future initiatives of the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), including Turkey’s participation in the PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) project on military mobility”. There is simply no way for Finland and Sweden to make the other 23 EU members of PESCO to support Turkey’s participation, quite to the contrary.
As always, Ankara had overrated its weight and prestige to finally be granted with merely an hour bilateral with Biden. But the US who was the ex-officio party to the deal as per its shadowy weight (Biden called Erdogan before and probably warned him), offered nothing in “direct connection with the deal” an U.S. official said. The old proposal by the Biden Administration to bow to Ankara’s request to upgrade its F-16 fighter jets and by new ones has slim chances to go through the Congress.
As for the “domestic purposes”, naïvely underlined by Turkey observers, one must realize that Turkish voters who don’t even know where Finland and Sweden are situated, seem nowadays more concerned to feed their family than to be satisfied with a “diplomatic victory” abroad.
Technically speaking, this memorandum is a sort of a letter of intent. The first nine articles of the text are of this nature. The press release of the Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on 28 June 2022 says it all: “As we enhance our cooperation on counterterrorism, arms exports and extraditions, Finland naturally continues to operate according to its national legislation”.
Moreover both countries will obey by the European Convention on Extraditions of the Council of Europe. One should bear in mind that Turkey never succeeded to get any political prisoner back since decades due to its poor legal defense guarantees. The broad definition of terror offences in the Turkish Penal Code is also a major impediment before the extraditions.
Indeed the next day the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ann Linde has declared: “according to the agreement, we will not support the PYD, YPG and FETO. But we don’t define them as terrorists in any way”. All in all it is rather unrealistic that any of those “wanted” by Ankara would be deported or extradited by virtue of this memorandum. Let’s recall that Sweden is home to 100.000 Kurdish refugees.
As for the support to the Syrian Kurds by the Swedish authorities, it doesn’t seem to be altered according to Ankara’s wishes. Indeed according to Shiyar Ali, representative of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in Sweden, the ruling party stressed that Sweden’s stance of northeast Syria would not change.
Finally the reason why this kind of diplomatic texts are taken to face value in Turkey is the lack of proper checks and balances as well as the rule of law. Turkish policy makers and opinion makers tend to think that when Erdogan signs something it should definitely be implemented. The reality in democratic countries is the exact opposite. An intention, verbal or written by the executive needs to be monitored by the legislative and judiciary, as well as the civil society and the media. As none of these exist in Turkey, people tend to think that it’s all done.
Turkey is a headache for a long time for the Western world. Its poor image hasn’t been improved by this useless drama, moreover in times of a bloody aggression by Russia; its isolation, to the contrary, has deepened.
*Prof. Cengiz Aktar is a Turkish political scientist, essayist and columnist. Presently a lecturer at the University of Athens (EKPA) he worked for the United Nations and with the European Commission. His latest book "The Turkish Malaise" was published in London.