While in New York to attend the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave an interview to U.S. broadcaster PBS. As a response to whether he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Turkish president said, “To the extent the West is reliable, Russia is equally reliable. For the last 50 years, we have been waiting at the doorstep of the EU and, at this moment in time, I trust Russia just as much as much as I trust the West.”
Erdoğan’s statement unveils his view of the EU and his personal relations with the Russian leader. He underlined in the interview that Putin’s government fulfilled its promises to Türkiye throughout Putin’s tenure. He also highlighted how he and the Turkish people were disappointed by European attitude toward Türkiye. Indeed, Türkiye has been lingered by the EU for the last 60 years and the only two positive developments were acceptance to the Customs Union in 1995 and candidature for EU membership in 1999.
However, the problem for the Customs Union is that third countries having customs deals with the EU can export their products into Türkiye via the EU but Turkish companies can not export directly to those countries. Second, the Customs Union must be renewed but there is no intent from the EU side. Regarding EU membership, it was open-ended, and it seems that the end will never come. The Turkish government is aware of procrastination and has no expectation of being a member in the short and mid-term. In case the candidacy is revoked, the Turkish side will hardly be shocked or furious as it is well aware that the current status is no different than a theatric play.
However, the EU’s deceits against Ankara should be taken seriously by the Union’s decision-makers and they should reconstruct the trust. The basic reason for deteriorating relations between Türkiye and the EU is literally unreliable European policies. First, no acceptance process can last long for six decades. Ankara probably thinks it is better than never. Yet, it certainly keeps its expectations low.
Second, Türkiye witnessed innumerable acts of EU hypocrisy, which estranged the country from the Union. For instance, Europeans continuously criticize Türkiye for its democracy and human rights records but the democratic system functions better than Europe. No EU members have more popular participation in elections than Türkiye. Yet, the EU policymakers still cast doubts on Turkish elections through their statements, policies, and support for one rival group against the other. Almost before all elections, European media openly call for support for a certain political figure.
Türkiye’s war on terror
Regarding human rights records, Türkiye does not accept the EU’s relentless support to terrorist organizations and their members. Many heads of terrorist groups live safely in European countries and directly or indirectly help orchestrate the destructive activities of their groups. Sheltering civilian supporters can be understood to some extent but if even the head of the failed coup attempt lives in Europe, their intention can not be assumed innocent then. Such a policy can not be regarded as defending one’s basic rights but ignoring the rights of victims. On the other hand, the very same Union was silent when Arab dictators overthrew democratically elected governments. The EU even increased cooperation with them.
When looked at from Türkiye’s window, the EU is seen as biased, hypocritical, and untrustworthy. However, instead of raising tensions, the Turkish side prefers to remain deaf and mind its own business. Ankara does not expect the EU to resume membership negotiations. It also does not believe that the EU has an influence on regional politics. Moreover, two recent developments have shown that the EU looks more fragile than ever. While it could preserve its unity thanks to the migrant agreement made with Türkiye, it resists Russia with the help of America. Whether it will find an assistant in every major crisis is unclear.
Perhaps not long time later, due to continuous and unexpected security issues, Türkiye and the EU may exchange their positions and the latter may need the former more than the other way around. Yet, before that, the problem of mistrust must be solved as decades-long lingering has deepened it.
Source: Daily Sabah