When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Turkey

Turkey: Why Europe Must Stand Up To Erdogan's Power Grabs

As Turkish President Erdogan pushes his country towards despotism, European Union leaders — especially in Germany — must take a harder line.

Demonstration of Kurds in Cologne, Germany, on Nov. 5
Demonstration of Kurds in Cologne, Germany, on Nov. 5
Kurt Kister

-Analysis-

MUNICH — It has become all too clear that Turkey today not only has no place in the European Union, but also does not belong to the broader international community of values that respects the ideas of pluralism, individual freedom and human rights.

This is a sad state of affairs, especially because the country's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's vision was driven by a desire to open up the country, drawing it nearer to the West and transforming despotism into democracy. It happened slowly, and faced major setbacks along the way as Turkey was caught between an authoritarian class of military officers and the threat of Kurdish separatists who aimed to defeat the central state. And yet, by the turn of the millennium, Turkey had been closer to the EU than ever before. Hope was spreading that the EU and Turkey could help define the future together — geographically, intellectually and historically speaking.

It's all lost now, at least for the near future. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned back the time to before Atatürk. His crackdown after July's attempted coup is indeed carrying democracy back to despotism, slowly but surely.

Erdogan has abolished freedom of speech. Tens of thousands have been detained because of alleged ties to the government's sworn enemy: Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Islamic cleric. The war against the Kurds in the southeast escalates. Last week, 11 members of parliament from the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party were arrested.

One-party state?

The systematic dismantling of basic freedoms and the constitutional rule of law gives the impression that Erdogan is simply exploiting the attempted coup as an instrument to serve his own political objectives. Erdogan wants to transform Turkish politics into a presidential system with an authoritarian character, a one-party state controlled by a repressive security apparatus. It's the classic state-of-emergency state that requires the constant presence of an enemy.

The pattern is well known: From Chile to Greece, prolonged states of emergency inevitably led to open conflict and ultimately repression. That, in some way, could offer hope that Turkey too — especially considering the voices of civil society — can one day turn things around again by firmly reestablishing democracy, just like Chile and Greece did in the past two decades. On the other hand, it's legitimate to fear that Erdogan is following the path of China, where a despotic party is firmly planted in power, even while leaving possibilities and certain freedoms alive.

For Europe too, and especially Germany, the situation is troubling. First of all, because millions of ethnic Turks live; but also because there are some major geopolitical issues that can't be tackled without cooperating with Turkey — from the refugees crisis to wars, from the Caucasus to Iraq.

The more Turkey turns toward despotism, the less it can act as a "partner". Political cooperation remains possible, balancing of interests becomes vital, but appeasement, per se, must be avoided. This must be made clear. One plain example: The EU can decide to revoke the planned easing of visa requirement for Turkish citizens. As for EU membership negotiations: They must be stopped immediately.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

Europe's Winter Energy Crisis Has Already Begun

in the face of Russia's stranglehold over supplies, the European Commission has proposed support packages and price caps. But across Europe, fears about the cost of living are spreading – and with it, doubts about support for Ukraine.

Protesters on Thursday in the German state of Thuringia carried Russian flags and signs: 'First our country! Life must be affordable.'

Martin Schutt/dpa via ZUMA
Stefanie Bolzen, Philipp Fritz, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister, Mandoline Rutkowski, Stefan Schocher, Claus, Christian Malzahn and Nikolaus Doll

-Analysis-

In her State of the Union address on September 14, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, issued an urgent appeal for solidarity between EU member states in tackling the energy crisis, and towards Ukraine. Von der Leyen need only look out her window to see that tensions are growing in capital cities across Europe due to the sharp rise in energy prices.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In the Czech Republic, people are already taking to the streets, while opposition politicians elsewhere are looking to score points — and some countries' support for Ukraine may start to buckle.

With winter approaching, Europe is facing a true test of both its mettle, and imagination.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ