When EU heads of state or government gather for their two-day summit in Brussels on Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not sit at the table personally – but his country and its politics will dominate the meeting.
Turkey’s foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Ankara’s behavior on the refugee issue and Turkey’s involvement in the conflict in Libya concern the EU more than politicians in Europe would like. But there is still no common EU response to Erdogan’s behavior.
This is because Turkish politics affects different EU countries in different ways. Cyprus and Greece want sanctions against Ankara to punish Erdogan for the tensions in the territorial dispute in the Mediterranean. France is concerned about Turkish influence in Libya, which threatens French interests in North Africa. Germany wants to avoid punitive measures against Turkey because it expects more from negotiations than from sanctions.
All EU politicians are still in shock since the spring when Erdogan sent thousands of refugees to Turkey’s border with Greece to put pressure on Europe.
The expectations of the top are therefore low. The accession process to the Turkish EU is only on paper. Turkey and its president have such a bad reputation in Europe that no European leader is willing to make concessions to Ankara. Politicians in Ankara like to and often complain about the Europeans, who are supposedly talking alone and failing to keep their promises from the 2016 Refugee Pact.
[Wenn Sie die wichtigsten Nachrichten aus Berlin, Deutschland und der Welt live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere runderneuerte App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]
When Turkey and Greece agreed on new exploratory talks on the territorial dispute in the Aegean and around the Mediterranean before the summit, this was already a success against the background of the bleak state of relations, even if no date has yet been reached announced before the start of the negotiations.
[Jetzt noch mehr wissen mit TPlus: Die Schlangen vor den Goldläden verraten die bittere Wahrheit über die Lira – lesen Sie hier mehr über die Währungskrise in der Türkei.]
At the top it could be similar to the other contentious issues. Europe is likely to try to talk to Erdogan’s government about their visa waiver requirements, a modernization of the customs union and a reform of the refugee agreement, although there will be no quick results: a continuation of discussions on the many points of contention is currently underway the Turkish relations.
Potential for dispute with Turkey not yet exhausted
If all goes well, the EU will buy time to find a united stance on Turkey and to tackle the motives behind Erdogan’s policy of rioting from Greece to Libya. The Turkish president wants to assert his country’s status as a regional power that aggressively represents its own interests. There is not always a finished plan or strategy behind it. But this attitude almost always leads to arguments with other states.
The potential for controversy with the current tensions is far from exhausted. In the new war between Turkish ally Azerbaijan and Armenia, Ankara is playing with the idea of an intervention. Future conflicts in the Balkans could also alarm Turkey, which sees itself as the protective power of Muslims in Bosnia and elsewhere. As long as the EU does not have a Turkey concept, it will be surprised again and again by Erdogan.