Merry Christmas from Erdogan, Putin, Mogherini and the Polish firefighter

Mr Tusk is happily "jingling" the bell during the EU Council of last week (18-19 December). Mr Donald Tusk is the President of the EU Council (EU Council TV newsroom, 18/12/2014)

Mr Tusk is happily “jingling” the bell during the EU Council of last week (18-19 December). Mr Donald Tusk is the President of the EU Council (EU Council TV newsroom, 18/12/2014)

One month is more than enough in international diplomacy to flip the world. During the last month of this long 2014 we were cought by surprise by the speed of the evolutions regarding the “EU-Turkey” project. Things were changing so fast every week of this December that even the most experienced analysts remained numb and thus preferred to watch the political thriller from the couch.

Putin set the fire

But let’s take things from the beginning. On the first day of this perplexed month Mr Putin paid a visit to Turkey, Russia’s second biggest trade partner. It was there that, while they were talking business, he suddenly announces to world that he shuts down the South Stream project, the gas pipeline linking Russia with the EU. Instead, the Russian leader said he would move to a gas co-operation with Turkey. This can be explained as a reaction of the Russian President to the continuous sanctions sent to Moscow by the EU, as a retaliation for the Ukrainian matter.

EU’s happy flight to Ankara

While everybody in Turkey was happy to hear Russia increasing its ties with their Turkish “pasha”, back in Brussels people were running panicked to check flight tickets to Ankara. The tickets were booked in the name of Mrs Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU, Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement, Negotiations, and Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. The first aim of this official EU visit to Turkey, the first in years, was of course to answer to this intense Turkish flirt with Russia. Also in the agenda there was a further enhancement of the EU-Turkey relations as well as the humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey and the fight against threats from IS.

It is interesting here to give a few quotes by Mrs Mogherini, just to see how one week is enough in international diplomacy for a diplomat to undo his “weighted” words: “The visit to Turkey is a strong indication of the strategic importance of the EU-Turkey relationship and our desire to step up engagement in view of shared interests and common challenges”, Mrs Mogherini had said. “Our top priority will be Turkey’s EU accession process”, she had added. “We aim to work with Turkish government officials to give the process a concrete step and move forward”, she had also stated.

The slap in the face

While Mrs Mogherini came back triumphant from Ankara and most media in the world were writing about a major step in the negotiations for Turkey’s accession in the bloc, which started in 2005, EU suddenly received another slap in the face. Just a few days after our EU representatives took their suits outside of their suitcases, back in Turkey Mr Erdogan’s “regime” entered violently the headquarters of Zaman, country’s biggest daily newspaper, and Samanyolu, a very big TV station, and arrested 24 people, the editor of the newspaper and the channel’s director included. That happened on the grounds that those media were establishing “a terrorist group”. Truth is that these media are allegedly influenced by the “self-ostracised” cleric Fethullah Gulen, who once was supporting Mr Erdogan but is now campaigning against the Turkish President from a safer place, New York.

Mind your own business

Immediately after the news broke, the same Mrs Mogherini who was praising EU-Turkey relations a few days before, she now rushed to express her discontent with this raid against media. “I’ve seen the reaction from President Erdogan and I’m very surprised”, the EU High representative said. She further continues by stressing that the raids against Turkish media are “against the European values,” adding that they were “incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy.”

Mrs Mogherini, who had come from the trip to Ankara with a smile on her face, she received the following answer-statement by the powerful Turkish leader in a not so diplomatic spirit: “The European Union cannot interfere in steps taken … within the rule of law against elements that threaten our national security”…”They should mind their own business.”…”We have no concern about what the EU might say, whether the EU accepts us as members or not, we have no such concern”… “Please keep your wisdom to yourself.”

The Polish firefighter

And then, Mr Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, in the role of firefighter, he called Mr Erdogan yesterday to bridge the EU-Turkey differences with a little bit of Christmas spirit. The good former Polish Premier tried over the phone to neutralise the political tension, to insist on the importance of the EU-Turkey relations and wished Merry Christmas to someone that by default does not celebrate Christmas. “It was a good opportunity to discuss ways to further strengthen the relations between the European Union and Turkey, which is a common priority. I welcomed Turkey’s recently adopted EU strategy and expressed my hope that good progress will be made in 2015″…”We agreed to remain in close contact and both looked forward to a meeting at the earliest possible opportunity”, Mr tusk said.

Back to square one

Many analysts in Brussels and beyond adamantly believe that after this dreadful December, the negotiations over the Turkish accession into the EU are back to square one. Many think tanks agree with this and produced reports in December that stress how bad things are in the EU-Turkey negotiations at this point. “Turkish-EU relations are not in terminal decline, but going through very rough storms at present,” Felix Schmidt said from the German think-tank the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. More quotes like this flooded the press in the past days. Even the EU Affairs Minister, Volkan Bozkir, was joking on twitter about the mere “role” of existence of his ministry from now one, regarding criticism for EU-Turkey accession tactics.

All in all, the EU-Turkey negotiations for accession are officially grounded right at the dawn of 2015. 10 years after its launch the discussion has born limited fruit. On the one side, Turkey is breaking little by little its promises to the West. The current President’s aspiration in Turkey is to revitalise the Islamic basics of the Turkish society and protect the Islamic culture in a strategy to consolidate further his electorate. A recent example is the government’s plan to bring Ottoman Turkish back to school, an older form of Turkish written in Arabic script, that had been cancelled by Kemal Ataturk in 1928. Being this only one of the several examples, today in Turkey’s politics everything is very conservative and this gets more and more intense. Inequality of women and men, lack of media freedom and more are some values that, let’s face it, do not align with the European values.

Lack of understanding

This Turkish political set up though, needs to be respected and understood by EU negotiators at all times. Otherwise English cannot be enough as common language to proceed talks with the east. And by all means let’s not repeat the mistakes made with Ukraine. Our European leaders need to properly do their homework this time. It seems that the European “trio” that visited Ankara at the beginning of December did not unfortunately master this principle. They treated this prospect member state like it was Croatia. And this is the biggest mistake in the negotiations.

Europe does not have the power to make this 80 million citizen country, with deep Islamic roots and connections, to abide by the most modern western and free, neoliberal ideas. This is not possible, especially given the demographics of Mr Erdogan’s electorate. What should be possible though is to find a common language to speak and do business in a fruitful way for both parties.

And this could be the only direction of the EU-Turkey talks, for the time being.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

China Unlimited: an exclusive interview with the former Ambassador of Hungary to China

Healthcare workers’ safety: a forgotten necessity

Understanding the ‘second brain’ in your gut

5 things to know about the exploding world of pro gaming

First EU-wide protection for whistle-blowers agreed

The EU has to prove it can remain one piece

These 8 countries have perfect scores for women’s rights at work

International Women’s Day: Where does she belong?

Africa-Europe Alliance: European Commission committed to a sustainable African agri-food sector

4 things ISPs can do to reduce the impact of cybercrime

Trump ‘used’ G20 to side with Putin and split climate and trade packs

State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into arbitration award in favour of Antin to be paid by Spain

Vile act of torture prohibited ‘under all circumstances’, UN chief affirms on International Day to support victims

3 ways to ensure the internet’s future is creative, collaborative and fair

This lethal fungus is threatening to wipe out the world’s bananas

EU food watchdog: more transparency, better risk prevention

New rules on drivers’ working conditions and fair competition in road transport

Help African farmers cope with climate change threats, UN food agency urges

Why cybersecurity matters more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic

Europe eyes to replace US as China’s prime foreign partner

3 ways to make technologies more inclusive for people with disabilities

Confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine grows in UK and US, but global concerns about side effects are on the rise

Preventing and resolving conflicts must form ‘backbone’ of collective efforts – UN chief

UPDATED: Thousands flee fighting around Libyan capital as Guterres condemns escalation, urges ‘immediate halt’ to all military operations

How emerging markets will shape Africa in 2020

5 factors driving the Chinese lawtech boom

This tool shows you which cities will flood as ice sheets melt

High-tech or ‘high-touch’: UK survey gives clues to the jobs of the future

Security Council urges ‘maximum restraint’ around Gulf region as Iran and United States trade diplomatic blows in New York

EU Parliament says ‘no’ to austerity budget

ISIS fighters fleeing Mosul for Syria can topple Assad. Why did the US now decide to uproot them from Iraq?

China and China-EU Relations in the New Era

5 things you might not know about forests – but should

More hiring freedom can reduce teacher shortages in disadvantaged areas

When it comes to envirotech adoption, NGOs can lead us out of the woods

‘Extinction crisis’ pushes countries to agree stronger protection for global wildlife

Why we need both science and humanities for a Fourth Industrial Revolution education

The digital transformation is a skills and education opportunity for all. Companies must use it

European Commission increases support for the EU’s beekeeping sector

Building a Climate-Resilient Future – A new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change

The UK option: An overarching alternative for the whole Brexit options

‘The time for action is now’ senior UN peacekeeping official says, urging support for regional force combating Sahel terrorism

Mediterranean migrant drownings should spur greater action by European countries, urge UN agencies

Carbon levy on EU imports needed to raise global climate ambition

Iran: women hunger strikers entitled to medical care, UN rights experts urge

It is now the era to evolve mutually as the bacteria do

COVID-19: Revised rules to encourage banks to lend to companies and households

Fashion’s hot new trend: clothes you don’t need to wash (very often)

Stronger partnerships with post-conflict countries needed to ensure ‘path towards durable peace’: UN chief

Republic of Korea President proposes DMZ as future ‘peace and cooperation district’ on Peninsula

Women’s work faces the greatest risk of automation, says new research

May led Britain to chaos, now looks for way out with unpredictable DUP

We must rethink and repurpose cybersecurity for the COVID-19 era

EU-Turkey relations: EU considers imposing sanctions while Turkey keeps violating Cyprus’ sovereignty

National parks give a $6 trillion boost to mental health worldwide

Here’s how data can shine a light on financial crime

Will Eurozone be able to repay its debts? Is a bubble forming there?

Eight years in, Syria still embroiled in conflict ‘that no longer sparks outrage’, Security Council hears

Difficulties of vaccination against COVID-19

Services are the hidden side of the US-China trade war

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s