Tense moments during a recent press conference of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu with Swedish counterpart Ann Linde during a visit to Turkey were the embodiment of how Brussels has lost its soft power over Ankara.
Regarding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Syria, Linde said: “The strong EU position remains the same. We continue to urge Turkey to withdraw.”
In response, Çavuşoğlu did not pull any punches and said: “We emphasize one thing in every meeting, in Sochi meetings, in meetings in the Astana format, in Geneva, in all the texts about Idlib: the territorial integrity of Syria. We do not want to divide Syria, but you tell Turkey to withdraw from Syria to support the PKK – which wants to divide Syria. Why aren’t you asking Turkey to withdraw from Idlib or from the areas we cleared Daesh? No. Why? Because if we withdraw from Idlib, another 3 million refugees would come to Turkey and to cross over to EU countries.”
Again, Çavuşoğlu said the EU’s biased solidarity with Greece on the Eastern Mediterranean, unconditionally supporting it and turning a deaf ear to Turkey, is also a blind spot, saying: “The understanding that every claim of Greece and the Greek Cyprus is right in any case is not true. Besides, you are sensitive about human rights and immigrants, and you thanked us. So, now that you are so sensitive about human rights, why don’t you criticize Greece even for once while they kill migrants on the border and in the Aegean Sea, sink their boats and push them back? Aren't they human? Why, because Greece is preventing migrants from coming to Europe. Why? Because Greece is a member of the EU, there is a spirit of solidarity, so we can't criticize it. Here, our objection, frankly, is this double standard.”
The mood that dominated the entire meeting was the tedium that Turkey, which has been kept waiting at the door of Brussels for 57 years, feels as it has received nothing in return for doing its best, including carrying out dozens of reforms since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power, as well as supporting the Annan Plan in Cyprus. When we add the EU bureaucracy to this, which could send representatives to Ankara only two weeks after the coup, who cares only about the sympathizers of terrorist organizations such as the PKK and FETÖ when it comes to human rights, and which insistently adopts patronizing rhetoric toward Turkey, it is clear that there is no bright picture.
Most recently, the EU envoy stated that the “carrot-and-stick approach” against Turkey does not work. However, there is a Turkey that they are trying to bring to its knees through sanctions and embargoes. There is a Turkey that has undertaken Europe’s refugee burden, which has been left alone in the fight against terrorism coming from Syria, that has received support neither from NATO nor from Russia although it has faced Russia both in Syria and Libya, but instead just suffered. In addition, there is a Turkey, whose energy exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are presented as if they are a crime, despite having the longest coast in the Eastern Mediterranean, while Greece is given a carte blanche for being an EU member.
What the EU shows as a carrot is an update of the customs union agreement, which they have already suspended themselves, the visa liberalization they have promised since 2016, and of course the reopening of EU membership chapters even though Turks know that they will no longer be admitted. However, the EU has not taken any steps on any of these points, and it is not putting pressure on Greece to come to Ankara for exploratory talks. But when Turkey is sick of the Fabian policies and deploys the Oruç Reis seismic research vessel to conduct research within its continental shelf again, then the crisis continues.
If there are those who have not yet understood how the EU has lost its soft power on Turkey, they can start from any of the above items.