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Why does Europe hate Erdogan?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 5 March 2017. [Turkish Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar]
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 5 March 2017 [Turkish Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar]

Recent years have revealed the Western perspective, especially Europe’s perspective, on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership of Turkey as well as the European vision of Turkey itself.

The West has been intensely hostile towards Erdogan personally and even insults have found their way into official and unofficial discourse.

In light of the current crisis

Europe’s position has been exposed both by its reaction to the failed coup attempt in June 2016 and, more recently, in the run up to April 2017 Turkish referendum.

Europe were slow to condemn the coup and failed to adequately support Turkey’s legitimate political institutions bringing their own democratic characteristics into question in the process.

Moreover, in the context of Turkey’s ongoing referendum campaign, European governments are currently trying to influence the Turkish debate against Erdogan and the ruling, AK party.

In particular, the Turkish communities in Europe, around 4 million strong, most of whom are in Germany, have become subject to an open conflict between Erdogan and Europe, spearheaded so far by Germany and the Netherlands.

Read: Turkey is ‘further from EU membership than ever’

Germany, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland have all banned Turkish rallies in favour of the proposed constitutional amendments, while allowing others that oppose the Turkish government’s agenda.

Yet the crisis has reached its peak recently when the Netherlands prevented a plane carrying the Turkish Foreign Minister, who was on his way to participating in the pro-amendment events, from landing.

Obviously, these measures are considered external interference in Turkey’s internal affairs however, most importantly, they indicate Europe’s complex concerns regarding its relationship to Turkey.

These concerns are both related to identity and colonialism but are also linked to the rise of right wing populist politics in Europe.

More than an electoral calculation

There is much to say to make the issue more than just an internal electoral calculation. This includes the numerous incidents recently that suggest the European hatred for Erdogan and the Europeans’ refusal of Turkey’s EU accession.

It is perhaps because the Ottoman Empire expanded to east and central Europe a seizing Constantinople from the Byzantine Empire along the way that a fear of Turkey has resonated in the Western conscience for too long.

Yet we must also remember that the Sykes-Picot treaty, an agreement between two European parties, was actually the division of the Ottoman Empire’s territory.

In any event, the direct military results of WWI was not limited to the occupation of the Ottoman Empire’s Arab states, but also the occupation of large territories that became modern day Turkey after the independence war.

Read: Turkey is ‘further from EU membership than ever’

Of course the Ottoman withdrawal in favour of the emerging European forces, as well as the reforms within the Ottoman state in the mid-19th century, has laid the foundations for Turkey’s subordination to Europe. This was reinforced by the Union and Progress government, but what is more ironic is that the leader of the Turkish independence war (1919-1922) pushed Turkey more towards subordination to the West.

Despite opposition from the continental European countries to Turkey’s membership in the NATO, according to secret documents revealed by the CIA earlier this year, its participation enabled the use of Turkey as a means to confront the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc. The relationship was not equal, despite Turkey’s full membership and it cemented the Western dominance over Turkey, not only politically but also on the level of the state’s structure, its institutions and agencies.

With the arrival of Erdogan, Turkey changed. Although his task was almost impossible given the enormous obstacles he faced, Erdogan managed, to use the promise of joining the EU, to maintain his continued governance while also taking advantage of the enormous economic successes to reinforce his tendency toward independence.

The Erdogan project

The efforts led by Erdogan at the moment start with favouring self-determination. This is manifested in a number of ways, the most prominent of which are the large Turkish presence in the Arab uprisings, the nature f its intervention in Syria and Iraq, and its fierce opposition to the coup in Egypt. None of these were in line with the general Western positions, neither in the US or Europe.

Naturally, Turkey cannot simply rely on economic buoyancy alone to liberate the Turkey from the dominance of the West. It must also unshackle the state structures from Western intervention, and this task, in a sense, means a confrontation with the West.

Hence, we can understand the European fear and anger after the failed coup attempt and with regards to the referendum.

Erdogan did not exaggerate when he said, after the failed coup, that Turkey was “fighting a second independence war”. Even as Turkey’s identity as a state and society has been weakened under the decades domination by the West there is still a chance for liberation.

Read: Turkey says EU exercising democracy selectively

In this regard specifically, I must mention the large Turkish communities in Europe that may put pressure on Europe’s identity at home particularly as many may rise to form a new middle class.

The position occupied by Turkey qualifies it to be a logistic centre for energy given its link between its extraction centres in the Middle East and Central Asia and between Europe, which is one of the top areas in energy use. This matter is in the process of achievement by means of the “Turkish Stream”, if the Turkish-Russian relations continue to improve.

Turkey, which links Asia to Europe and the East to the West is eligible for an improved status, and this is what the current Turkish government is working on by means of enhancing its infrastructure, ports, and airports. It is also seeking to get involved in the new China’s new silk road, which Beijing calls “One Belt, One Road”.

In any case, any eastern Islamic advancement affects the Western orientalist ideology. This is one reason behind Erdogan’s project provoking European hatred.

In order to understand the West’s vision of Turkey in terms of identity, we can recall the statement made by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said that Europe would not allow the membership of a state with a population of 70 million Muslims.

And we can notice the underlying colonialism in the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s argument that there will be no membership nor will there be negotiations regarding Turkey’s accession.

This theory is similar to Yitzhak Shamir’s theory on negotiations with the Palestinians, or the current theory of Benjamin Netanyahu, meaning that eternal negotiations will not achieve independence or parity, but will ensure permanent dependency and subordination.

Translated from Al Jazeera, 14 March 2017

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  • Fasdunkle

    These articles are great – they serve to illustrate the utter hypocrisy of MEMO’s stance

  • dutchnational

    Interesting and illuminating arab, turkish and muslim and Qatari MB sectarian thinking.

    This article is full of crap.

    I will try to name just a few of the outright lies :

    Recent years revealed western hostility and even insults toward Erdogan. It was Erdogan reveiling his autocratc, islamist and antidemocraic side that got a reaction from the West. They indeed donot like the “new” Erdogan and to be honest, what is there to like?

    Support after the coup? The West was wondering whether there was anything left to support after the coup. Support a coup against a former democracy? Support former democrats, present islamists, against potemtial democrats? The West is still uncertain as tho whom were trying to take the government. It sure was not Gulen.

    A turkish minister campaining in the Netherlands (forbidden under turkish law) to dutch citizens on dutch soil, being an external interference? Yes, by Turkey.

    Hatred towards Turkey? Ridiculous, disaoppointment, yes.

    History? Yes, Turky has a history of colonizing everywhere, including attacks on Southern Europe as from late 14t century up to late 18th century and the last remnants were only retaken in 1913.

    Turkey by the Crimean Tatars has a history of save raids from aroud 1440 till 1780app., killing milons, taking millions of Russia, Ukrainian and Moldovsn slaves.

    European colonialism forbidding the Turks to enter the EU? The EU is a community of democratic states, abiding common laws, reaties. Turkey is not democratic and does not abide common laws. So they have no place within the EU and most likely never will.

    I have hardly seen anyone writing so distorted as to be outright lying.

    Ridiculous. Disappointment, yes.

  • MisterSamsung Galaxy

    What a biased pile of rubbish. Nice try though Sari Orabi

  • Thomas

    Most readers probably missed the important footnote so let me bring it up, “Translated from Al Jazeera, 14 March 2017”

    This is the garbage Al Jazeera feeds their Arab population to cement the Islamic Alliance against Iran. The Arab fake kings of the Middle East could care less about Turkey. They only care about the safety of their fake positions so they will say anything to achieve their goal.

    Now, as far as Turkey is concerned, most Turks were fed the myth that Ataturk liberated them from the invading Western allies. In realty West allowed Ataturk to create Turkey as a secular buffer to Soviet communism. If the Turks revert to Islamism and create an alliance with Russia then the contract can be considered breached and we go back to 1919. This is why things will get much worse for Turkey before they get better

    As far as Turkey being the energy connector? Well this is being challenged by the super-powers by the creation of the Kurdish corridor. The message is, if you create problems, we can by-pass you.

  • Who cares

    Ah how nice, pissed off snowflakes, complaining about the fair judgement of the west. Western history is full of coups in countries they deem not slaves. Can`t agree with a independent Turkey? Fine, break off all ties to turkey and leave it alone. You people always ignore or downplay what for evil the western countries do. Kids and their lack of facts always amuse me.

    • Trenchanting

      Fair judgement? Acquaint yourself with the complete facts before you start calling people ‘snowflakes’. It’s Turkey who’s being the aggressor here, provoking European countries into forcing a stance. Turkey is a big boy, independent too, so why the need for it to play the victim?

      • Who cares

        Yeah sure thing kid. Just like german isn1 t giving passports to gulenist, and allowing pkk terrorist to collect funds and hold a 30.000 terrorist rally. Yet turkey is provoking by sending an elected minister. Love the 2 faced snowflake “facts”.
        Time to kick out the nazi soldiers from incirlik and open the border.

        • Trenchanting

          Facts are difficult and easily taken out of context, I know. It’s Turkey that has been confiscating passports of Gülen supporters. Dutch and German PKK supporters can hold a rally the same way neo-Nazis can hold a rally. If Turkey was to play by its own rules it wouldn’t even allow Turkish politicians to attend such campaigns, as per Turkish law.

          • James Henry

            You mean Dutch and German Erdogan supporters can hold a rally the same way neo-Nazis can hold a rally.

          • Trenchanting

            Erdogan supporters or opposers. PKK supporters or opposers. As long as public safety is maintained.

  • Trenchanting

    What’s happening, MEMO, what’s whit these blatant Erdogan propaganda ‘opinion’ pieces as of late?

    “external interference in Turkey’s internal affairs” Say what? No, no, no. By bringing campaigns across borders (against Turkish law) it’s Turkey that’s making its referendum Europe’s business.

    • Fasdunkle

      You do know that MEMO is a MB propaganda site?

  • Mohammad Aba Qasem

    I really wonder why most of the westerns do not agree with what mentioned in the essay!
    do you deny that Erdogan is now the worst “dictator” in the middle east as per dipected in western media? actualy: may be even the only one! Germany for example fall in love with SISI of Egypt because he is kissing their butt : he recently sign a contract with Siemens to build three power generation plants and he also will purchase rockets also from some german company. he is the best in the German Media. He purchased Rafals from France and so he is the best also.
    Hence : please stop pretend that “west is fostering human rights and cares about ethics” because this is disgusting and makes me to vomit

  • N.M. Kaiser

    An excellent analysis this is…

    Power hungry, corrupt, puppet-rulers from most of the Muslim countries would embrace the servitude of the West very dearly to retain their power. Why should they let Erdogan to bring sovereignty at his country, given the most vital geo-political position of Turkey?

    Samuel Huntington candidly described that developed and progressive Muslim nations are the greatest enemies of the West.

    In fact the fascist and cupid West would never allow the economic progress and independent identity of their influence of any nation apart from their territory!

    Not just Erdogan…whoever shall aim to show some spine would come across similar opposition from the West!

  • Fasdunkle

    “It is perhaps because the Ottoman Empire expanded to east and central Europe”

    “the Ottoman Empire’s Arab states”

    “And we can notice the underlying colonialism in the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s argument”

    Complete and utter hypocrisy from MEMO once again