French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for the plenary session of the seventh MED7 Mediterranean countries summit, in Porticcio, Corsica. (AFP Photo)

Europe must get off the Macron-Mitsotakis bandwagon

French President Emmanuel Macron has openly had Turkey in his crosshairs for quite some time.

French President Emmanuel Macron has openly had Turkey in his crosshairs for quite some time.

His unhappiness is rooted in Turkey’s growing influence in Syria, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean at the expense of France. In North and Sub-Saharan Africa, too, Ankara been challenging Paris.

Experts overwhelmingly agree that Mr. Macron seeks to position himself as Europe’s main political head, in an attempt to use his populist foreign policy to silence critics at home.

This Turkish-French rivalry has naturally led to a war of words between Macron and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Frenchman, however, is not content to stop there. Much like Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, he would use the European Union to force Turkey’s hand.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the EuroMed7 summit, Macron urged all Europeans to adopt a “clear and determined” stance toward Erdoğan over what he called the latter’s “unacceptable behavior.” The French president’s objective is to form an EU-wide consensus on sanctions against Turkey between Sept. 24-25.

By claiming that Turkey was “no longer a partner in the Mediterranean,” Macron doubled down on his policy of alienation to position Turkey against Europe. The purpose of the statement may be to further French and Greek interests behind the smokescreen of European solidarity. It is also possible that France is taking initiatives to promote a “carrot and stick” approach vis-a-vis Turkey.

However, one thing, is clear: Turkey won’t backtrack on its rightful claims in the Eastern Mediterranean. If the bloc’s leaders do not correct their course, tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean could have lasting repercussions.

If European governments, which have offered a safe haven to terrorist groups like the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in the past, fail to keep those like Macron, Mitsotakis and Austrian Premier Sebastian Kurz on a leash, the process of mutual alienation is likely to expedite.

Until now, shared economic interests have encouraged both Turkey and the EU to compartmentalize their relations. One must bear in mind, however, that potential sanctions are likely to fuel new and radical disagreements.

The Frenchman, who made clear his intention to exclude Turkey from Europe, cannot conceal his shamelessness by making a distinction between the Turkish people and Erdoğan – regardless of the fact that over 52% of Turkey’s electorate voted for their current president!

Does Macron really believe that the Turkish people would get behind France’s selfishness? Does he really think that telling the Turks to back down, to further French or Greek interests, would somehow mount pressure on Erdoğan? Does he expect the Turkish people to turn their backs on the president, who happens to serve a very legitimate cause? Should they simply ignore that Erdoğan fights for Turkey’s historic and national interests, just because some Westerners don’t think that they can entertain dialogue with a Turkish president?

Sure, we are all aware of Macron’s vanity. We have seen his colonial fantasies in his most recent trip to Lebanon. To add insult to injury, the Frenchman endorsed Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Muslim provocations as “liberty” to position himself as an opponent of Islam.

If Germany, together with eastern and southern European nations, were to jump on the French bandwagon, however, it would spell disaster in Europe.

I have been saying for some time that turning Europe into Turkey’s “other” would cause serious problems. Turkey’s vested interests in the Eastern Mediterranean amount to an existential matter for the Turkish people.

Let us hope that Germany will quit this game of good cop-bad cop without further delay and take the initiative for the sake of Europe’s future. Let us hope that the required unanimity pushes the EU toward more sensible decisions between Sept. 24-25.

By following Macron and Mitsotakis’ lead in confronting Turkey, European leaders may elevate the Eastern Mediterranean question into an existential issue for the Turks.

[Daily Sabah, 14 September 2020]

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