Turkey’s rapprochement with France, Germany

The Turkish leadership is not alone in their pursuit of normalization.

On Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited France. The following day, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel in Germany. Both developments support the view that Turkey wants to repair its relationships with Europe and was prepared to take a series of steps to that end.

To be clear, the Turkish leadership is not alone in their pursuit of normalization. At the same time, Turkey’s critics in Europe, including Berlin, have become aware that a new and healthy relationship with Ankara is a necessity. The single greatest obstacle before progress is fear, which European politicians spread, with the media’s help, to control public opinion. In light of the rise of right-wing extremism and the crisis of welfare states, Europe’s political leaders turned to the politics of fear in order to remain in power. During that period, Turkey, Turks and Erdoğan emerged as the most useful images. However, media coverage is not always enough to conceal the truth – or distort it.

Washington’s reckless behavior, developments in the Middle East, Russia’s policies and a range of other developments fuel change today. Moving forward, rationality must thrive over irrationality and pragmatism over idealism in order to normalize Turkey’s relations with Europe. The Western idealism of Turkey’s Westernists no longer represents the West. Turkey’s relationship with Europe cannot run on passion. Instead, it must be based on mutual interests. At the same time, Europeans must understand that their irrational anti-Erdoğan sentiment no longer serves their interests. The Turkish president is not just an embodiment of his country’s socio-political realities, he also represents a significant opportunity.

I would like to stress once against that Erdoğan’s visit to France was an important turning point in the relationship. In addition to facilitating business deals between Turkish Airlines and Airbus, and Roketsan-Aselsan and Eurosam, the visit established that Turkey is an irreplaceable partner for Europe and ultimately crucial to the peaceful resolution of regional crises. The foreign minister’s visit to Germany must be considered in the same context.

Still, it is important to point out that European media outlets continue to try and influence politics. At the end of the day, it is no secret that an anti-Turkey lobby, which includes members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and the PKK, continues to exert ideological and financial influence over the media in Germany and elsewhere. Nonetheless, the French media has been more positive toward Turkey than their German counterparts. Last week, French media outlets overwhelmingly agreed that the Turkish president’s visit was quite important, provided that Turkey is one of France’s main allies in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, counterterrorism, immigration and the economy. Le Monde, Les Échos, Le Point, Ouest-France and others stressed the importance of continued dialogue with Turkey. Meanwhile, the communist L’Humanité and the far-right L’Express continued to target the Turkish president, citing Ankara’s alleged pressure on the Kurdish community and imprisoned journalists. Likewise, Libération published an interview with Elif Şafak on the day of Erdoğan’s visit.

Regardless of efforts to contain and isolate Ankara, it is an undeniable fact that Turkey, under the leadership of Erdoğan, has been taking advantage of new opportunities to expand its sphere of influence.

[Daily Sabah, 10 January 2018]

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