Tur­key and the EU

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS IORDANIDIS

The chaos re­sult­ing from mil­i­tary ac­tion by cer­tain al­lied pow­ers in the Mid­dle East and the mass ex­o­dus of refugees to­ward the West has led to in­creased so­cial and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions in Euro­pean Union coun­tries on the re­ceiv­ing end. Sure, ev­ery­one knows this by now. How­ever, a new el­e­ment in this saga is the ini­tia­tive taken by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, as well as state­ments by Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel made to Ger­many’s Bild news­pa­per, which seem to be ad­vo­cat­ing Greek-Turk­ish pa­trols in the Aegean Sea. This could have ma­jor ram­i­fi­ca­tions for bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween Greece and Tur­key, and, pos­si­bly, be­tween Greece and the Euro­pean Union. It is es­ti­mated that some am­bi­gu­i­ties will be clar- ified at to­day’s Euro­pean Coun­cil. What is cer­tain, how­ever, is that nei­ther the Com­mis­sion, Ber­lin or the EU as a whole, will suc­ceed where the United States failed – to spear­head a col­lab­o­ra­tion for com­mon ac­tion by Greek and Turk­ish forces in the Aegean at a time when Ankara con­tin­ues to chal­lenge Greece’s sov­er­eign rights. The only pos­si­ble out­come on a prac­ti­cal and op­er­a­tional level would be a co­or­di­nated in­clu­sion of Tur­key in the ex­clu­sively Euro­pean ranks of Fron­tex. Such a move would in­tro­duce Tur­key to the Euro­pean Union’s se­cu­rity sys­tem – an out­come which very few Euro­pean lead­ers would con­sider a de­vel­op­ment in the right di­rec­tion. Un­der pres­sure from the refugee and mi­grant cri­sis, these ap­pear to be un­for­tu­nate at­tempts to pro­mote cer­tain ad hoc ar­range­ments with Tur­key. Nev­er­the­less, Merkel’s visit to Ankara on Sun­day comes with its own po­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. The Ger­man chan­cel­lor, sim­i­larly to for­mer French pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, for rea­sons re­lat­ing to in­ner EU bal­ances, had not shown much en­thu­si­asm re­gard­ing Tur­key’s in­cor­po­ra­tion into Euro­pean af­fairs, which one way or another had been un­der­mined by Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan’s gov­ern­ment and its stance to­ward Cyprus. Be­sides this, the dis­com­fort of all Western coun­tries with re­spect to the au­to­cratic meth­ods used by the Turk­ish pres­i­dent against all of his po­lit­i­cal ri­vals led the coun­try to be­come iso­lated from its tra­di­tional al­lies. How­ever, the Mid­dle East cri­sis and the need to con­front Is­lamic State (ISIS) has given Tur­key re­newed strate­gic weight. Merkel’s pres­ence in Ankara, in the mid­dle of a pre-elec­tion cam­paign, gives Er­do­gan the op­por­tu­nity to erase – or at least he hopes – the com­plaints of the Ke­mal­ist op­po­si­tion with re­gard to the coun­try be­ing cut off from its Western part­ners. Clearly the Turk­ish pres­i­dent will build on the chan­cel­lor’s pres­ence in view of re­new­ing his coun­try’s ties with the EU. His pur­suit is valid but should not be car­ried out against Greek in­ter­ests.

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