Turkey's rapprochement with France, Germany

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

Turkey's rapprochement with France Germany
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (3rd L), President of France Emmanuel Macron (3rd R), Ismail Demir (2nd L) Undersecretary for Defense Industry (SSM), Ibrahim Ozkol (R), Chairman of ASELSAN (Military Electronic Industries), Mehmet Emin Alpman (L), Chairman of ROKETSAN and Abdoulaye Samba (2nd R), Eurosam Managing Director applause after the signing ceremony of the long-range air missile defense system project Stage-B (Concept Identification Study Contract) contract on behalf of Turkey between EUROSAM and Undersecretariat for Defence Industries prior to a joint press conference at Elysee Palace in Paris, France on January 05, 2018. Anadolu Agency

On Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited France. The following day, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu 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 Erdogan 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 The Western idealism of Turkey's Westernists no longer represents the West.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-Erdogan 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 Erdogan'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 (FETO) 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, counter-terrorism, 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 Safak on the day of Erdogan's visit.

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

Source: Daily Sabah

Fahrettin Altun
Fahrettin Altun is a Professor at Ibn Haldun University and the General Coordinator of SETA Foundation, Istanbul. Altun is the Editor-in-Chief of the monthly political magazine Kriter, the author of “Modernleşme Kuramı: Eleştirel Bir Giriş" and the co-author of “Freedom Press in Turkey.” Currently a columnist for Daily Sabah and Sabah newspapers, he is also a weekly analyst on “Enine Boyuna” and “Dışa Bakış” – two television series aired live on TRT 1 and TRT Haber respectively. Altun’s research areas include sociology of media and political communication, Turkish modernization and political culture.