What is your opinion on Erdogan

Opinion: Erdogan has to move

The Turkish ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a pragmatic politician. He does what best serves his retention of power and his interests. He doesn't have much to do with values, even with European ones. That hardly sets him apart from other autocrats in the world. Erdogan is thrashing on the EU and the USA, flirting with Moscow or Beijing, provoking Cyprus and Greece, and rattling against NATO. Just as it suits him.

For the top representatives of the EU who spoke to Erdogan in Ankara on Tuesday, the often unpredictable president is a really difficult conversation partner. Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission President, and Council President Charles Michel were able to use the brief, very slight and only superficial relaxation in relations with Turkey to resume the thread of the conversation. Erdogan has initially put the dispute with EU members Greece and Cyprus over gas reserves and sea borders on hold. In return, the EU has not imposed sanctions on Turkey and is offering negotiations to reform the 25-year-old customs union.


The visitors from Brussels, who last met Erdogan in person a year ago, move in a very complex web of strategic interests and dependencies. The EU agrees with the new US administration that Turkey will continue to be needed as a bulwark against Russia and Iran, especially in the NATO military alliance. That is why membership in the alliance is not being questioned and almost everything is tried to avoid pushing Erdogan further in the direction of his autocratic colleagues in Moscow or Beijing.

Europe correspondent Bernd Riegert

The EU is aware that it needs Turkey to limit immigration from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran to some extent. Turkey, on the other hand, needs reasonably functioning relations with the EU, its largest trading partner, and also with the USA, in order to keep its post-corona-crippled economy afloat. The new US administration under Joe Biden is increasing the pressure on Erdogan. The sanctions for Erdogan's purchase of Russian anti-aircraft missiles remain in force. President Biden has been giving Turkey the cold shoulder so far, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump. It is clear to the pragmatist Erdogan that he cannot survive without allies and friends, because of his willingness to talk to the EU - and not because he would be interested in criticizing human rights violations or withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention against violence against women .

Stop the descent

Relations with the EU have been on a steady decline since the failed coup in Turkey in 2016. With just one visit to Ankara, the EU spikes won't be able to fix anything. Perhaps they can at least reverse the trend. It is still a little early for a "positive agenda", which Council President Michel is promoting. First of all, it has to be explored whether a return of Turkey to democratic standards could at least be within reach. It will be very difficult. Corresponding discussions were agreed.

It is clear to everyone involved that Turkey, in its current constitution, could never join the European Union. The accession negotiations never really started. Turkey does not recognize the EU member Cyprus and keeps its territory partially occupied. It would of course be politically correct to follow the demands of Austria and many conservative EU parliamentarians and finally - after 16 years of stagnation - to break off the negotiations. But that would not help anyone. As long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan has even a slight interest in continuing the ghost negotiations, the EU should not give up this playing card in Turkey poker.

Perhaps Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel will have to wait until 2023. Then autocrat Erdogan wants to be re-elected. It is still questionable whether this will succeed despite all the erosion of electoral laws and the rule of law.