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Threats Between Erdogan and the EU Ring Hollow – They Need Each Other
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The decibel level of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s denunciations are invariably so high that it is impossible to know how seriously to take them. He has threatened to let loose a wave of three million Syrian and Iraqi refugees who would then try to make their way from Turkey to Europe at a time when anti-immigrant feeling is helping fuel the rise of the populist far right.

Erdogan’s threat came after the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution to freeze talks on Turkey joining the EU as a protest against Ankara’s mass arrest of dissenters in the wake of the failed military coup on 15 July. The purge is extending way beyond those connected to the coup and liberals and Kurds are being detained and the few remaining independent parts of the media are being closed down or brought under control.

The EU correctly talks about “a disproportionate response to the coup” while Erdogan complains that the initial EU condemnation was so tardy and conditional as to suggest that the EU states would have preferred him to be overthrown.

The Turkish leader now says that he may tear up the agreement signed in March to keep potential migrants inside Turkey in return for accelerated talks on Turkey’s EU membership, visa-free travel for Turks coming to Europe and financial aid. “We are the ones who feed 3 million to 3.5 million refugees in this country,” said Erdogan. “You have betrayed your promises. If you go any further those border gates will be opened.”

There is no doubt Erdogan could try to do this, though the threat would have been more potent when it was easier for migrants to move north through the Balkans to central Europe. Border restrictions and fences now make this much more difficult. But the threat of more migrants still has a significant political impact just ahead of the presidential election in Austria in which far-right candidate Norbert Hofer is leading the polls. The success in the US presidential election of Donald Trump’s brand of populist nationalism with a racist cutting edge underlines the extent to which the immigrant wave is resetting the political agenda.

That said, there is an element of shadow boxing in the latest EU-Turkey row. It probably was not a good idea to link the refugee crisis with progress on Turkey’s faltering decades-old bid to join the EU because it wrapped two insoluble problems into one. It raised hopes in Turkey that were never going to be fulfilled and inevitably brought disappointment. On the other hand, it is not in the interests of the EU or Turkey to escalate their dispute beyond a certain level, even though relations are becoming more antagonistic. Both need each other.


All sides are paying a price for letting the wars in Syria and Iraq go on for so long and doing so little to bring them to an end. The EU and Turkey both made critical mistakes, which could have been avoided, and neither have come up with realistic policies. Turkey was for long the sanctuary and transit point for the extreme Islamist armed opposition flooding into Syria. Erdogan and his government were convinced that President Bashar al-Assad’s government was always on the verge of being overthrown though the evidence was much against this.

After 2011 the leaders of the main EU states – notably Britain and France – have had a Syrian policy based on wishful thinking and a belief that their vital interests were not affected by the conflict. They wanted to keep in with their traditional arms-buying allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. It was only as Syrian immigrants poured into Europe in 2015 and Isis launched a series of devastating terrorist attacks in France and Belgium that the results of their folly became apparent. Real progress in ending the immigrant crisis means ending the war in Syria.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: EU, Turkey 
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  1. The success in the US presidential election of Donald Trump’s brand of populist nationalism with a racist cutting edge underlines the extent to which the immigrant wave is resetting the political agenda.

    I always stop reading at the first mention of Trump racism. Trump is not a racist and neither am I. Patrick Cockburn is obviously a fool or a liar or both.

  2. Diogenes says:

    How ironic that the EU and Turkey were both in on the plan promoted by the Gulf Arabs and the US to destabilize and destroy the Assad “regime” and now they have fallen out with each other over the blowback.

    Western European states are so overly dependant on misguided American diktats that they are blind to their own sovereign interests. Overly compliant European centrist governments are going to be overturned by right wing nationalists because the people are feed up as in the UK and the US.

    Strongman Erdogan is leading Turkey into an economic disaster if not an outright regional war and has totally alienated Turkey from Europe.

    The Saudis have put themselves under extreme financial strain, Syria is bleed dry and nearly destroyed but the US is pleased at what it has wrought although one can only wonder why.

    Perhaps the unexpected election of Trump was the blowback of years of domestic mismanagement in favor of expensive foreign misadventures. The American elites seem to have badly miscalculated as well.

  3. @WorkingClass

    Just a guess, but from close observation–this Cockburn seems to be in the employ of United Statesian disinformationists. He always arrives at some version of the US party line, after throughly obfuscating the subject, whatever it is.

    Erdogan is simple to explain–he is now playing, or thinks he is playing, the US and the EU against the Russians.

    The Russians, of course, know this.

    He is now in talks to buy the Russian S-400 antiaircraft system, with all the hardware and software.

    The Russians are playing along. Perhaps they will sell him some refurbished Patriots, jeje.

  4. Avery says:

    {They Need Each Other}

    Cockburnoğlu is another shill rooting for Islamization of Europe.
    EU does not need Turkey or Turks or Muslims.

    Build a wall/fence on the European spit of land that Turks stole from Europe.
    It will be a lot cheaper than shoveling endless $billions to nomad invaders from Uyguristan whose ultimate goal is Turkification and Islamization of Europe.

    EU does not need Turks’ cooperation to stop anyone from illegally settling in Europe: just the will to do it.
    In fact, perfidious Turks will keep blackmailing EU forever if EU or Europe does not call their bluff.

    • Replies: @Rehmat
  5. virgile says:

    Europe does not need Turkey, that is false statement. Erdogan has tried to make Turkey indispensable to the EU by creating the migrants crisis with the hope he could force the EU to make important concessions. His plan fell flat. Now the EU is threatening to break up with Turkey, whatever are consequences of the migrants threat. Erdogan lost his game.
    If Turkey breaks with Europe, it will have leave NATO and fall into the hands of Russia, Iran and China who are much less naive than the EU and will put Erdogan at the place he belongs.
    Therefore Turkey has a lot to loose if it breaks with the EU. The EU will be able to manage the migrant crisis as the situation in Syria and Iraq will improve before spring as winter is not a season for migration.
    Turkey is now facing a dilemma that is infuriating Erdogan. He is lashing at just everybody. He does not know that whatever he does, he will loose as he has been loosing for the past 5 years. The coup to topple him failed but it is only a matter of time that he will be out of the picture so Turkey can return to what it was, a peaceful secular and successful country before megalomania caught on Erdogan.

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
  6. @virgile

    A certain area is plumb full of archaic smiles:

    They are not out of the woods yet but things are looking up.

  7. Anonymous [AKA "Fred Kaplan"] says:

    Thanks for the shout-out on my piece about what Trump really told the Times staffers about torture, but I write for Slate, not Salon. A correction would be appreciated…Fred Kaplan

    • Replies: @Ron Unz
  8. The piece sounds like a word-salad.

    This war, the war in Syria and part of Iraq, is a desperate attempt by the US to contain Iran, that became, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, a powerful regional player.

    In terms of actual participants, the war is essentially between Saudi Arabia (sponsored by the US) and Iran (sponsored by Russia). Migrants, refugees, jihadists – all the problems in Europe, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan – all that is mere ‘collateral damage’.

  9. Dieter says:

    There may soon develop serious trouble between Erdogan on the one hand and our government as well as at least all European governments which participated in Bush’s Iraq war on the other. Erdogan now claims that Mosul and surrounding land is part of Turkey on the grounds of some Ottoman documents. That is his “Sudentenland” claim. Tell that to our soldiers who participate in driving ISIL out of Mosul. Tell that to the families of all soldiers who died or were maimed in the Iraq war. This miserable “Johnny-come-lately” needs a good spanking behind the diplomatic woodshed if not from Obama then from our next President. And from Chancellor Merkel who has historical reasons to prevent this “Sudetenland” imitation. This should be the message: “get your armed forces out of Iraq in two weeks or else we will help the Iraqi’s to get them out. Your launch and supply bases in Turkey will be rocketed”. No more Munich 1936. Erdogan will obey.

  10. Rehmat says:

    YES – European Union doesn’t need Muslims when they already has too many Zionist Jews there to suck taxpayers’ money in the name of Holocaust compensations.

    Even EU parliament president Martin Schultz a Zionist Jew.

    Last year, a group of former European Union diplomats in a letter to EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini questioned EU’s blind support for the Zionist entity. Copies of the letter were sent to US foreign secretary John (Cohen) Kerry, Martin Schultz (Jewish) president of European Parliament, Donald Tusk (Polish Israeli lobbyist), president European Council and Jean-Claude Juncker (Jewish ancestry), president of European Commission……

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
  11. @Rehmat

    Typical Rehmat when confronted with the fact of widespread savagery, long-term welfare parasitism, intolerance, brutality, intimidation, theft, etc. by Muslims in Europe and elsewhere: “but, but, the Jews.”

    Rehmat, we don’t need or want Islam or muslims in our countries. The admittedly disproportionate and detrimental influence on Jewish people on our culture and government doesn’t change that.

  12. Ivymike says:

    It appears Erdo and Turkey are lurching away from the secular state once guaranteed by the Turkish army toward an Islamic state with Erdo as democratically elected President For Life. How accurate is that surmise, and what does it mean for Turk’s future with NATO and the EU?

  13. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    “at a time when anti-immigrant feeling is helping fuel the rise of the populist far right.”

    Why do we keep hearing the CANARD that a people who want to preserve their territory and demography are part of a ‘far right’?

    So, the New Normal for nations to ensure that the native population will be turned into minorities in their own ancestral lands?

    This Jewish-globalist canard is especially offensive since Jews make damn sure that the US and EU go all out to support Israel’s right to be a proud Jewish State.

    This canard of the Far Right must end.

    Nazism was far right.

    Wanting to be left alone in your own nation is NOT the far right. It is just Very Right.
    What can more right than to want to preserve your native territory, people, culture, and memory?

    It is globalism that is Far Imperialist in trying to turn all nations into faceless mucks.

    How dare these globalists push aggressive foreign policies that uproot so many Muslims who flee for other nations for safety?


  14. Anon • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Here is a simple solution that the technocrats from the EU and the dark government bodies seem to ignore:


    • Replies: @Anonymous
  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:


    Palestine is only belong to Palestinians not terrorists, baby killers and thieves.

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