Vitaly Naumkin: "Turkey and EU interested in dialogue, despite conflict"

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Vitaly Naumkin: "Turkey and EU interested in dialogue, despite conflict"

The diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the Netherlands, which broke out after the Dutch authorities prevented the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from visiting the Dutch territories and the detention of the Turkish Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya in Rotterdam, is entering a phase of the sanctions confrontation: Ankara announced its intention to impose sanctions against Amsterdam. The director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Vitaly Naumkin, told Vestnik Kavkaza about how far the parties to the conflict are willing to go and how the tense situation will affect the migration crisis in Europe.

- How far can the diplomatic scandal go and how far are both sides willing to go?

- It seems to me that there are limits. Ultimately, any country of the European Union, and Turkey are quite pragmatic. There is a common interest in continuing he process of rapprochement and a dialogue.

But today it is more important for Erdogan to convince the population to support his plan for constitutional changes in the country, his positions in the referendum. The main thing for him today is to win. If the president wins, and there is little doubt about it, most likely he will approach his relations with external partners, primarily with the EU, from a more relaxed position, so he will not need this confrontation.

The positions of Germany and the Netherlands seem very doubtful to me: it is unclear why it was necessary to ban the Turkish Foreign Minister from meeting Turkish citizens, even if they are citizens of Germany and the Netherlands of Turkish origin or of dual nationality. References to the fact that it could cause unrest are completely incomprehensible. On the contrary, the ban itself, as we know, has already provoked unrest today. Most likely, it was a signal to Erdogan that he should change his domestic policy, listen to the EU's advice on human rights and freedom of the press. It is a kind of punishment for the Turkish president for those violations of human rights and freedoms, which, according to the EU, he had done after the coup attempt was uncovered and thwarted.

I think that the conflict will be exhausted, the sides will agree on some measures. Erdogan needs Europe. If the European Union understands that the countries with the large Turkish diaspora, primarily Germany and the Netherlands, have been too tough on the Turks, if Erdogan realizes that he should not use such harsh statements towards these states, I think that they will agree.

But right now the confrontation will be quite clear - on the one hand, after the elections in the Netherlands, which will take place in a few days, and, on the other hand, at the later elections in Germany. Now every country is fighting for the electorate. On the other hand, Turkey is expecting a referendum, which is an unusual situation when political mobilization is needed to support the head of state. When it is over, we will see whether this conflict will be exhausted or vice versa, the parties will need some more aggravation.

- Is there a likelihood that Turkey will abandon the refugee deal and open the European borders for the flow of migrants, which it is holding back?

- First, it seems to me that the flow of migrants to Europe will not be so large as before. Refugees understand that they wouldn't be welcomed with open arms. Second, a number of states located on the southern and south-eastern borders of Europe are taking very strict measures to restrict the flow of migrants, even if Turkey opens the borders.

In addition, Europe has not yet fully abandoned the program of financial assistance to Turkey, there was only a certain limitation. Rather, it is an exchange of threats, and neither side is interested in bringing the conflict to the point where it crosses the red line. It seems to me that the cooperation of Europe and Turkey on the issue of migrants will continue.

- Should we expect that the EU will officially refuse to accept Turkey as its member?

- In reality, there were no chances for Turkey to join the European Union, since such decisions are taken by consensus, and there were states that categorically opposed it. Therefore, regardless of the conflict, Turkey has not had any real prospects for joining the EU in the foreseeable future and, apparently, it will not have.

- What official statement can follow such an aggravation?

 - It will hardly matter. Charges of violations of human rights, democracy and so on can serve as an official reason for taking political consensus decisions, but not Erdogan's statement about the Netherlands. But how can one say today that the regime in Turkey is improper, if the NATO Charter says that the alliance consists of democratic states. Hence, NATO recognizes officially that Turkey is a democratic state. If is is accused of moving away from democracy, then Turkey must be expelled from NATO. In which the alliance is not interested now as the Turkish army is the second largest and most powerful in NATO. Therefore, I do not see here any serious reasons for such super-hard decisions to be made.