As next month’s EU Summit approaches and the discussion on possible sanctions against Turkey intensifies, it would be useful if Greece were to focus not only on Ankara’s policies in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean and Cyprus, but also on human rights, on press freedom and on promoting European ideals in the neighboring country. If some of our European Union partners find it difficult to understand the problem posed by Turkish belligerence against Greece and Cyprus, considering it a complicated issue in a distant place, they should be obliged to take a stand on how Recep Tayyip Erdogan treats his own citizens, including dissidents and minority groups.
Greece rightly refers to the need to defend European borders and interests; it should also draw attention to something even more important – the need to defend European principles as a whole. For many years, Greece supported Turkey’s accession to the EU on condition that it applied the bloc’s laws and adopted its principles. This tactic forced countries that had been hiding behind Greek-Turkish differences to make clear whether they, too, were in favor of Turkey’s accession or opposed to it. Turkey, too, had to show how much it was prepared to change, to adopt European principles. For as long as it served his efforts to defang the secular state, Erdogan adopted the changes mandated by the EU. In the past few years, though, he has displayed ever greater aggression and delusions of grandeur. His victims are his compatriots, the Kurds (within Turkey’s borders and outside), neighbors and a number of other countries in the broader region.
The EU’s policy (and that of Greece), will succeed only if Turkish citizens can believe that this is aimed not at humiliating them but at improving the quality of their lives and increasing their opportunities for progress. It would be useful if the discussion on sanctions concentrated on the need for the Turkish government to respect its own citizens’ rights, international law and the principles of liberal democracy. Today, the government is showing ever greater authoritarianism at home and is exporting its “militarized” politics. Both fronts demand attention.