Erdogan should focus on his economy, not Greece

Erdogan should focus on his economy, not Greece

With the Turkish lira continuing its precipitous slide, the risk of capital controls looming dangerously and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s legal adviser even going so far as to consider that declaring a state of emergency might be needed, the Turkish president is in the European Union’s crosshairs both for the deterioration of the rule of law and massive violations of fundamental rights in his country, as well as for his aggressive stance toward Turkey’s neighbors who happen to be members of the EU.

In its conclusions ahead of the European Council Thursday and Friday, the General Affairs Council “regretfully” notes that “Turkey continues to move further away from the EU,” and stresses that “no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing” in such an environment.

Brussels has issued a fresh call to Ankara to cease making threats and engaging in actions that harm good-neighborly relations, and to “normalize its relations with the Republic of Cyprus and respect the sovereignty of all EU member-states over their territorial sea and airspace as well as all their sovereign rights, including inter alia the right to explore and exploit natural resources, in accordance with EU and international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

Instead of challenging Greek sovereignty of the Aegean islands as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did again in a strategy Ankara has been implementing for several years now – in the same context that it recently sent a letter to the United Nations which seeks to enrich the agenda of “outstanding” bilateral issues – Turkey should focus on managing its economic situation, which is spiraling to an explosive degree and may lead the country into a deadlock and in the process to Erdogan’s political demise.

No matter how many finance ministers and central bankers he replaces, the longer the Turkish president insists on pursuing his own economic theories, the worse the situation will become and the more his popularity will wane.

Casting Greece in the role of rival, if not of archenemy, is part of a nationalist frenzy that responds to the demands of the Gray Wolves – Erdogan’s far-right allies – but is not doing Turkey or its beleaguered economy any favors; and that worries Athens. As Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told German daily Handelsblatt, “The fact that Turkey is faced with a financial crisis is not to our satisfaction as it could destabilize the broader region.”

Instead of making threats against Greece, Turkey would be much better served – at the regional level, in terms of its relations with the United States, but also in its cooperation with the EU – to reach out to its neighbor.

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