“Ukraine is one of us, and we want to see them in EU,” that is what Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said on February 28, about Ukraine under Russian occupation. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was speaking at the same time, calling out to the EU. “Please show the same sensitivity for Turkey as you show Ukraine,” “Will you put Turkey on the agenda when someone declares war and attacks Turkey?” he said.
There are two important points here which I will not dwell upon not to get distracted from the main topic. The first is the decline of democracy in Turkey; especially in the last ten years in the independence of the judiciary, freedom of press and expression, separation of powers were corroded. The other point is von der Leyen’s words “one of us” which sounds like a confession of a double standard. When uttering “one of us,” she seem to refer to Christianity as a common denominator rather than democratic and economic development.
I will also come to the hypocrisy about refugees, but first, let’s focus on Erdogan’s calm call to the EU by saying “please”.
Ukraine, Turkey and the EU under attack
“We really appreciate the efforts to get Ukraine into the European Union. This is a good development, but I also say to the EU members, ‘Why are you still worried about, hesitating or not taking Turkey into the EU?'” Erdogan said on March 1, at a joint press conference with Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu in Ankara.
The same Erdoğan had said a couple of weeks ago that he would not recognize the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights on Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş, despite the 90th article of our Constitution. On the other hand, it is clear that the EU is making decisions based on geopolitical measures, as it did in the past. The closest example that concerns Turkey is that Greek Cypriots were made a member of the EU in 2004, when Greece blackmailed Germany with Poland. If we go back a little, we can find that Greece, which was not ready for membership in any way, was admitted to the EU membership in 1981 on the grounds of “Turkish threat” after the military coup of September 12 1980.
Criticisms to NATO and sanctions
In his speech, Erdogan was calling not only to the EU, but also to NATO, in fact, to the United States, NATO’s locomotive:
“Currently, there are countries within the EU member states that we need to cooperate within the defence industry, and many of these countries are also NATO members. Turkey is also a NATO member. Why don’t you give these kinds of tools, equipment, ammunition, whatever you need to give to Turkey? Are they waiting for another war?” he said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey would both fully implement Montreux by not allowing Russian and other warships to cross into the Black Sea, and would not participate in imposing economic sanctions on Russia. This is an attitude that takes its side against Russia and on the side of Ukraine, without breaking the ties with Russia because the prolongation of the crisis will cost Turkey both politically and economically.
Different treatment to different occupiers
It is the legitimate right of every people to resist foreign invasion. The Turkish people used their right to resist the invasion of Greece, England, France, Italy, Russia and the Ottoman Empire, which cooperated with the invaders 100 years ago under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, protected their lands and gained their independence. The Ukrainian people have the right, and it is legitimate to resist the Russian invasion.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, addressing the UN (which other diplomats left in protest) on March 1, declared the insurgents in Ukraine terrorists (due to the handful of Nazi-remnant terrorists in the country). But didn’t the US do the same during the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Had they not declared those who resisted the invasion and subsequent occupation of their country as terrorists because of the handful of Al Qaeda at the time? I am not ignoring the threat that jihadist terrorists pose to the whole world and Turkey in the meantime. Haven’t the same jihadist militants been counted as heroes against the Russian occupation in Afghanistan by the USA and Europe? There’s just an emphasis on double standards here. If the Iraqi resistance had been viewed in a different way with US-based chemical weapons lies, maybe al-Qaeda would not have grown so much, and there would have been no trouble like ISIS.
The hypocrisy against refugees
Let’s talk about refugees. Iraqi neuroscientist Dani Beck, now living as a political refugee in the UK, writes in his Twitter account that, as an Arab, he is shaken as he watches the sensitivity that is now emerging in Europe over the conditions that forced him to leave his country, with an emphasis on hidden racism. The UN estimates that close to one million refugees are on their way to EU countries because of the Ukraine invasion. But no one complains about these “blond, blue-eyed” refugees. The EU, which is seeking new ways of agreement with Turkey, which continues to host millions of Syrians in the midst of the economic crisis, continues to marginalize people instead of serving the geopolitical peace by working with Turkey and contributing its economic and political democratization.
Then the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, calls Russia’s move a “geopolitical terrorism”. The expression may be on point. President Erdogan’s Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also draws attention to similar geopolitical bullying while saying that Russia is after a “great bargain” with the West over Ukraine. However, what the EU has done to Turkey is geopolitical marginalization and insistence on geostrategic error.
Geopolitical step for the EU
Currently, there are four candidate members to the EU. Apart from arch-candidate Turkey, the three Western Balkan countries are Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro. Obviously, Ukraine will also be added to this.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili reminded Russia’s 2008 Georgia operation where Russia took control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in an interview on March 1 to France’s FR24 channel. He said that Georgia wants to be a member of both NATO and the EU.
What the EU, the most successful peace and development project in modern history, should do is to take a geopolitical step as in 2004 and put accession of all these candidate countries on its agenda. If Turkey had been accepted as a member in 2004 with the support of the European Parliament, maybe the Syrian civil war, considered the biggest destruction since the Second World War (including the Vietnam War), would not have erupted. Russia would not have descended to the Mediterranean-Middle East region with all its might through the Syrian war. Turkey, as a much more advanced country both politically and economically, would be able to contribute more to the stability of Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine both reminded the threat to Europe and opened a historical window of opportunity for the future. It would be beneficial for European administrators to review Turkey’s situation from this perspective, in solidarity with Ukraine, but freeing themselves from religious and cultural prejudices.