His focus on fascism was suspicious. What experience did Turks, in the Netherlands and Germany, have with the Third Reich that could compare with what other minority groups experienced during WWII? There was no factual basis for this link. Turkish labour immigration to both countries didn’t begin until the early 1960s.
Indeed, the rhetoric being employed sounded a lot like the sort used by right-wing Israeli politicians, conjuring up the ghosts of the Nazi genocide to decry European criticisms of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. It was a curious repurposing of a discourse that was inconsistent with the forms of discrimination Muslims have been subject to in the Europe over the last half-century.
And yet, it was not, insofar as Erdogan and his ministers were highlighting its indisputable harshness to buttress their own credibility, as though they were the natural leadership in waiting of a beleaguered, headless community.
To be precise, an estimated 19 million-strong religious minority, settled throughout the European Union, subject to routine, albeit growing discrimination, at the hands of populists and neo-fascists, as well as Europeans uncomfortable with diversity.
Painting European racism into a Nazi corner is perhaps the best way to highlight the fact that there is no identifiably Muslim authority looking out for Europe’s Islamic community, other than a patchwork of local, community politicians, religious leaders, and otherwise assimilated ethnic politicians, who are as European as they are Turkish, or Arab. French and German parties can boast numerous examples.
Hence, Erdogan increasingly putting himself forth this last week, as a critic of Dutch actions in the Srebrenica massacre, in 1995, and his attack on the European Court of Justice decision to allow European companies to ban employees from wearing religious or political symbols including the Islamic headscarf. The Turkish president was asserting a distinctly religious leadership role, not just a political one.
The idea is challenging, insofar as the buttons it pushes, inside the European Union, about Turkey’s problematic status as a would-be member of the bloc, and what it may do to exert pressure to force that to happen.
If Erdogan could command the loyalty of not just Turks, but Sunni Muslims, inside the Union, what would that mean, politically, as well as religiously?
Muslims obviously deserve greater protection in Europe. Not just because their rights can be mobilised to support the interests of a foreign autocrat seeking to leverage their disenfranchisement. But also because they are deserving of opportunity and freedom, just like non-Muslim Europeans.
That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be better representation of all religious minority interests in Europe. With the growth of anti-Muslim attitudes throughout the Union in recent decades, not enough is being done to ensure that people of all minority backgrounds feel safe to live in the EU.
The fact that Erdogan recognises this and is trying to use it for his own political purposes is a sign of how bad the situation has become.
THE INSIDE TRACK
Private property. Kosovo decided to appropriate the property of the former Yugoslavia’s Serbia and Kosovo Province, adding pressure to an already strained relationship.
Soon to join Turkey. Once staunchly pro-EU, Kosovars are losing patience with Brussels, which they accuse of prioritising Serbian accession over their own sovereignty, warns the mayor of Kosovo’s capital, Shpend Ahmeti.
I will survive. When things got out of hand, Elias left Syria, but not before making sure that his brother could also escape. The only thing he took was his backpack. Elias dreamed of living in Germany, but settled for the Balkans.
Safe European Home: Elias now lives in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria – a country that when it first greeted him was not at all prepared to receive and care for the Syrian Kurd and the many others like him who arrived over the last two years.
As long as they bring hummus. A year after the borders were sealed, refugees are still using Southeast Europe to enter the EU. But now the journey is more difficult, expensive and brutal.
Moscow will want a cut. The EU unveiled an ambitious plan to support the reconstruction of war-torn Syria, calling it a “dividend” to encourage warring parties to reach a peace deal. But it will have to rely on Russian forces to ensure delivery.
Renewable imperialism. Russia believes Slovakia is the only Visegrád country that may leave NATO, which is why its propaganda apparatus is targeting Bratislava. EURACTIV Slovakia partner Dennik N reports on Moscow’s information war in the region.
Also called propaganda: In the last week, Czech site Aeronet published the following false stories, which went viral: The EU wants to make Le Pen a criminal; the UK will close its borders to EU citizens; and the Democrats are conspiring with Facebook to overthrow Trump by banning fake news.
Cold War remix. Warsaw, which lost a diplomatic campaign to oust its former premier Donald Tusk from his post as European Council president, has now accused the EU of “cheating” and announced a “negative” policy towards Brussels.
Hunter-gatherer society. A political crisis that has paralysed Macedonia for two years now is turning into an ethnic dispute, with nationalists taking to the streets over a series of demands by the country’s Albanian minority.
Ring the alarm. The European Commission is still concerned that Romania will go from registering the highest growth in the EU to racking up the biggest budget deficit. But Bucharest insists there is no cause for concern.
Too much energy to choose from. Do they go nuclear, or stick to coal? What about natural gas? If only they’d take renewables more seriously. The Visegrád 4 may not be the wealthiest part of the EU but they have no problem charging their iPhones.
Only in Italy. A new leftist party has been born. Movimento Arturo was set up by a satirical TV show. In the space of ten days, the ‘party’ has overtaken the Lega Nord on social media, and set up branches around the country and the world.