German Chancellor Angela Merkel aims to keep a channel of communication open with Turkey as opposition forces in the country are advocating a different approach toward the EU, social democrat MEP Udo Bullmann told EURACTIV.
However, he added, the EU should send a clear message to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the upcoming summit on 10-11 December.
The German EU lawmaker, who is also EU Affairs Spokesperson of the Executive Committee of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), said Europe should realise that the opposition forces in Turkey are advocating good relations with the EU.
“We shouldn’t forget that the power base of Erdoğan is shrinking […] look at the results of the last municipal elections: the guy is sweating, the guy is afraid of losing his definition power of internal and external politics within Turkey,” Bullmann said.
In March, Erdoğan suffered a severe setback as his ruling AK Party lost control of the capital Ankara for the first time in a local election.
“We should not deal with Turkey as an autocratic monolith, so keep the flexibility to transform and bring Turkey back into the family of peaceful nations. That would be, normally, Merkel’s intention, and she cannot be blamed for that,” he added.
On the other hand, he stressed, there should be no “wrong compromises” with Erdoğan.
“If he acts like in the recent past, there have to be clear words and a clear definition of where the EU stands,” Bullmann said, adding that Erdoğan’s aggressive behaviour cannot be tolerated any longer.
At an EU summit on 10 December, EU leaders are expected to decide their next steps regarding the worsening EU-Turkey relations. The upcoming summit is the deadline that the EU gave to Turkey to de-escalate, otherwise, measures against Ankara will be considered.
A source close to the issue told EURACTIV last week that Erdoğan will back down at first sign of EU unity.
However, adopting a common approach seems to be a tough equation considering that Greece, France and Austria are pushing for sanctions while some countries such as Germany, Spain and Italy remain reluctant.
Germany, which currently holds the EU Presidency, has so far been particularly opposed to sanctions.
In an interview with Politico over the weekend, Greek foreign minister Niko Dendias lashed out against Berlin for its failure to impose an EU arms embargo against Turkey, without using the word sanctions.
“I really fail to understand Germany’s reluctance to use the enormous power of its economy to set a clear example to countries that they must obey international law,” Dendias said.
“I understand the financial issue, but I am sure Germany also understands the huge contradiction of providing offensive weapons to a country that threatens the peace and stability of two EU countries. This is the definition of the word contradiction,” Dendias added.
Especially for Spain and Italy, the reasons behind blocking an arms embargo are not a coincidence.
According to official data of the Stockholm International Peace Institute, they are the main European suppliers of weapons to Turkey. For the 2015-2019 period, 43% of arms imports to Turkey came from Italy and Spain.
On Thursday the European Parliament mounted the pressure by passing a non-binding resolution in support of EU member Cyprus, urging EU leaders to “take action and impose tough sanctions” against Turkey.
Erdoğan incensed Cyprus, whose territory covers the southern half of the partitioned Mediterranean island, on 15 November by visiting Varosha, a resort on the island that has been fenced-off and abandoned in no man’s land since 1974.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy denounced the resolution and accused the European Parliament of being “prejudiced and disconnected from the realities” on Cyprus.
EU leaders have the last say over the issue and many in Athens fear that Germany may get cold feet, or that other last-minute Erdoğan supporters may play their cards, such as Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán or Bulgaria’s Boyko Borissov.
Meanwhile, following almost a month and a half of searches, the Turkish research vessel Oruc Reis returned on 30 November to the port of Antalya, off the southern coast of Turkey.
[Edited by Georgi Gotev/Zoran Radosavljevic]