They weren’t celebrating Thanksgiving in Turkey yesterday (which is sort of ironically hilarious given their name), but there was one other reason not to be partying as well. The European Union has finally been provoked by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s endless moves toward despotism to informally halt any discussions of admitting them to the European Union. For those those of us who have been aghast while observing these events since the aborted coup, all I can say is that it’s about time. (New York Times)
The European Parliament voted on Thursday to suspend talks with Turkey on European Union membership, the most forceful response yet to the crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against political opponents.
The vote is not binding, since the decision ultimately rests with the governments of the European Union’s member countries. But the vote aims to ratchet up the pressure on Mr. Erdogan, whose leadership has taken an even more authoritarian turn since a failed coup attempt in July.
“The government’s actions are further diverting Turkey from its European path,” European lawmakers said in the resolution, which passed with 479 votes in favor, 37 against and 107 abstentions. The resolution condemned what it called “disproportionate repressive measures” taken by the Turkish government.
“Disproportionate repressive measures” is certainly putting it mildly. Hundreds of thousands of people have been put out of their jobs, including most of the press. Tens of thousands more have simply disappeared into whatever dungeons Erdogan has set up, assuming they are still alive at all. Erdogan wants to be in the European Union for all of the potential economic advantages, but on the foreign policy front he’s been making friends who are of a decidedly different bent. Rather than building bridges with more western, enlightened rulers, Erdogan is hanging out with the leaders of Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. Is this what the EU wants in their new members?
I’m not saying the situation isn’t complicated because it most certainly is. Erdogan has Greece and much of the rest of Europe over a barrel when it comes to helping stem the tide of migrants coming from Syria and Iraq. Endangering their deal could exacerbate that crisis, but it would come at a cost to Turkey as well. Under the current deal they were set to receive about $3.2 billion Euros for refugee assistance in 2016 and 2017 and another 3 billion the following year.
There’s also the question of the military cooperation they’ve offered to the United States in handling matters in that troubled portion of the world. But there has to be some sort of limit as to how much tyranny and human rights abuses we’re willing to swallow in the name of convenience. Besides… Erdogan seems more interested in wiping out the Kurds than he does battling ISIS anyway. The Islamist roots of his political party might be playing a role in those decisions, don’t you think?
The EU has taken at least a first small step in calling out Erdogan’s growing reign of terror. Will the United States finally follow along that path and stop leading from behind? We may not know until January 21st.