How would you assess the European response to the natural disaster? What is the state of relations between Turkey and Europe amidst the war in Ukraine and a rise in anti-Western sentiment?
One of the most extraordinary and inspiring moments of this crisis has been the overwhelming amount of aid that has poured in from around the world, including Australia, Mexico, France, the Netherlands, Israel and Greece. Even Armenia extended a helping hand when its border crossing with Turkey was temporarily reopened to let trucks carrying humanitarian aid cross into Turkish territory...no small feat given that the border had been closed for 31 years! This glimmer of hope in the midst of the disaster showed that Turkey is not isolated on the international stage. The aid Turkey has received will make it very difficult for the government to continue to mouth the same anti-Western rhetoric, which relies heavily on maligning the West and its allies. And this turn of events will help discredit a recurrent argument in Erdogan's electoral discourse.
The relationship between the European Union and Turkey, which is far from good, is currently in a deep coma. Hungary is one of the few countries to still maintain cordial relations with Ankara. But the quality of this understanding, given Hungary's controversial position on the European stage, further underscores the country's difficulties with the remaining EU members. This crisis has nevertheless provided an opportunity for the European Union to approach Ankara with much more sympathy than before.
The outcome of the elections will be crucial for Brussels to reconfigure its stance towards Turkey. The opposition didn’t give Europe much more hope. Nothing suggested it would be more favorable or flexible towards the West than the existing government. But from the EU's point of view, any alternative is better than Erdogan remaining in power. Conversely, Vladimir Putin hopes that the incumbent president will not have to move out of the presidential residence in Ankara.
The Turkish Republic will celebrate its 100th anniversary on October 29, 2023. As the elections approach, it is important to underscore that the republican experiment, despite its failures and shortcomings, is one that must be sustained. Many Europeans have often thought of Turkey as a distant and foreign land. My hope is that these events will have shown everything there is to know and explore about this country, in spite of its government. My hope is also that the mobilization will have reflected the energy, creativity and empathy of the pro-justice and pro-freedom forces that are still present in Turkish society, especially among the younger segments of the population.
The European Union has stayed silent for too long while witnessing the erosion in the rule of law and democratic achievements in Turkey. A failure to renew the government that came to power almost 20 years ago would further undermine what remains of Turkish republican ideals. It would also further cut off the best part of Turkey from its leaders and the country as a whole. Such an outcome would also have negative consequences for the EU. But this shall not be considered a call for help. Turkey, alone, can and must provide answers.
Copyright Image : OZAN KOSE / AFP
A man walks among the rubble of collapsed buildings in Hatay on March 6, 2023, one month after a massive earthquake struck southeastern Turkey.
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