“The Lausanne Treaty is not a sacred text and it can be discussed”, “if you continue further then I will open up the borders for the refugees”, these are some of the statements made by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who seems to want to overturn many stables and cause chaos in Europe and the Middle East.
The Turkish leadership has realised that it is difficult to join the EU with Brussels harshly criticising Ankara where democratic freedoms are concerned. The Turkish President doesn’t seem to want to listen to any suggestions coming from Europe and that’s why he is trying to change his country’s course.
“Turkey should not be attached to the EU concept and how it can meet requirements to join it”, Erdogan stated, on his return from Uzbekistan where he had a meeting with high ranking officials, ten days ago. He stressed that the country is looking into other alternative collaborations, such as he ”Shanghai Five”.
The Turkish President revealed that he also discussed the idea of Turkey’s accession to the “Shanghai Five” with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, according to Erdogan’s statements replied that “this is something we should look at carefully and seriously.”
“Did we make the wrong choices by trying to join NATO and the EU through every way possible? At this point, however, a large proportion of the people do not have a positive opinion either for NATO or the EU. In the past things were different. If there was a referendum today it would not produce surprising results”, according to Mehmet Barlas in the Turkish pro-government Sabah newspaper.
What does Turkey want from Europe?
The prevailing view in Ankara is that Europe strongly supported the Turkish government after the failed coup attempt.
Of course the Europeans criticise the Turkish president and the government because of the tens of thousands of arrests, including MPs, journalists and government officials, made by the Turkish authorities based on charges linked to the Islamic Gulen movement (which Turkey recognises as a terrorist organisation) or with the PKK.
Erdogan has asked Turkish citizens to be patient until the end of the year, where relations with Europe are concerned, and stated that a referendum will take place in 2017 concerning the country’s accession to the EU.
A European course?
“After the European Parliament’s vote Turkey’s European accession negotiations that began eleven years ago are put on hold. We are at a crossroads. Our course is “frantically running” to the North and to the East. Perhaps it’s time to rethink things. What is in our country’s interests?” says Hurriyet columnist Ertugrul Ozkok.
Turkey believes that it drew the short straw in the refugee agreement. According to Ankara official data there are at least three million refugees and immigrants in Turkey. Of these, approximately 270,000 are living in camps set up in southeastern Turkey towns.
The agreement concerning the refugee crisis which was signed between Brussels and the Turkish government provided Turkey with 3 billion euros of financial assistance that would enable refugees to stay there, in case Turkey would fulfil all criteria Turkish citizens would be granted visas, and all refugees that cross illegally into Europe would be returned from March18th when the agreement was signed.
Turkey has so far received only 450 million Euro. The Turkish Government has submitted plans for projects worth 1.2 billion euros which Ankara has so far not received any funds for.
At the same time two programs by the Turkish Ministry of Education and the Turkish Ministry of Health totalling 600 million euros are waiting for European funds.
Ankara is calling for a lift on visas for Turkish citizens although it has not altered the anti-terrorism law which is one of the criteria set by the EU.
Turkey says that about 20 billion Euro has been spent so far to cover costs for hosting refugees that are living in Turkey. Besides feeding, there are huge costs for the health and education of refugees. Ankara is initially asking for its immediate financial support and is pushing for lifting the visa requirements without changing the anti-terrorism law at a later stage.
From the moment Athens made it obvious that it wanted to discuss and close the matter of the guarantees and the withdrawal of the occupation troops in Cyprus before the five-party conference, the collapse of the peace talks was almost expected for Ankara .
The Turkish opinion which was echoed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on his visit to the occupied North of Cyprus on Friday, is for all sides to remain committed to the negotiations and for the the issue of guarantees and troops to be discussed in the five-party conference. “Our goal is in the framework drawn up in the document of the 11th of February 2014,that these negotiations should bear fruit, bear results, within 2016. To take steps for a permanent solution and instantly establish a specific roadmap which will include a five-party conference”.
In Ankara they believe that the pressure Athens might come under will assist in Ankara’s wishes who wants to remain as a guarantor power and keep the military presence on the island. Turkey hopes that a possible meeting between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might help to overcome the impasse.
Repeated statements by the Turkish president on the Treaty of Lausanne primarily aim at domestic politics. But experienced political analysts are of the opinion that the Turkish president with references to Turkey’s glorious Ottoman past is trying to create a “new ideology” that would remove the country from Kemalism.
However, Ertugrul Ozkok in turkish newspaper Hurriyet states that “the last Sultan Vahdettin when he signed the Treaty of Sevres reduced the Empire’s territories to 300.000 square kilometers from the 22 million it once was. Kemal Ataturk and Inonu increased this area to 780,000 square kilometers. And when the Treaty of Lausanne was being signed Istanbul was still under occupation.”/IBNA