N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
To restore, in the EU’s strategic interest, a mutually beneficial and positive relationship with Turkey, the European Council asked its President Charles Michel to talk with his Turkish colleague Recep Erdogan and lay out the terms on which such a better relationship could be built. A meeting was scheduled.
But this overlooked the fact that there is another President in ‘Brussels’ who considers herself to be in an equal position to Michel. So, at the beginning of this week, European Council President Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (aka VDL) visited President Erdogan together.
The two EU leaders did not receive the same protocol treatment in Ankara. As her male counterparts, Michel and Erdogan, went to take a seat side-by-side at the presidential palace, VDL was relegated to an anti-social distancing and left to perch on a not-so-nearby sofa, according to Politico. Afterwards, at a press meeting, VDL was furious. Was Michel wrong by not intervening and not offering his EU-colleague his own seat next to the host? Michel’s staff insisted that protocol-wise all was in order. It was Erdogan and Michel who were actually meeting and Michel’s position comes closest to a head of state.
The result of the Ankara meeting? The EU leaders let the media know what they told President Erdogan. Nothing new. Only, ‘it is up to Turkey to seize this opportunity in a solid and sustainable manner’. And Erdogan? He made it known that Turkey’s position is that it wants the EU ‘to take concrete steps to support a positive agenda’.
In 2016, the EU paid Turkey more than 6 billion euros for closing the border and for hosting four million Syrian refugees. That money is now almost gone. Updating the deal seems to be an urgent matter for the EU. Angela Merkel is on her way out and we cannot expect that her successor will also say ‘Wir schaffen das’…