Erdogan’s Turkey is offering the European Union a valuable opportunity to develop into a substantial power, to prove that, as the United States withdraws from the international scene and China is on the rise, the countries of Europe are determined to secure peace and prosperity through consensus and democracy. For the EU to achieve this, though, it must show that besides its “soft power” it is ready to defend its security, and that of the broader region, by all means necessary.
Turkey’s growing belligerence might just provoke the reaction which will strengthen the EU’s member-states before they have to face even greater challenges. Turkey, in other words, could serve as a “vaccination” that will accelerate European defense cooperation. This will, in turn, strengthen EU diplomacy so that it can meet more serious threats.
The Turkish challenge is useful because although very real, it is, to a great extent, the result of European tolerance and blissful indifference. If the European Union imposes its own conditions on Turkey, the threat will be limited; if the appeasement of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues, then the member-states will show that they do not have the will to defend their security, their principles and their quality of life. They will prove that they are open to every threat.
Following Brexit, France is the EU’s greatest military power. President Emmanuel Macron understands the need to meet the Turkish challenge head-on, whereas NATO appears indifferent to the fact that its boundless tolerance of Turkey’s behavior is threatening the alliance’s cohesion. If European defense cooperation does not develop, the EU members’ security and economic prospects will be threatened. If France gains support in its clash with Turkey – as Greece did at the beginning of the year at its borders – then all of Europe gains. Otherwise, the whole of Europe loses.
Germany is now called on to play a leading role in reinforcing Europe’s defense, in addition to strengthening its economy through greater solidarity among members. Greece’s contribution to greater security will be to stay clear-headed in the face of provocations, to treat migrants and refugees with humanity, to present realistic proposals for the region’s stability.
Turkey must be forced to act like an EU member rather than being allowed to dictate the terms of its relationship with the bloc.