The EU must keep its promises to Turkey. But she owes Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nothing more. So why does she give him the pleasure of a state visit?
It is a picture entirely to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s taste: the two highest representatives of the EU in his magnificent hall, left and right of the Turkish President, behind them the European and Turkish flags next to each other, the Commission President in matching colours with a white blouse and a red blouse Blazer. That was the scene in which Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel met Erdoğan in Ankara. A face-to-face visit in the middle of the pandemic, especially in pairs, symbolises great diplomatic courtesy. But why is the EU making Erdoğan so happy?
Negotiations are not planned in Turkey, only their preparation, the EU had said in advance. The strategy has long been clear: a “positive agenda”, as Michel reaffirmed after the meeting with Erdoğan.
The EU relies on a system of rewards vis-à-vis Turkey: In return for Erdoğan’s behaviour in the eastern Mediterranean, for example, visa facilitation and an expanded customs union beckon. Turkey itself started the conflict over gas reserves off Cyprus – the fact that Erdoğan reacted temporarily to the threat of sanctions does not mean that you have to show your appreciation for it. On the contrary: that creates a tricky precedent.