How Recep Erdogan became the most powerful man in Europe

How Recep Erdogan became the most powerful man in Europe, by Douglas Murray. Turkey’s thuggish president has European leaders exactly where he wants them.

Is Turkey part of Europe? For most of our civilisation’s history, to have even asked such a question would have been to invite derision. The Ottomans were kept out of Europe not by some early-onset prejudice, but by the armies of Europe having to beat back their repeated invasions. The question became slightly more plausible a century ago with the rise of Ataturk and the modern Turkish state (one of the only successful efforts to reconcile the Islamic religion with state power). For a brief period around the turn of the millennium, some serious people (including the British government) supported Turkey joining the EU.

But today, the question has become academic — first because Turkey’s liberal trajectory long ago halted and began rolling backwards. And secondly because the country is now coming into Europe anyway. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, has persuaded the EU to grant visa-free travel to his 75 million countrymen inside Europe’s passport-free Schengen area. In so doing, he has made more progress than any of his predecessors. Using a combination of intimidation, threats and blackmail, he has succeeded in opening wide the doors of Europe.

Turkey’s President is not behaving like a proper modern European:

The extent to which Erdogan has been able to take Turkey backwards is a modern tragedy…. In March [Erdogan ] seized control of Zaman, until then Turkey’s highest–circulation newspaper. And he has taken action against thousands of citizens for the offence of insulting the president. Last month, a Turkish man was arrested for insulting Erdogan by asking police for directions to the zoo.

Turkey is home to 2.7 million Syrian refugees — a fact which Erdogan is treating like being in possession of a loaded gun. He threatens to send them over the Aegean to Greece, or let them walk through Bulgaria.

In private, Erdogan must be amazed at just how much he can wrangle. The worse his behaviour, the greater his clout in Europe.

hat-tip Stephen Neil