Ankara is quickly showing that a new attitude towards human rights and liberties is the only way forward to work with Joe Biden’s administration – one more nail in the coffin of EU plans to be a superpower.
The Biden effect is already proving to be seismic across the world, in how regions deal with their own human rights (Middle East) and how the EU goes about its business with its self-induced fantasy of being a superpower. Wannabee superpowers talk the talk. Real superpowers walk the walk.
And this is very much the case of the EU itself which is already caving in to last minute negotiations with the UK over a post-Brexit trade deal, with the European Commission president herself rolling her sleeves up and trying to find a compromise with the UK over fishing rights. Clearly, the real powers in Europe – Germany and France – are leaning on the EU itself in Brussels and warning of consequences which will affect them politically if the UK crashes out of the EU. In other words, higher tariffs on French and German goods in the UK market, which will mean job losses in both those countries. But the EU itself, as an entity, will take a massive blow if a no deal Brexit actually happens on January 1st – which will send a chilling signal to all the potential Eurosceptic countries in the EU that “you too can do a Brexit”. The obvious ones who will be receptive to this are of course Spain and Italy. The less obvious countries who might be envious of the UK – The Netherlands and Denmark – will no doubt receive a boost to their eurosceptic groups.
Either of these two scenarios would spell the end of the EU as we know it which explains why a certain new level of panic is being felt in the corridors of Brussels. And that desperation is contagious. Indeed, was it because of a new level of insecurity within the EU itself which prompted Hungary and Poland to block a near 2 trillion dollars Covid rescue plan which EU leaders had proposed to be part of the next 2021-2027 six year budget? Both countries on November 18th derailed the unprecedented plan as their leaders were afraid that signing up to it would give Brussels the upper hand and forcing new immigration measures onto them.
Whether this is the real reason or not is not relevant. What is important is that the move by these two member states will send a shockwave both to the EU itself and to its two giants who run it, Germany and France. The no-confidence vote is significant as the EU believed that it had finally overcome resistance from countries like the Netherlands about how exactly the money would be given to Spain and Italy and the terms of a payback. No one saw the Poland-Hungary Exocet missile on the horizon and this move will only intensify panic in Brussels over the EU’s ability to keep itself relevant and stay in the game before the next European elections in 2024 where all-time new levels of low voter turnout will swell even further the hard right bloc in the European parliament.
The idea of this pan-European populist group one day actually holding a majority in the European parliament is considered a nightmare scenario which could mean the EU project having to reinvent itself altogether. Or it falling apart altogether.
And nobody is watching the slow implosion of the European Union more than its fake friend on the periphery of its borders, Turkey. In fact, it will be Turkey which will deliver the final blow to the 27-nation bloc when it goes ahead with its plans to overhaul its own human rights record.
Yes, you read correctly. Remarkably, since Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. presidential elections, Turkey’s firebrand leader Recep Erdogan, has pulled a rabbit out of the hat and shocked the entire region with this latest stunt. If the plan is serious – to radically overhaul Turkey’s judiciary and to turn off the heat on independent media and zealous journalists in general – then this suddenly puts Turkey at the front of the line for rich pickings from the Biden administration and sets an example to its regional foe, Saudi Arabia, to follow suit.
Imagine though the crushing message this sends to the European Union though, which has been trying to keep alive a dream for nearly two decades that it – and only it alone – can reform Turkey, to put it in line with what is expected of an “accession state” as they are called! Erdogan is no fool. He knows that the carrot and stick of the EU was designed only to serve the EU’s interests in controlling this important NATO member, while appeasing France and Germany who would never sign off on Turkey becoming an EU member state anyway. But Erdogan’s approach – “it’s all about the money” – is both clever and well-timed. The valuable foreign investment which could come from the U.S. companies which might prefer Turkey as the perfect base outside of the EU, but perched on the Middle East’s peninsular is what Turkey badly needs now to tame its runaway economy. It really is all about the money at the end of the day and the EU couldn’t deliver here. But the U.S. can. This poignant message will reverberate all around the MENA region and be seen by the ‘bad boys’ on the bloc, as perceived by Biden’s new secretary of State Antony Blinken – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – and will almost certainly be replicated. This, in turn, will place the U.S. as the main player, once again, in the region, and the EU as more or less an observer, which will need to come up with a lot more money to buy manufactured hegemony if it is to keep the lights switched on and the actors paid.