-OpEd-

PARIS — There is, of course, a serious measure of calculation in the recent posture and remarks of Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at European leaders. On April 16, the Turkish head of state will be asking his people to vote, in a referendum, to extend his presidential powers. With that goal in mind, there was no more efficient strategy to rally them to his cause than to fan the nationalist flame and galvanize voters by naming an enemy.

The choice of Europe was an obvious one, as most governments on the Old Continent — with the notable exception of our French one (how lucid and brave!?) — have rightfully refused over the past few days to host referendum rallies for Erdogan's AKP party, in the presence of some of his ministers who had specially come for the occasion to appear before Turkish expat voters.

A relationship imbued with hypocrisy, lies and intimidation.

Erdogan's charge against the Netherlands, which he branded "Nazi remnants," was also anything but random. The far-right party of anti-Islam candidate Geert Wilders, who's in favor of banning the Koran and mosques on Dutch soil, is riding high ahead of what is set to be disputed national elections Wednesday.

Beyond that, this incident is one in a long series of serious missteps in a relationship imbued with hypocrisy, lies and intimidation between a weak Europe and an imperious Turkey. The official opening of negotiations for Turkey to join the European Union, in 2004, was bound to only bring tension and crises.

How can we imagine that the peoples of Europe would have accepted this prospect — especially without being consulted — and tolerate such a cultural, religious shock to our continental union? Most governments have since acknowledged this truth, but it came too late and in a disorderly fashion. In the meantime, the rise to power of Erdogan's AKP and its supposedly "moderate" Islam did nothing to allay these fears.

On top of the authoritarian and Islamic drift came Turkey's blackmail regarding the issue of migrants. The country regularly threatens to let them pass through, thus breaking the commitment it made, clinched in exchange for several billion euros paid by the European Union. We urgently need to reevaluate the relations between Ankara and Brussels and put an end to this dangerous fool's game.


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