Dr. Ali Haji Mohammadi, speaking to the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, attributed the geopolitical conflict between Turkey and the European Union, and France in particular, to several factors and said: Even some parts of the tensions are due to the differences in values and norms governing over political structures of the two countries.
He added: Those factors include the recent religious disputes, especially about the cartoons insulting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the official and governmental Islamophobia in France, as well as the murder of a French teacher and the Turkish-Greek dispute over Cyprus and France’s support for Greece, difference of opinion in Libya’s conflict, the issue of asylum seekers and refugees which Turkey uses as a tool to exert pressure on the EU in return for non-fulfilment of the commitments of the European Union.
The expert on Turkey’s affairs referred to the creation of a power vacuum due to the change in the US strategy in the region, and especially in the European Union due to the reduction of US influence or disinterest, and said: That is why Turkey intends to use this gap or adjust US policy in the Mediterranean region and France, as one of the most important countries in the European Union, intends to play the key role and protect the interests of the European Union.
NATO without Turkey, a European Club with an Uncertain Future
Haji Mohammadi described Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S400 missile system as a factor in weakening NATO and Western defence policies and contrary to NATO’s founding principles and values and continued: Such an issue can somewhat be considered as a threat for the EU and NATO. However, NATO member countries, in general, are afraid of challenging Turkey, or they think that due to the unwillingness of the United States to fulfil its obligations in NATO, this organization will become a European club without Turkey with a vague future.
He said: Although Europe is trying to add the Central Asian states, such as Georgia, Ukraine and other countries to its collection, they can never play the vital role of Turkey in NATO. In this case, if we consider NATO without Turkey and the United States, it will really suffer more crisis and erosion, but given Biden’s policy based on the desire to play the role and commitments of the past in NATO, naturally European countries will not seek further challenges with Turkey.
The expert on Turkey’s affairs, stressing that European countries will never seek to deepen NATO’s internal rifts, continued: The Europeans know that they are in a critical situation and cannot easily put too much pressure on Turkey.
Haji Mohammadi, saying that in the EU Global Strategy which was published in 2019, the main emphasis was on the Mediterranean region and its surrounding areas, noted: This emphasis shows that the Mediterranean region and its eastern part are of importance to the EU in general. Partly, because large numbers of refugees flocked to Europe via the Mediterranean after the start of the wars in Libya and Syria; but the EU showed that it does not have a common strategy or sufficient power to address this issue, and to some extent, it has been an observer of the affairs.
Turkey’s Profit-Seeking Effort to Exploit NATO’s Capabilities
Referring to France’s recent policies as well as presence and interventions in Libya, Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean, he said: France, while maintaining its historic rivalry with Germany, intends to change its position on the world level and for this reason, it is trying to become a dominant player in the Mediterranean region. In addition, France wants Turkey to be active in those areas within the framework of NATO, but Turkey, given the existing power vacuum, seeks to exploit NATO’s capabilities to achieve its targets in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East. That is why the conflict between France and Turkey is taking shape in this regard.
The analyst of Turkey’s affairs added: In the power vacuum caused by the absence of the United States, France does not have the power and ability to design a military and political structure in the Mediterranean, and many European countries do not cooperate with France, therefore, there is no common approach to Turkey and they are considering their own interests with Turkey.
Saying that Turkey seeks to become a regional power in the Mediterranean area, Haji Mohammadi noted: Turkey is adjacent to 71% of the world’s explored gas reserves and has been able to gain a special place as a transit point and energy supplier to Europe. In other words, Turkey has a geostrategic position on the issue of energy geographically and geopolitically. At the same time, Turkey seeks to be both an energy producer and an energy transferor and hub in the region; that is to say, Turkey’s strategy on energy consumption and exports is a multidimensional and multifaceted strategy.
Stressing that Turkey is trying to get the energy it needs through ambitious energy pipeline projects, he added: With regard to the fact that Turkey is assessing its dependence on the Iranian and Russian gas as a serious problem for its energy security and for reducing its bargaining power in regional equations, exploration of giant gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean gives a new approach to Turkish energy policy which can be used as an economic lever in the first place and as a political lever against Europe in the second place and act upon it in the region.
This expert on Turkey’s affairs said: Turkey and the European Union are not in a position to continue this much of tension. Thirty-five chapters of the EU policies are related to energy. Europe does not intend to accept Turkey’s new energy policies and tends to act only as a bridge and link; but Turkey’s gas geopolitics target is to be an active player and energy policymaker.
The inefficiency of EU Threat & Sanctions Language against Turkey
Haji Mohammadi called Turkey’s policy towards Europe as a continuous one and, referring to European threats of imposing sanctions against Turkey, stressed: It seems that the language of threats and sanctions cannot stop Turkey from its activities in the region and in the Eastern Mediterranean; because militarization of the Mediterranean is neither in the interest of Turkey nor in the interest of the European Union. The best option for them is to reach a collective agreement with the Mediterranean countries.
He explained: On the one hand, Turkey is seeking its share in the region and, on the other hand, the European Union is not seeking to jeopardize its energy security and lose one of its safest routes.
Saying that the European Union and Turkey have learned how to manage those conflicts, Haji Mohammadi added: Management of the conflict in the policies of Turkey and the European Union is a key indicator for resolving those conflicts. I believe that in the long run, both France and Turkey will find a common interest in cooperation or a lasting way of resolving the conflict, otherwise, the two countries will be the big losers in that conflict.