Like Germany’s president, I love a good kebab. Cosying up to autocrats like Erdoğan, less so

“Nazis eat döner kebabs in secret”, must be one of the dumbest slogans I have seen at German protests against the far right. Yes, the popularity of the kebab in Germany has become something of a symbol of labour migration from Turkey after the second world war. And yes, Nazis get hungry, too. So what? If the consumption of ethnic-minority food was really an obstacle to the ideology of white supremacy, Germans would either be starved out by now or they wouldn’t vote for Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Neither of these is the case: the kebab is the second most popular fast food among Germans, and according to polls, the AfD their second most popular political party.…  Seguir leyendo »

The results of the local elections held on March 31st are a milestone in Turkey’s history. With most local power now entrusted to the political opposition by voters, Turkey is no longer devoid of options; its trajectory is firmly set towards democracy again.

Despite unfair competition, especially in the allocation of state resources to the ruling party and its candidates and government control of the media, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), of which I am a member, emerged victorious. In Istanbul, government officials and the president actively campaigned to support my opponent in the mayoral election. We won even though other opposition parties, which had allied themselves with the CHP in last year’s elections, abandoned our coalition and ran their own candidates.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le paysage politique de la Turquie à l’issue des élections municipales du 31 mars rappelle celui de n’importe quelle démocratie européenne dans les mêmes circonstances. Dans ce pays, où les élections restent disputées, malgré l’inégalité des moyens de campagne et le climat d’intimidation entretenu par le Parti de la justice et du développement (AKP) au pouvoir, les électeurs turcs ont fait la différence entre élection nationale et locale.

Alors qu’ils avaient reconduit en 2023 l’AKP et ses alliés ultranationalistes du Parti d’action nationaliste (MHP) à l’Assemblée et à la présidence, ils ont sanctionné aux municipales un parti en panne de projet.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a leader in Turkey's opposition party, celebrate after polls closed in local elections on Sunday. (Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

It’s a dangerous moment for Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has ruled comfortably for more than 20 years, with his political opponents squabbling and in disarray. But things are clearly changing. With a younger generation of leaders and mayors, Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), beat Erdogan’s ruling conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) in local elections this weekend for the first time ever.

This feels like a big moment.

There is no mistaking that this was a protest vote: Turkish voters expressed their discontent with the president and his policies less than a year after he won the general elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Reuters

Este domingo se celebran elecciones locales en Turquía. Esto poco o nada importa a los lectores españoles, ya que casi cada año hay elecciones en el país euroasiático y siempre ganan los mismos.

El presidente turco, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Pero vamos a dar algunas claves a través del cine y de las telenovelas turcas para comprender mejor Turquía, esa gran desconocida, y para que los suscriptores de EL ESPAÑOL farden de connoisseurs en las barras de los bares de Semana Santa.

Una vez más, se espera que el AKP del sempiterno presidente turco, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gane las elecciones. Pero la alcaldía de Estambul, la mayor ciudad del país, en manos del opositor Ekrem Imamoglu (del partido de centroizquierda CHP) desde 2019, está muy reñida y el AKP podría recuperarla con su exministro de Urbanización Murat Kurum como candidato.…  Seguir leyendo »

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) addresses supporters during a rally on May 27, 2023.

The upcoming local elections in Turkey on March 31 offer Turkey’s progressives—the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party—the opportunity to challenge the hegemony of the ruling conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP). A win would also bolster the chances of Istanbul’s incumbent CHP mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, to succeed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when his term expires in 2028, provided that they display a unity of purpose.

The outcome of the March 31 election in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, will—as has been the case before—be decisive in shaping the course of Turkish politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace una semana se celebró el Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF), cita obligada para quienes aspiran a entender la actualidad con foco en el Mediterráneo y Levante, y la trayectoria de esta sedimentación de culturas que se extiende desde el Mar Negro y el Bósforo a la costa de Anatolia. La "Perla del Mediterráneo" acogió este año a 4.700 participantes de 148 países -incluidos 19 Jefes de Estado o Gobierno y 64 Ministros- bajo el lema "Impulsar la diplomacia en tiempos de confusión" ("Advancing Diplomacy In Times of Turmoil"). Más allá de la exhibición de eficaz organización, el mensaje que resume el encuentro es la ambiciosa proyección de Türkiye en un mundo en transición de poder y de poderes.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Turquía seguirá comprometida con la reforma económica?

Ocho meses después de un retorno sorpresivo a políticas económicas ortodoxas, las autoridades turcas siguen dando señales de su compromiso con una reforma. El Banco Central de la República de Turquía (CBRT) ha aumentado las tasas de interés 36,5 puntos porcentuales desde junio, mientras que el gobierno, a instancias del ministro de Finanzas, Mehmet Şimşek, ha ajustado la política fiscal, sobre todo incrementando los impuestos indirectos y ajustando los precios regulados.

Las autoridades, tanto fiscales como monetarias, han destacado en repetidas ocasiones el apoyo del presidente turco, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a estos esfuerzos, en busca de calmar los temores de una abrupta reversión de las políticas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Perihan Koca (left) and Kezban Konukcu (right), members of the Turkish opposition People’s Equality and Democracy Party, hold signs reading "No to NATO, Occupation, War" during the voting on a bill regarding Sweden’s accession to NATO at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara on Jan. 23. Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

This week, Turkey’s parliament finally approved Sweden’s bid for NATO membership, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swiftly ratified the measure.

Sweden’s NATO accession has dragged on for more than a year. While every other NATO member aside from Hungary supported Stockholm’s accession, Turkish leaders accused the Scandinavian country of harboring Kurdish terrorists. They demanded that Sweden tighten its anti-terrorism laws, extradite people accused of terrorist activities in Turkey, and resume arms sales to Turkey. The United States seems to have linked approval of Sweden’s NATO membership to future U.S. sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

As Sweden’s membership process stalled, analysts warned of the alliance’s decline and offered a range of proposed carrots and sticks to rein in Ankara.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia on Sept. 4, 2023. Sergei Guneyev/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey and the United States have been treaty allies since Ankara joined the trans-Atlantic alliance in 1952 by formally becoming a member of NATO. Over the ensuing 70 years, Turkey’s bilateral relationship with the United States has been through its fair share of ups and downs. In the mid-1960s, the relationship was rocked by the secret U.S. deal with the Soviet Union to withdraw Jupiter missiles from Turkey during the Cuban missile crisis and former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s letter threatening not to defend Turkey over Cyprus.

Later differences over Vietnam created an anti-American backlash in Turkish public opinion. In the mid-1970s, the Turkish invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus led to a congressionally imposed arms embargo and subsequent limits on U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L) in Athens, Greece on December 07, 2023. (Photo by Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu via Getty Images)

During his visit to Athens on 7 December, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed a new era of friendship with Athens and talked about turning the Aegean into a sea of peace. His counterpart, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was similarly effusive and welcoming, emphasizing both sides’ shared historical responsibility to mend ties.

To outside observers, this language might come across as mere diplomatic niceties. However, context matters: only a few years ago the two countries were routinely exchanging threats, and an eruption of a conflict was seen as within the realm of possibility.

A thaw in Greco-Turkish relations is welcome news at a bilateral level, but also positive for Eastern Mediterranean security, which is currently defined by the Hamas–Israel war, unresolved conflicts in Syria and Libya, and a frozen crisis in Cyprus.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (4th right) attends the 44th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Doha, Qatar on December 05, 2023. (Photo by TUR Presidency / Murat Cetinmuhurdar / Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

On 4–5 December, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Doha to attend the ninth meeting of the Turkey–Qatar Supreme Strategic Committee and the 44th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit.

Erdogan’s attendance at the GCC summit in particular underscores the direction of Turkey’s regional policy of recent years and its approach to the Gaza war.

Indeed, Erdogan’s presence at the GCC meetings reflects the sea change in Turkey’s relations with the Arab–Gulf states, bearing in mind that Ankara was engaged in a fierce rivalry with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi only a few years ago.

Turkey’s presence at this summit also sheds light on its policy towards the Gaza war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a press conference during the NATO summit in Madrid on June 30, 2022. Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images

Joining NATO was the best foreign-policy pursuit that Turkey ever initiated in its existence as a republic. During the Cold War, its membership in the alliance kept Turkey from being overrun by the Soviet Union and helped provide space for its economic development as a Western ally.

Why, then, is the alliance constantly having to grapple with an uncooperative and at times even pugilistic Turkish leader in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan? It seems that, in every instance, Erdogan is devoted to undermining the trans-Atlantic alliance. Is it time for NATO to reconsider Turkey’s membership?

It was not always like this. Turkish diplomats often like to remind their international counterparts that Turkey lives in a difficult neighborhood and the maintenance of its sovereignty is a testament to the skill of generations of Turkish statesmen who worked tirelessly to keep Ankara safe.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Greek navy ship enters the port of Kastellorizo, Greece. Turkey is visible in the background. © Diego Cupolo

The Aegean waters dividing Turkey and Greece have seen unusual calm for a year, a welcome turnaround after a long, threatening row over maritime sovereignty claims exacerbated by hydrocarbon finds in the eastern Mediterranean.

Now, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are to hold a summit in Athens on Dec. 7; it is the best chance since 2016 for the two NATO allies to improve relations and look into relaunching talks on the Aegean dispute.

Despite other disagreements over military build-ups in the region and over Cyprus, they should seize this rare opportunity, not least as their shared neighborhood’s fate – troubled by wars in Ukraine and Gaza – is ever more uncertain.…  Seguir leyendo »

President’s Take: Hot Spots Near and Far

The year 2023 has seen peace and security challenges both far from the EU’s borders and closer to home. The latter, especially, have heightened in recent weeks and months, which have seen fighting in the South Caucasus and Kosovo, even as a second year of war in Ukraine stretches on. While the three crises are very different in nature, all suggest a worrying inclination on the part of some governments to seek solutions to disputes through force of arms. Insofar as this jarring trend involves a proliferation of new wars, large and small, it flies in the face of the decades of energy that the EU has invested in turning the page on past conflagrations in Europe and its neighbourhood.…  Seguir leyendo »

Erdogan the Survivor

In July, during NATO’s annual summit in Vilnius, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unexpectedly greenlit Sweden’s bid to join the alliance. This move provoked a degree of celebration and praise that individual leaders rarely get at a summit. U.S. President Joe Biden applauded Erdogan’s “courage, leadership, and diplomacy”. “This is a historic day”, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Vilnius was a momentary break in a pattern of disheartening friction between Turkey and the West, and especially between Turkey and the United States. The U.S.-Turkish partnership now appears to be the most contentious relationship within the NATO alliance. Erdogan’s bid to block Sweden’s accession was, in part, retaliation against Washington after it punished Turkey for purchasing a Russian air defense system.…  Seguir leyendo »

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Vilnius, Lithuania, July 2023. Kacper Pempel / Reuters

No one campaigns quite like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Months before Turkey’s May 2023 elections, Erdogan unveiled his campaign slogan, “The Century of Turkey”, in front of a live audience of thousands. The spectacle included an orchestra and a chorus performing a theme song that included a rapped verse:

I was a bird with a broken wing
I stayed silent for 100 years
But enough, enough, don’t be quiet
Live free, always free!

The refrain went, “Let the Century of Turkey start—not tomorrow, today!” To cap it all off, Erdogan delivered a typically bombastic speech. Describing some of his domestic policies—such as converting Istanbul’s iconic Byzantine church, the Hagia Sophia, into a mosque—as “challenging global hegemony”, Erdogan vowed to make Turkey “among the top ten [countries] in the world in politics, economy, technology, and diplomacy”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Erdogan vuelve del frío

Hace alrededor de un año, muy pocos apostaban al futuro político del Presidente turco Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Una persistente hiperinflación estaba haciendo estragos en la economía local y el país albergaba a millones de refugiados sirios sin perspectivas realistas de volver a su patria. Después vino el devastador terremoto de febrero último, que causó la muerte de decenas de miles de personas, abrumó por completo a las instituciones locales y puso al descubierto una corrupción endémica.

Más todavía, desde el golpe fallido de julio de 2016, Turquía se ha vuelto cada vez más autoritaria. No hay proyección alguna de solucionar la cuestión kurda y poner fin a la guerra contra el Partido de los Trabajadores de Kurdistán (PKK), y las leyes antiterroristas y un poder judicial complaciente han dado a Erdogan potentes instrumentos para suprimir cualquier tipo de oposición.…  Seguir leyendo »

Opposition supporters rallying ahead of Turkey’s presidential election, Istanbul, May 2023. Dilara Senkaya / Reuters

For Turkish democrats, last spring was supposed to be a moment of triumph. After more than two decades of increasingly autocratic rule, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, appeared poised to lose office. The country’s robust economic growth—Erdogan’s longtime claim to fame—had ended. The Turkish lira was in free fall, making basic goods unaffordable for much of the population. When a devastating earthquake in February 2023 killed tens of thousands of people, Erdogan failed to properly respond. Polls suggested that the presidential election in May would be close but that opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu would emerge victorious.

Alas, he did not. Bolstered by a pliant media that drowned out any bad news, Erdogan came in first during the election’s opening round and then comfortably defeated Kilicdaroglu in the runoff.…  Seguir leyendo »

Les négociateurs de la Conférence, avec au premier rang Lord Curzon, le ministre des Affaires étrangères brtannique; Benito Mussolini, président italien; et Raymond Poincaré, président français. Lausanne, 24 juillet 1923. — © STR / KEYSTONE

Le nom de Lausanne résonne dans les mémoires des peuples du Moyen-Orient de façon très contrastée. Pour les Turcs, le traité signé à Lausanne le 24 juillet 1923 sert de référence à l’existence d’une Turquie Nouvelle, victorieuse et souveraine d’un espace qui constitue aujourd’hui encore la République turque; sa formation et ses frontières ont été négociées à Lausanne, il y a un siècle. Depuis lors, son territoire a été stable, à part l’acquisition du sandjak d’Alexandrette (Iskenderun), cédé par la France en 1939, prélevé du territoire de la Syrie, sur laquelle elle exerçait un mandat de la Société des Nations depuis 1920.…  Seguir leyendo »