Just as there were those who tied his speech in Strasbourg to the anger that Turkey feels towards France, there were those who recalled his “one minute” outburst at Davos, explaining his behavior as being in line with his ever-present Kasımpaşa neighborhood attitude. Perhaps all of these factors were effective. However, there is a serious division among those who believe that Erdoğan was addressing Turkey in that speech, bearing in mind the upcoming elections. To this end, we must recall that it is important to take note of the way in which the Turkish media covered the event
For this time, even I was affected by the campaign led by a certain segment of the media to show the government, which has demonstrated the courage to uncover the deep state to a level never before seen, as public enemy number one of freedoms in Turkey. Due to my own work, I was unable to follow Erdoğan’s entire speech. And most news stations aired a portion of his speech’s question and answer session alone. There were certain commentaries regarding this segment of the speech. And opinions regarding the speech were formed based on this excerpt. My own observations weren’t all that pleasant, either. I thought to myself, “I wish that Erdoğan, in the midst of a great war of propaganda against him, acted diplomatically, in a style free of conflict.” Thank God that the entirety of his speech was broadcast on the Samanyolu News television station the same night. And in the entirety of the speech there was a cool-headedness that, despite everything, showed the will to continue with the EU process and a person who interpreted even the Crusades from a unique, optimistic angle and a style that emphasized the commonalities between Europe and Turkey.
Thus, it is not fair to cherry pick the three problematic points in the Q & A session and portray them as though they summarize the mood of the entire speech. While saying this, I am in no way arguing that the three points, which are troublesome for the mid and long-term interests of both the AK Party and Turkey, should be overlooked. One of these is Erdoğan speaking to French MP Muriel Marland-Militello, who is from Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, saying, “You are French to Turkey.” Even though Sarkozy deserves worse, the response by Erdoğan, which was formed on a sound basis, was not becoming. For it was discovered that Marland-Militello was not French, but ethnically Armenian with her mother being born in Kadıköy, İstanbul.
Secondly, regarding the question of the election threshold, he said, “Even if we were to lower the threshold we should ask the people about this; we are not about to ask you.” This approach he took, while addressing a structure that encompasses the European Court of Human Rights, which represents Turkey vis-à-vis freedoms and whose judicial authority we accept through the Venice Commission, which strongly supported the Sept. 12 constitutional changes, was not right.
Thirdly, there was the analogy to a bomb with regard to a question about journalist Ahmet Şık. However, Erdoğan’s invitation of the European Council to Turkey in order to examine press freedoms was a message that underscored his confidence. The response Erdoğan gave to the question regarding this topic was great: “This is not the job of your government, but our judiciary. You are asking that the judiciary be impartial on the one hand and asking for the judiciary to meddle in our affairs on the other. Is this not contradictory?” But after passing the matter along to the judiciary as he did, he could have opted to not go into detail.
Of course, there is no doubt that his speech, which must be considered in its entirety and with more fairness, will be effective in the elections, drawing a portrait of an Erdoğan who does not bow his head before the Europeans. And it’s not as if it’s the case that while Europe is crazy about Erdoğan he is ruining things. The Turkish public’s outlook on Europe -- from the trouble they endure at European consulates obtaining visas; the injustice done to Turkey regarding Cyprus, while Croatia, which began its EU bid the same time as Turkey and has almost reached its end goal, while Turkey has not even been able to close a single negotiation chapter; and Sarkozy and Angela Merkel’s extra-judicial attitude -- is not the same as it was five or six years ago. In this regard, the harsh rhetoric found in certain parts of Erdoğan’s speech can be said to be the voice of the people. However, if we were to look at relations with Europe and the West, beyond a single speech and from a wider perspective, we will see that there are some points that Erdoğan, the AK Party and Turkey should not overlook.
I will touch upon these in my next piece.