Europe on the boil

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By: Pranay Kumar Shome
Europe once perceived as the bedrock of the western defence against external threats is now decaying
from within thanks to the Greek-Turkish tussle exposing deeper civilizational fault lines
The recent discovery of rich hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean Sea by both Greece and
Turkey has brought two NATO allies on the verge of war. Greece claimed the entire region as its own,
Turkey has made it clear that they won’t it give it up without a fight, much to Turkey’s chagrin France
and Cyprus announced that they will put their weight behind Greece in this conflict. If there was any
scope of dialing down the rhetoric on both sides, Turkey poured cold water on it by sending a survey
vessel escorted by Turkish warships in the disputed waters which has angered both France and Greece.
France responded by scrambling some Dassult Rafale fighter jets to express its solidarity with Greece.
What has complicated the situation more is the fact that Greece and Egypt have finalized their maritime
boundaries which extends Greece’s maritime domain by 12 nautical miles.
Threat of a deeper conflict
This skirmish not only risks the solidarity of Europe but also threatens deeper and renewed conflict
between Turkey and its troubled allies. Turkey has conducted military drills near the disputed sites with
its Greek counterpart along its like-minded friends responding in kind by dispatching its own ships.
Media reports have shown fighter jets making dangerous manoeuvres with missiles being fired during the
military exercise to deter adversary.
Erdogan’s brinkmanship to blame
The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has in recent years eroded not only Turkey’s secularist
history but has also undermined the sanctity of the country’s modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,
much to the chagrin of Samuel P Huntington who hailed Turkey as a promising candidate for a ‘core
state’ in the Islamic world.
The recent Turkish effort to emerge as the leader of the Islamic world has also divided the jury, its
decision has been held as highly hostile and detrimental for the overall unity of Europe. The country is
economically sinking, Erdogan’s approval ratings dropping to record lows with his ruling AKP slowly
losing ground politically.
Another reason for the deepening divide within Europe is Turkey is trying to emulate the glories of the
erstwhile fourth caliphate in Islam, the Ottoman Empire, but in the process of doing this, Erdogan is not
realizing that he is alienating Turkey’s allies who are growing wary of the Turkish premier. He is
isolating Turkey on at least the European platform.
Francis Fukuyama, in his recent book ‘Identity-contemporary identity politics and struggle for
recognition’ has observed that the people of Turkish origin who are citizens of other European countries
are slowly growing apprehensive of the call given by the Turkish president to serve their country of origin, Fukuyama went on to highlight that this has given rise to Islamophobia and xenophobia in the
different countries.
Arresting the decline
At a time when Europe is coping with the double whammy of a raging pandemic and a massive economic
slump, the last thing the Europeans need is a new skirmish within their own allies. It is imperative that
both Greece and Turkey calm down fraying nerves. A number of things need to be done by Turkey to
ensure that the issue can be resolved amicably without any military muscle flexing.
Firstly, an impartial arbiter must be appointed in the form of a joint European or United Nations experts
to survey the area and ensure establish a clear mechanism whereby both Greece and Turkey are able to
utilize the non conventional sources of energy because these precious resources are no one’s own.
Secondly, it is time that the Turkish president undertakes an urgent course correction by giving up his
fundamentalist agenda, he must respect the rule of law, must restore democracy and democratic
institutions in his homeland which are a sorry state, and he must restore the secularist legacy of Turkey by
re-announcing that both Hagia Sophia and Chora church as will be reconverted as museums, by doing this
he will earn the goodwill and trust of his allies who are miffed at Turkey’s bellicose behavior.
Thirdly, Turkey must stop dividing the Islamic world by his abrasive actions, the Islamic world is facing
enough problems and any more attempt to sow divisions will be detrimental for the wider amicability
between Islam and other civilizations.
It is highly important that the Turkish premier undertakes steps which can restore amity and cordiality in
ties with its already offended allies, he must strive to uphold the legacy of the country’s founding father
and must understand the deep meaning of Mahatma Gandhi’s timeless quote- “an eye for an eye makes
the whole world blind”. (The writer is a freelance columnist & a student of Jadavpur University,
Kolkata pursuing Honors degree in Political Science with specialization in International Relations)

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