Turkey-EU relations in tailspin after coup attempt

Turkey’s ties with Europe, already strained over a host of issues, are heading for a nosedive after the failed July 15 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Most Turks feel Europe did not stand by Turkey in its hour of need, instead adopting a wait-and-see attitude as events unfolded.

That no European leader or senior European Union official rushed to Turkey after the failed attempt — to show solidarity against an attack on its democracy — has fueled a belief among Turks that Europe is steeped in double standards when Turkey is concerned. Also reinforcing negative sentiments toward Europe are European criticism of the massive purge against suspected followers and sympathizers of Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric living in the United States and alleged mastermind behind the coup attempt, and warnings that reinstating the death penalty to punish coup plotters would end Ankara’s hopes of joining the EU.

Erdogan has not minced words in this regard. “There is not one person from the EU or the Council of Europe who came here to offer condolences. But they feel no shame or discomfort in telling us these humiliating things,” he told a rally of supporters in Ankara July 29. “I say to them: Keep that wisdom to yourself.”

Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, felt compelled to visit Turkey, on Aug. 3, after Erdogan’s remarks. Aware of the angry mood in Ankara, Jagland underlined his position regarding the coup attempt.

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