On Wednesday, September 13, while the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was outlining his vision for the European Union in Brussels, Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik was delivering a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, in London.
In his State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Juncker was describing Turkey as a country that has been “moving away from the European Union in leaps and bounds,” with no prospect of becoming a member in the “foreseeable future”.
Europe Minister Ömer Çelik’s speech was also looking ahead. Titled: ‘Turkey, Britain and Europe: A Vision for a Common Future , it offered a world view that could not have been more different than Mr. Juncker’s.
The European Commission President believed that the European Union was “bouncing back” after Britain’s decision to leave. “Brexit is not everything. It’s not the future of Europe” he said.
Mr. Çelik talked about “the shaken self-integrity of Europe” after the Brexit vote, predicting that the UK will continue to be one if the biggest powers in Europe. Turkey, too, together with Britain, would remain a strong pillar of the European architecture. “The UK, Europe’s gateway to the Atlantic, and Turkey, Europe’s gateway to Asia, will continue to shape Europe’s politics,” he said.
Juncker wanted Turkey to show more respect for the EU. “Stop calling our member states and our heads of state and government fascists and Nazis” he warned.
He criticized Turkey for the crackdown on political opponents, saying, “Journalists belong in editorial offices amid heated debate and not in prison”.
In London, Mr. Çelik, himself a former journalist, carefully avoided mentioning Turkey’s journalists; nor did he acknowledge the main reasons behind the deepening row with Europe in his scripted speech. Instead, he claimed the public in Europe was losing “trust in the EU’s loyalty to universal values.
The apparent discrepancy between visions outlined by the EU President and Turkey’s Minister for Europe, is, partly, due to Ankara’s failure to formulate a strategic vision.
The other, perhaps bigger, part of the reason is that Turkey seems to lack rigorous analysis and critical thinking.
In an increasingly complex and unpredictable world, arrogant defiance and reactiveness alone cannot be the main foreign policy tools for long.
Putting forward cogent arguments is the pre-requisite for an effective communication strategy, too.
EU Minister Çelik made more than one flawed assumption while speaking to a select group of people in London on Wednesday.
Perhaps the most significant one was underestimating how well-informed his polite audience was about today’s Turkey. He also did not seem to realize how scathingly critical even the most establishment-friendly think-tanks and media in Britain can be.
In a speech where he frequently talked about the need to build bridges, Mr Çelik pulled the drawbridge further up, instead.
This post is also available in: Turkish