Al-Monitor: European Union has vindicated Erdogan, yet again – Analysis

No need to indulge in semantics and take pains to conceal the fact: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defied the European Union — and he won.

Before the European Council summit Dec. 10-11, European Council President Charles Michel had accused Turkey of playing a cat-and-mouse game that has to stop. Erdogan retorted to the EU on the eve of the ostensibly fateful summit in a belligerent tone, saying he was not concerned about possible European sanctions as they would have no impact on Turkey. Yet he also emphasized that Turkey’s strategic objective to become an EU member state remains unchanged, thereby creating false hopes and optimism.

When the EU leaders met in Brussels haggling over the wording of the continuously changing drafts of the European Council’s statement on Turkey on Dec. 10, Erdogan was in Azerbaijan as the proud leader who enabled the Azeri victory over Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh war in the South Caucasus.

The EU summit’s outcome has indicated that the Turkish pundits, as well as many other non-Turkish analysts, who are critical of Erdogan with legitimate reasons, have a strong tendency of wishful thinking to see the Turkish president as the loser in his assertive foreign policy moves. The Erdogan critics were expecting tougher sanctions in accordance with the consistent calls by EU member states — France, Greece and Cyprus.

Yet, after some bickering among the member states, the summit’s conclusion text vis-a-vis Turkey fell considerably short of what these three countries wished to see. The EU has opted out of limited sanctions against Turkey for unilateral moves in the eastern Mediterranean, slightly expanding previously approved sanctions against individuals and institutions involved in Turkey’s hydrocarbon exploration activities in the contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean.