European leaders must unite for the future of global democracy in the face of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s illiberal government. With Washington now uninterested in pushing liberal democratic ideals, it is incumbent of the European Union to lead the way towards democracy, openness and liberalism in Europe before the authoritarian nationalism enveloping the continent from the United Kingdom to Turkey destroys its liberal democratic union.
Leading into the national referendum in Turkey on April 16, a dangerous, growing tension between the Turkish government and the Greek government availed itself with escalating rhetoric and near daily incursions into Greek waters by Turkish naval vessels as well as dogfights by the air force. The referendum came at a worrying time for European leaders due to Erdogan’s megalomaniacal morph into authoritarianism, and as they are calling him a dictator, Erdogan is calling European leaders “Nazis” in public forums. He has even called into question the very Treaty of Lausanne, which formed the current borders of Turkey and Greece.
This sort of public antagonism by a head of state regarding historically accepted borders within Europe is unprecedented and worrying, especially coming from a so-called NATO ally. Coupling these incursions with never-before-seen heightened nationalist fervor in Turkey equals something Europe and the West should recognize as undemocratic. What Erdogan is getting away with in Turkey is anathema to the core values of the European Union—values including minority rights, secularism, democracy and free trade. His crackdowns, purges and war on journalists since the Gezi protests in the summer of 2013 marked this clear departure from running his government with European Union membership hopes first and foremost in favor of totalitarian rule.
This is what makes things where they stand so important. The rhetoric is that of a madman from the Turkish president.
Erdogan is stoking religious nationalism in Turkey in hopes that it will whip up a frenzy of loyal nationalist supporters since successfully thwarting an attempted coup last June ahead of this referendum. The problem with that is, it is exactly the wrong thing to do if you are attempting to join the EU.
This is utterly insane. To stoke this fervor domestically, jail more journalists than basically any other country and threaten European leaders, it is insane to expect to be allowed to join the EU.
The referendum was a fraud. There is overwhelming evidence of ballot stuffing and other fraud. The climate of fear, the purging of vast sections of the civil society, the destruction of checks and balances the president unleashed since the attempted coup disqualified the vote from being free and fair.