Douglas Carswell

05 MAY 2016

Turkey's return to illiberalism should worry us

What has happened to Turkey? How has the country of Ataturk become the country of Erdogan? Turkey reflects a Middle East in cultural regress. But it's also an indictment of Western foreign policy.

Turkey once seemed to be moving towards liberal democracy. It enabled a secular culture to flourish. It joined NATO. It was an ally of the West in a Soviet-dominated region.

But today Turkey is moving towards Islamism and nationalism. Its president suppresses protest and press freedom while increasing his own power. It has been ambivalent over the crisis in Syria unfolding on its borders.

Turkey's retreat into illiberalism is sad. It's also alarming. Another Islamist power in the Middle East won't just make that region even less safe, but ours too.

Yet – incredibly - the EU is banking on Erdogan's Turkey to keep us safe.

Under the new deal rubber-stamped by the Eurocracy yesterday, the EU will pay Turkey billions, and give 75 million Turkish citizens visa-free access to Schengen countries. In exchange, Turkey will promise to control its border with Syria. What the EU practically gets in return isn't clear.

Turkey has stopped even pretending to try to liberalise, but that doesn't stop it getting what it wants out of Europe. The EU is now an enabler of Turkey's repressive regime.

Turkey's pivot to Islamism also reflects America's lack of leadership. For the last half century, the US was the world's great power. People were often quick to criticise American interventionism. But now we see what the world looks like without it. Restrained, rudderless, retreating America has allowed frenemies like Turkey to become regional challengers.

The post-Pax Americana world doesn't bode well for Europe.

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