MADRID – While the European Union tries to weather a nationalist storm that threatens its core institutions, some of its most important strategic allies have injected more uncertainty into the current political climate. A clear example is Turkey, which has been a NATO member state since 1952, and an official candidate to join the EU since 1999.
On paper, Turkey looks like an ideal country to serve as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. But it has now taken an alarming turn away from Europe, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even accusing the German and Dutch governments of acting like Nazis.
Since withstanding an attempted coup last July, Erdoğan has taken advantage of a national state of emergency to go on the offensive and shore up his power. A surge in popularity has buttressed his new strategy of governing by decree. So far, more than 100,000 civil servants have been fired or suspended, and many of Erdoğan’s political rivals have been jailed. Numerous civil-society organizations and news outlets have been shut down, and Turkey now holds the dubious honor of having a record-breaking number of journalists behind bars.
Moreover, Erdoğan is pressing for a constitutional reform, to be decided by a referendum in mid-April, that would move Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system. If the reform passes, Erdoğan will acquire powers exceeding even those held by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the venerated “father” of modern Turkey.