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José Miguel DIAS ROCHA

When asked last September if he was trying to be the “coolest guy” on the global stage, the French President Emmanuel Macron, whose role in both European and world politics is becoming bigger and bigger[1], answered that “the international stage is not really that cool, you know”, because, for instance, he is “the one who has to speak every 10 days to Erdoğan”[2].

After the joint press conference with the Turkish president, during his official visit this month to France, we can say that maybe the nearly 80% of Turkish citizens who favor their country’s membership in the European Union[3] hadn’t found “cool” of Macron to state that “it is clear that [Turkey’s] recent developments and choices allow no progress in”[4] the EU integration process. The French president considers that it’s “hypocrisy” to think “that a natural progression toward opening new chapters is possible”, suggesting instead “a cooperation, a partnership” which makes sure that “Turkey remains anchored in Europe”. These words followed Erdoğan’s comments on the “exhaustion” of Turkish people due to more than 54 years at the door of the EU: A fact that Macron acknowledged when he said that the EU, by allowing the rise of unrealistic expectations concerning Turkey’s membership, has not always acted well toward the country[5].

On that point (the halting of Turkish accession talks), the preliminary deal between Angela Merkel and the Social Democrats to form a new German government goes along with Macron’s point of view. The document indicates that that should happen at least while Turkey refuses to change some of its policies on fundamental rights and rule of law, mainly taken after the coup attempt in 2016[6], albeit it doesn’t mention anything related to a “partnership”, a stance the chancellor of Germany took in the past[7], and which Ankara has always rejected[8]. In September, during a televised election debate, Merkel said that “Turkey should not become a member of the EU”, calling for an “end” of the “accession talks” – position with which Martin Schulz, the leader of the Social Democrats, has totally agreed[9]. Considering the new pact, it seems that both parties have softened their position on the issue.

So, going back to Macron, what he said is hardly a surprise if one takes into account that, for example, he lashed out the French government when, during the campaign for the 2017 referendum in Turkey – which marks the moment when the country voted for a presidential system –, it allowed a Turkish minister to hold a rally in France, because, in his opinion, France should have followed Germany and Netherlands (countries that did not allow those kind of meetings) and rejected “the Turkish government’s abuses” and “provocations” which called into question “the European values”[10]. Later, just a day after the referendum the then candidate for the French presidency “regretted profoundly” and “disagreed” with the way Erdogan was ruling the country, assuring that “with a government taking those decisions, there will be no progression concerning [Turkey’s] integration within the European Union” in the coming years[11]. At that time, Macron wrote in his Twitter account that the referendum marked “an authoritarian drift of Turkey”[12].

In fact, when, in March 2017, he presented his presidential election manifesto, Emmanuel Macron put Turkey into the same basket as Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, considering them all “authoritarian regional powers” which, in spite of “not sharing the [same] values [as France]”, must be considered “indispensable partners” not only but also in the search for peace in the Near and Middle East[13].

Some months later, in October, as French President, Macron delivered a speech[14] at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, in which he said that Turkey was one of the countries that are “clearly, almost ostentatiously, failing to abide by the very terms of” European Convention on Human Rights “and defying, or in any event seeking to question, its legitimacy or that of the Court”. “We are witnessing a resurgence of authoritarian regimes or a fascination in many parts of Europe for illiberal democracies”, he added. Yet Macron made it clear that the Turkish (and the Russian) “fate will not be improved by turning their backs on Europe” because they are “anchored” in the continent. Therefore, he defended “an intense, difficult, sometimes thankless dialogue, paved with small victories, and also sometimes with small defeats” with those countries, “by criticizing [them] without engaging in a closed-door policy”. He added that “we should not exclude them from everything, nor, furthermore, allow them to exclude themselves from everything”. That’s because, “no matter the choice of their leaders”, people living in Turkey and Russia “deserve that we fight for them, deserve access to this right, to the protection of their rights”.

The same message was conveyed in an interview given last September in which Macron, even though acknowledging that “Turkey has indeed strayed away from the European Union in recent months and worryingly overstepped the mark in ways that cannot be ignored”, made his views clear by calling Turkey a “vital partner”, mainly in the fields of immigration and terrorism[15]. One example he gave was the refugee deal signed between the EU and Turkey in 2015. First, in January 2017, the then presidential candidate Macron pointed out that the deal was “very bad”, since it had been negotiated by Germany on its own (which means without the agreement of the other EU members) and in a “precipitated” way[16]. But now the French president is of the opinion that the deal “produces results”[17].

However, Macron doesn’t miss a chance to stand for those who he considers the Turkish democrats. After the 2017 referendum, he stated that he would do “everything (…) to help, support” the “millions of voices challenging the referendum result which was very tight”, citizens “who are fighting for democracy” in Turkey[18]. Consequently, he hoped that both France and the EU leave “the door open for Turkey’s democrats”. More recently, Macron said at the press conference with Erdoğan that he discussed with the Turkish president as to the status of media freedom and fundamental democratic rights in the wake of the post-coup crackdown, since, in his perspective, some journalists, non-governmental workers, and academics have been wrongly targeted[19]. “Democracy must be strong against terrorism because the legitimacy of the state means it must protect its citizens. But at the same time our democracies must respect the rule of law”, the French head of state bluntly told Erdoğan.

According to what Macron once said, like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the Turkish president sees relationships in terms of a “relationship of force”[20]. Admitting that that “doesn’t bother” him, Macron added that he doesn’t “believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in [his] bilateral dialogues [he] won’t let anything pass” seeing that that is the only way of “making yourself respected”[21].

That seems to have happened when Macron called Erdoğan requesting the “quick liberation and… return to France” of a French journalist arrested near the border with Iraq[22]. He was accused of being a member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters in Syria – that are considered by Turkey as being intimately connected to Kurdistan Workers Party, a terrorist group to both the US and Turkey. On the 15th of September his lawyer announced he had been released.

All in all, Macron’s stance on Turkey has been straightforward: “Criticizing without engaging in a closed-door policy”[23]. He makes no secret that he considers Turkey an authoritarian country (and he does not waste an opportunity to say how worried he is with Turkish people, especially “Turkey’s democrats” and some people who, he believes, were wrongly” targeted after the coup attempt), but never denies the importance of keeping strong ties with what he sees as a “vital partner” in coping with huge problems like the refugee crisis, the Syrian war, immigration, and terrorism.

As for the accession of Turkey to the European Union, the last data shows that the majority of Turkish citizens believe the country’s membership will not happen in the short term[24]. And they are right. As we’ve seen, both France and Germany, “the motor of European integration”[25], rule out that possibility – and that means the EU rules out that possibility.


José Miguel DIAS ROCHA – Erasmus Volunteer of SASAM


[1] He has been considered as: “The next leader of Europe” (Time Magazine)”, “Europe’s chief interlocutor on the world stage” (Washington Post), someone who has “has intervened decisively on a host of international issues” (BBC), the ”de facto head of the EU” (The Independent), the “lonely leader of a convalescent Europe” (Le Figaro), the “Unstoppable Monsieur Europe” (France 24), “EU’s top diplomat” (Agence France-Presse). The Economist even wrote that “the hopes of France, Europe and centrists everywhere are resting on Emmanuel Macron”.

[2] Bloomberg – “Erdogan Is One Reason Macron Says His Job Isn’t That ‘Cool’”. 08/31/2018.

[3] Hürriyet Daily News – “Turkish citizens’ support for EU membership on the rise: Poll”. 01/09/2018.

[4] The Telegraph – “EU must end ‘hypocrisy’ of allowing Turkey to become a full member, says Emmanuel Macron”. 05/01/2018.

[5] Le Figaro – “Face à Erdogan, Macron propose un « partenariat » plutôt que l’intégration de la Turquie à l’UE “. 01/06/2018.

[6] Anadolu Agency – “Merkel bloc, SDP clinch deal for coalition government”. 01/12/2018.

[7] TRT World – “Turkey’s EU relations during Angela Merkel’s rule as chancellor “. 10/18/2017.

[8] Euractiv – “Turkey rejects proposal for “privileged partnership” with EU “. 02/17/2010.; Reuters – “Turkey’s EU minister rejects any option other than full membership”. 01/19/2018.

[9] The Independent – “Turkey will never become EU member, says Angela Merkel”. 03/09/2017.

[10] Le Jounal du Dimanche – “Fillon, Le Pen et même Macron dénoncent la tenue d’un meeting pro-Erdogan à Metz “. 03/12/2017.

[11] CrossCheck – “Does Macron advocate pushing ahead with Turkey’s membership of the EU?”. 04/26/2017.


[13] Emmanuel Macron – “Présentation du programme – Emmanuel Macron”. 03/02/2017.

[14] Emmanuel Macron – “Speech by Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, at the European Court of Human Rights on 31 October 2017”. 10/31/2018.

[15] Reuters – “France’s Macron urges continued EU ties with Turkey”. 09/07/2017.

[16] Le Parisien – “Réfugiés: Macron critique Merkel pour l’accord avec la Turquie”. 01/14/2018.

[17] Ibid. 11.

[18] Ibid., 8.

[19] The Washington Post – “France’s Macron suggests EU partnership with Turkey”. 01/05/2018.

[20] I’ve opted to translate “rapport de forces” as “relationship of force”. Since the expression “rapport de forces” implies a dominant and a dominated part and the prevalence of the law of the strongest, in my opinion, the expression “relationship of force” is the closest to the original.

[21] The Independent – “Emmanuel Macron says Donald Trump is like Putin and Erdogan”. 05/29/2018.

[22] Libération –“Macron demande à Erdogan la «libération rapide» du journaliste Loup Bureau”. 08/27/2017.

[23] Ibid., 11.

[24] Ibid. 2.

[25] Der Spiegel – “Attraction and Repulsion Define French-German Relations”. 08/12/2012.

sahipkiran Hakkında

Sahipkıran; 1 Aralık 2012 tarihinde kurulmuş, Ankara merkezli bir Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezidir. Merkezimiz; a) Türkiye Cumhuriyeti’nin ülkesi ve milletiyle bölünmez bütünlüğünü savunan; ülkemizin her alanda daha ileri gitmesi ve milletimizin daha müreffeh bir hayata kavuşması için elinden geldiği ölçüde katkı sağlamak isteyen her görüş ve inanıştan insanı bir araya getirmek, b) Ülke sorunları, yerel sorunlar ve yurtdışında yaşayan vatandaşlarımızın sorunlarına yönelik araştırma ve incelemeler yaparak, bu sorunlara çözüm önerileri üretmek, bu önerileri yayınlamak, c) Tespit edilen sorunların çözümüne yönelik ulusal veya uluslararası projeler yürütmek veya yürütülen projelere katılmak, ç) Tespit edilen sorunlar ve çözüm önerilerimize ilişkin seminer ve konferanslar düzenleyerek, vatandaşlarımızı bilinçlendirmek, amacıyla kurulmuştur.

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