2020 has been the year in which the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has sharpened his foreign policy, creating tensions with the European Union and the region.
His controversial decision to convert the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul – originally founded as a cathedral – into a mosque made headlines in March. This action was seen by many as an attempt to evade attention on the country’s economic crisis, exacerbated by the fall of the lira and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The now-new mosque caused a wave of consternation in the international community. Pope Francis and leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church publicly showed their disapproval.
Another culture clash took place in October. After the assassination of French professor Samuel Paty, President Emmanuel Macron launched a campaign to protect secular values in France against radical Islamism. And he reiterated his support for the publication of any religious figure. In response, Ankara called for a boycott of French products and Erdogan accused Macron of carrying out an anti-Islamic agenda and publicly indicating that the French president should undergo a mental health check.
But this contest goes far beyond religious issues. Macron has time and again opposed Erdogan’s putting ambitions.
France and Turkey are at odds over the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh. Also for Syria, Libya and maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Tensions escalated when Turkey sent the exploration vessel Oruç Reis to a disputed area to search for oil and gas fields.
In this new escalation over energy resources and maritime borders, the European Union supported Greece and considered Turkey’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean to be illegal. Ankara opposed and mobilized its naval and air forces to the area, Greece did the same. Concern about a possible military conflict persists to this day.
This puts additional strain on the already fragile relationship with the European bloc. Turkey is a member of NATO, a trading partner and also a key collaborator in the migration crisis. Erdogan has
The era of a neutral Turkey is over, the Turkish president leads with the help of his army his new expansionist policy, which follows the motto “Alone against all others”.