“Erdogan is leaning towards dictatorship, however the EU made many mistakes”.

Talking about Iraq: “It may slip back into the Civil War. On the migrant crisis: Italy stands out for rescuing people, however, once they reach Italy, we are still stuck to the illegal migration crime”

“It is years that we see the signs of an authoritarian turn in Turkey” – former Foreign Minister Emma Bonino says in an interview for Il Corriere della Sera  – “however, the last escalation that brought to the arrest of the leader of the main Kurdish party, shows that Erdogan is cutting ties with Europe and the West. Engaged in two wars, one inside and the other outside the country, however both of them linked to the Kurdish issue, he choose the road leading to a dictatorial regime. The situation is worrying, especially because Turkey is a NATO member and is home to nuclear warheads, while Europe has lost leverage”.

What do you exactly mean?

“We decided, wrongly, that our priority was keeping migrants and refugees in Ankara: everything else became secondary”.

How should Europe react?

“Given the context, namely NATO bases and energy dependence, it is very difficult. We should become credible again, address the migrants crisis through integration and break our dependence on Turkey, that has its roots in our decision of outsourcing to them our problem with the refugees and the defense of the European external borders. We put ourselves in Erdogan’s hands, whose authoritarian drift did not begin with the arrest of the Kurdish leaders”.

Is this drift inevitable?

“We should have avoided to deprive ourselves of any form of leverage, as we have refused to deal with the migrants and refugees crisis at a European level, within a European dimension, as our responsibility and interests required. Everybody knows that we need people to balance out the European demographic decline, as it emerges from the research carried out by Radicali, Confindustria, Assolombarda. Thus, this is not just a matter of values but also a problem of needs. However, we decided not to do it for our myopia, for electoral reasons and this is the outcome: we are in Erdogan’s hands”.

What shall we do now?

“There will be a series of official statements, as it should be: the current authoritarian drift is not acceptable. However, we must also recognize our mistakes and correct them. Only Germany adopted a law on integration. Nobody else. In Italy we stand out for rescuing people and we should be proud of it, but then, when they come here, we still have the Bossi-Fini law establishing the crime of illegal migration”.

Were we wrong in 2006 in closing EU’s door to Turkey?

“Absolutely, and that was the first loss of credibility. When the European Council unanimously decided to open the negotiations, we all knew that they would have lasted twenty years. However, only two months later, European leaders changed their minds, pushed forward by Merkel and Sarkozy. Nevertheless, the past mistakes and the recent ones do not justify the current authoritarian drift. The route is narrow and, or we will stand ourselves in a position to speak with Ankara without having to beg for anything, or we will have no chance to influence Turkey’s policies. Moreover, Turkey has also to think twice before continuing on this path: if it turns its back to Europe, where does it go? The Davutoglu’s project, “no enemy at our borders”, is in crisis. The country is also isolated in the region and has huge financial problems”.

Do you consider any prospect of EU-Ankara negotiations closed?

“No, I would not imagine that end. However, we firstly have to regain our credibility and our agenda”.

Do you think are we right in supporting Serraj in Libya or is it a hopeless game?

I had expressed doubts from the very beginning. The León’s plan, then fully taken up by Kobler, was too little inclusive, because it did not take into account of the reality on the ground. Ten months later my doubts are confirmed. I don’t think that the Libyan situation,  which has lower levels of violence than Syria, is likely to get better. Probably the international community supports Serraj because it doesn’t see another alternative. Meanwhile, France handles its own interests by supporting the general Haftar. I also stress that Libya is a huge open-air prison: there are hundreds of thousands of desperate people who arrive from all over Africa, subjected to mistreats and torture in the Libyan camps. 

In Iraq, the offensive on Mosul is carrying on. Do you think that it will be the decisive victory against Daesh?

We will ouster them, sooner or later, albeit at an exorbitant human price. I am concerned about the fact that there isn’t any agreement on the aftermath: who will manage it? Peshmerga? Iranians? Sunnis? We risk to move towards a new civil war in Iraq. Without a political and diplomatic support, any military intervention is incomplete, as taught by the ouster of Gaddafi.

The interview was first published by Il Corriere della Sera on 6 November 2016.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Member of the Senate
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy

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