Scholz invitation to Berlin
Erdogan must now solve these four problems
May 29, 2023 at 9:17 p.m
Thanks to an unfair election campaign, Turkish President Erdogan wins the run-off election in Turkey. He cannot rest on his laurels. He now has to tackle several problems at the same time. The fight against inflation should have priority.
After his victory in the runoff election, major challenges await Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His country is in one of the worst economic crises in history. The devastating earthquake in early February reduced entire cities to rubble. Erdogan also has tricky tasks to solve in foreign policy. His biggest construction sites at a glance:
Horrific living costs and dwindling purchasing power – Erdogan’s controversial economic policy has driven a large part of the population into poverty. Under pressure from the President, the Turkish central bank repeatedly lowered the key interest rate, to the astonishment of financial experts worldwide. Although this boosted production, it also contributed to the further depreciation of the lira.
In the fall, inflation peaked at 85 percent compared to April last year when it was still at 40 percent. In the past two years, the lira has lost more than half its value – trading at a record low of 20 lira to the dollar on Friday just before the runoff. According to Ankara, it invested 25 billion US dollars (around 23 billion euros) in just one month to support the national currency.
Economics professor Selva Demiralp wrote in an article that if Erdogan does not return to conventional economic policy, it will be very difficult to repair the damage that has already been done. Turkey expected “very critical days”.
Sweden joins NATO
Turkey has been blocking Sweden’s admission to NATO for months – and is therefore under increasing pressure ahead of the alliance’s summit in Vilnius in July. The approval of all alliance partners is required for the admission of a new member. The reason given by the Turkish government is that Stockholm offers refuge to Kurdish activists, whom Ankara regards as “terrorists”. Ankara is demanding their extradition to Turkey.
In May 2022, Sweden and Finland abandoned their decades-long policy of military non-alignment due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and applied for NATO membership. Finland is now a member of NATO after Turkey gave its green light at the end of March.
Erdogan apparently also spoke to Chancellor Olaf Scholz about Sweden after he congratulated him on the election victory over the phone. “Both agreed to approach the cooperation between the two governments with fresh vigour, and to agree on common priorities early on,” said government spokesman Stefan Hebestreit. Among other things, they now want to work together on positive developments in the eastern Mediterranean, on the decisions currently being made in NATO and on Turkey’s relationship with the European Union. For this purpose, the Federal Chancellor invited Erdogan to an inaugural visit to Berlin.
rapprochement with Syria
Relations between Turkey and Syria are extremely strained due to Turkish support for rebels in northern Syria fighting against the government in Damascus. Erdogan had recently tried – with Russian mediation – to get closer to the Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad – but without success. As a precondition for a meeting, Assad demanded the withdrawal of Turkish forces from northern Syria – where Turkey has also been taking action against Kurdish and jihadist groups since 2016.
Turkey is home to more than 3.4 million Syrian war refugees whom Erdogan now wants to send back. In early May, he announced the construction of 200,000 homes in 13 different locations in northern Syria to allow for the “voluntary” return of at least a million people. However, observers do not expect major resettlement. Erdogan knows exactly that medium-sized Turkish entrepreneurs in the southeastern Turkish towns of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa need Syrian refugees as workers, says expert Aksoy. “These companies are the backbone of his clientele-based system.”
Reconstruction after the earthquake
The earthquake in south-east Turkey killed 50,000 people in early February and more than three million people left the region. Since then, many have been living in makeshift tent cities. Erdogan promised to rebuild 650,000 houses in the earthquake areas as soon as possible. According to the UN and Erdogan, the total costs for the damage caused by the catastrophe amount to more than 100 billion US dollars (around 93 billion euros). At an EU donor conference in Brussels in March, seven billion euros were raised for Turkey and neighboring Syria, which was also hit by the earthquake.