GMF's Ian Lesser on VRT’s "Terzake" Discussing Michel’s and von der Leyen’s Recent Visit to Ankara
GMF Vice President Ian Lesser joined Belgian public broadcaster VRT’s news show “Terzake” to discuss European Council President Charles Michel’s and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to Ankara for a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Lesser noted that “there are many pressing and very immediate issues with Ankara,” including very big ones for Europe like the refugee deal and issues on the security front.
Commenting on a debate around the seating arrangement at the meeting which left von der Leyen sitting on a sofa next to the Turkish foreign minister, while Michel and the Turkish president sat down on two chairs arranged next to the corresponding EU and Turkish flags, Lesser stated that this incident posed “a distraction from the big picture issues, and it sends very strong messages about the values side of the relationship with Turkey. At a time when Ankara probably wants to avoid that kind of discussion.” According to Lesser, regardless of the protocol, the optics were extremely unfavorable for Turkey.
Lesser observed that Europe is not very agile in many areas. Which is why it is difficult to construct a positive agenda with Turkey, even in areas where it would be useful to do. However, Lesser concluded that Turkey is under more pressure to get something from the relationship today. In his view, Ankara has a lot to lose from a deteriorating relationship with Europe. There a lot of things Turkey needs help with.