27 October 2020. France 24: France encouraged EU allies to adopt measures against Turkey on Tuesday after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned French President Emmanuel Macron’s mental health and called for a boycott of French goods. Earlier the same day, the EU Commission warned that Turkish membership of the bloc is further away than ever in light of Erdogan’s remarks.
“France is united and Europe is united. At the next European Council, Europe will have to take decisions that will allow it to strengthen the power balance with Turkey to better defend its interests and European values,” Trade Minister Franck Riester told MPs, without specifying the measures that would be taken.
Earlier on Tuesday, the European Commission warned that Erdogan’s comments make Turkey’s stalled bid to join the EU an even more distant prospect.
“Calls for a boycott of products of any member state are contrary to the spirit of these obligations and will take Turkey even further away from the European Union,” a spokesman said.
Some French goods have been removed from supermarket shelves in several Middle Eastern countries including Qatar and Kuwait. Riester told reporters on Monday that the French government was not planning a reciprocal boycott against Turkish products.
The boycotts are likely to have a marginal impact on France’s exports, French economist Stéphanie Villers told RTL radio, noting that tariffs on French wine introduced by the US last year were far more damaging. “If there was a real intent to hurt France’s economy, then all French products would be boycotted,” Villers said, observing that the more lucrative aerospace and luxury sectors have not been affected.
Sanctions if Erdogan ‘provocations’ do not stop
EU leaders and officials rallied around France on Monday. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country stood with France “for the freedom of speech and against extremism and radicalism”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described Erdogan’s insults of Macron as “a new low point”, adding that his country “stands in solidarity with our French friends”.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte added to the European criticism of Erdogan’s rhetoric later on Monday. “President Erdogan’s words to President Macron are unacceptable,” he wrote on Twitter. “Personal invective does not help the positive agenda that the EU wants to pursue with Turkey but, on the contrary, pushes solutions away.” In a tweet written in French, Conte expressed his “full solidarity” with Macron.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou added that Erdogan’s rhetoric “fuels religious fanaticism and intolerance in the name of a clash of civilizations, [and] cannot be tolerated”.
At a summit earlier this month, EU member states agreed to review Turkey’s behaviour in December and threatened to impose sanctions if Erdogan’s “provocations” do not stop, a council statement said.
EU spokesman Peter Stano said Monday he would not rule out an urgent meeting of EU ministers at an earlier date following Erdogan’s latest comments.
“We clearly expect a change in action and declarations from the Turkish side,” Stano said at a news conference. He said there would be many discussions “to see whether we are going to continue to wait or take action earlier”.
In his comments on Monday Erdogan declared that European leaders must put an end to Macron’s allegedly “anti-Islam” agenda. “I am calling to all my citizens from here to never help French brands or buy them,” he continued.
Turkey and France are both members of the NATO military alliance, but have been at odds over issues including Syria and Libya, maritime jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean, and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. France is the 10th largest source of imports into Turkey and the seventh largest market for Turkey’s exports, according to Turkey’s statistical institute.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP and AP)