Soli Özel is a senior lecturer at Kadir Has University and Member of the European Council on Foreign Relations talks about EU’s ability to formulate a cohesive foreign policy, about Greek – Turkish relations and the mistakes of the past and explains why liberal democracy is in danger. Soli Özel will participate in the Delphi Economic Forum that will take place 10-13 April in Delphi.
In February 2023 you wrote about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the ability of the EU to formulate an autonomous and cohesive foreign policy. Almost one year after that do you believe that there will ever be a two state solution?
I still believe that the EU constitutionally and institutionally incapable of formulating an autonomous and cohesive policy. It does not have the clout, the will, the imagination to actually weigh in on that very critical issue. Furthermore, the ongoing relentless and possibly criminal assault on Gaza that followed the atrocious attack against Israeli citizens exposed the dilemmas, equivocations, double standards, prejudices and latent illiberalism of many a member state.
As for the two-state solution: on the 6th of October the relevant discussion about Israel-Palestine was the so-called “one-state moment” expected to lead to a “one-state solution”. this is now dead. Its death resurrected the two-state solution. This is now the only rational option but not an easily applicable solution given the deep, shattering trauma that October 7 caused for Israel’s citizens who were not protected by their state and the equally deep, horrifying ordeal of thousands of deaths and homelessness that will shape the consciousness of Gaza’s Palestinian citizens. reconciliation will be hard. Painstakingly difficult and will take a lot of time. Arab states, the united states and EU member states will have to show far more energetic and sincere effort to create a path towards that end. Finally, in my judgment Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin can and should play a critical role and I am absolutely bewildered that hardly anybody treats that 21% of the Israeli population as an asset rather than nuisance.
US-Turkey: friends? foes? partners? or neither of them?
The fashionable word among American observers a few years ago was “frenemies”. There is an emotional/ideological dimension to the problems between the two countries and it is a fact that anti-Americanism in Turkey today is at levels we were accustomed to witness in Greece in the past and perhaps beyond. The incomprehensible lack of empathy and appropriate response on the night of the botched coup (I must acknowledge the exceptionalism of pm Tsipras that night) by Turkey’s allies and most notably the United States have fueled the already existing negative sentiments. But beyond that, in addition to the issues that occupy the bilateral and transatlantic agenda that poison relations between the two, one must acknowledge that the two allies never got around to find the common interest upon which they could rebuild or reforge their alliance despite all the talk about a “strategic” or “model” partnership. Both sides had their own share of responsibility in that. But the bottom line was that the interests and actions of the global power and those of the regional power frequently clashed and incidents generated a lot of bad blood as well.
In the past months we have seen a change in Greek – Turkish relations. The two countries and their leaders have come close and have agreed to reboot their relations, establishing a roadmap designed to usher in a new era of closer ties and they are even talking about a roadmap to Hague. Should we be optimistic that this time things will be different?
By nature, I am an owl. But this time around I think at least for some time to come there is reason to be optimistic. this will depend of course on whether or not old habits could be shed by the two neighbors particularly over the Aegean. I truly believe that everyone lost when due to the carelessness and the usual lack of long-term strategic calculation on the part of the EU and the calculated apathy of the Greek government at the time the referendum of 2004 in Cyprus was rejected by Greek-Cypriots. Cyprus has been the real poison well in the relations in my estimation and well before 1974. I also hope that the issue of the air power balance between the two countries does not turn into another source of conflict with the recent decision to sell F-35’s to Greece by the United States that Turkey cannot get.
Are there conflicts that at the end of the day cannot be resolved? And I am thinking also about the Ukrainian war and Russia’s extreme aggression against a sovereign country
On relations between Greece and Turkey it should be possible to reach a resolution. Definitely a long lasting and mutually beneficial modus vivendi. Certainly, if Cyprus disappears as a source of contention. As for Russia and Ukraine I think we should brace ourselves for a long conflict unless EU incapacity + an isolationist Trump administration that would cut off aid to Ukraine the current political order in that country collapses and a Russian-oriented (this is a gentle way of saying a Russian puppet) new leadership emerges. Even on that eventuality I doubt that order and security will reign in Ukraine. Europe will have its hands full trying to make-up for the inevitable American void and get equipped to provide for its own security.
Is liberal democracy in danger? Are you worried that if Trump gets reelected the world as we know will drastically change?
This is not the best days for liberal democracy and its future appears embattled if not in peril. The world we have been accustomed to has already changed drastically. It is disappearing as we speak. The task is to keep its worthwhile aspects, institutions, norms etc. as a new order that reflects more accurately the current distribution of power economically, strategically etc. in the world. it is up to the incumbents to manage this but a trumpian USA is unlikely to be a good manager. Beyond the crisis of liberal democracy vis a vis the populations that has been analyzed ad infinitum in the last few years and there will be more to come, I suspect after the euro-parliamentary elections in June, we should look at where technology is leading us. And what choice capital will end up making between autocracy and democracy. Time to dust off books on Weimar and the 1930s.