The Macron-Erdogan conflict - Geopolitics and the war of civilizations

Ω Nefeli Lygerou
The Macron-Erdogan conflict - Geopolitics and the war of civilizations, Nefeli Lygerou

President Macron's decision to declare both symbolically and ideologically the war on fundamentalist Islam, as well as Erdogan's extremely aggressive reaction seem to set a tombstone on relations between the two leaders, causing irreparable damage to Franco-Turkish relations as well. It was only a matter of time. The conflict between the two leaders began some time ago and has shown an obvious escalating trend.

This is neither a misunderstanding, nor a personal dislike or a spurious dispute. In fact, it is the conflicting interests of France and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean that have made this conflict both inevitable, and not just temporary. The Turkish president's statement that his French counterpart needed psychotherapy was just one reason, the straw that broke an already overloaded camel's back.

The French presidency reacted immediately with a statement and Paris decided to recall the French ambassador to Ankara for consultations. This is not the first time Erdogan has touched on Macron's "mental balance". The difference is that Professor Samuel Paty has now been beheaded by a young Chechen jihadist. The "sin" of the teacher? He showed his students, asking Muslims to leave so as not to be offended, the satirical sketches of Charlie Hebdo magazine about Muhammad.

But what makes this assassination anything but disgusting and symbolic, given that Paris has been repeatedly hit by deadly attacks by Islamic terrorism? It is President Macron's decision to underline his decision to defend freedom of expression and the wider Western way of life by posting posters with Charlie Hebdo sketches of Muhammad in public buildings. This is a clear message that this is France and that any Muslim who thinks he is offended will either adapt or can leave.

It is noteworthy that before the blood of the unfortunate professor had dried, Erdogan rushed in an extremely aggressive way to take on the role of defender of Islam. Not at all unexpected, as he is betting on this card to turn himself into the leader of Muslims around the globe and Turkey into a major player, expanding its influence in the Muslim world.

After all, the Turkish president has made a habit of attacking Macron. To be precise, he has been calling Macrn names for some times: how unhistorical he has called it, how unbalanced! This is because Macron is the only European leader who openly and unequivocally criticizes Ankara's expansionist policy in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish involvement in Libya, in fact, was the issue that forced the French president to cross the Rubicon in relation to Turkey.

Macron the savior of the EU

Now, both leaders have realized that their countries' conflicting interests do not allow them to continue doing business as usual. Macron is increasingly consciously taking on the role of the savior of the EU and the defender of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, while Merkel is playing the exact opposite role, ensuring that Turkey will fall into the trap of whatever it does. At least for now.

History repeats itself in an impressive way. The problem of Turkey threatens to cause a rift in the former Franco-German axis, as Berlin repeats the geopolitical choices of the past, when Germany viewed the Ottoman Empire as a privileged ally. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, but the atavism that characterizes current German foreign policy is obvious.

The flag raised by President Macron, to defend the Western way of life from Islamic fundamentalism, finds a great response in governments, but mainly in public opinion in almost all the countries of the Old Continent. More and more Europeans believe that something needs to change, that "political correctness" acts as a protective umbrella for fanatical Islamists and, consequently, as a trap for Europe.

Finally, it is becoming clear that Erdogan is not just building the profile of the leader of Muslims everywhere, but also to achieve this he is trying indirectly but clearly to revive  the religious war of Christianity-Islam, on a symbolic level, which by other means has been declared by Al Qaeda and ISIS. It is no coincidence that the Turkish president sent a videotaped message to the meeting of the muftis and heads of the religious affairs services of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and that in his message he railed, once again, against President Macron.

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