The re-election of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may not please everyone. But his country remains an important, albeit difficult, partner of Germany and the EU, as well as a major member of NATO. The newly elected president is expected to attend the meeting of the European Political Community in Moldova on 1 June. Several items remain on the agenda.

Erdogan's solidarity with Putin

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan based in Ankara.

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Despite his country's membership in NATO, Erdogan refuses to participate in Western sanctions against Russia in connection with the war of aggression in Ukraine. America and the EU have repeatedly accused Turkey of serving as a transit country for shipments of sanctioned goods to Russia. In March, the government in Ankara officially banned Turkish companies from doing so. However, the U.S. government still reserves the right to impose secondary sanctions on Turkish companies. The pressure on Ankara had recently been reduced because Washington did not want to give the impression of interfering in the election campaign. After Erdogan's re-election, the issue is likely to return to the agenda.

Erdogan is trying to take a middle position between Ukraine and Russia. Turkey has supplied Ukraine with combat drones. At the same time, Erdogan maintains close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has a similar worldview. In an interview with CNN, Erdogan spoke of a "special relationship" with Putin. It is characterized by Turkey's high dependence on energy supplies from Russia. The Turkish opposition accuses Moscow of supporting Erdogan in the election campaign. For example, Russia has deferred payments for gas supplies of more than $600 million and topped up the dwindling foreign exchange reserves of the Turkish central bank with billions in transfers for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.

Sweden's accession to NATO

Observers in Ankara assume that Erdogan will finally agree to Sweden's accession to NATO after the election. The question is whether he will arrange for ratification by the Turkish parliament quickly enough to allow accession before the NATO meeting in Vilnius in mid-July. For NATO, this would be an important signal of unity. One means Washington could use to sweeten Erdogan's move would be a congressional green light for the purchase of about $16 billion worth of F-20 fighter jets. After Ankara's approval of Finland's NATO membership, Congress had already approved the supply of spare parts for the existing Turkish F-16 fleet. Before the run-off election, Erdogan reaffirmed his rejection of Sweden in the CNN interview. "We are not yet ready for Sweden," he said, once again accusing the country of allowing terrorists "to roam freely in the streets of Stockholm." But he, too, knows that Stockholm will not comply with his demand for the extradition of people whom Turkey calls terrorists. In the election campaign, the fight against real and imagined terrorists played a central role. Erdogan's refusal to agree to Sweden's accession was probably also due to electoral reasons.

The so-called refugee agreement

The election campaign has shown that there is a great deal of resentment among the Turkish population about the almost four million Syrian refugees in the country. A majority of the population is convinced that the EU has outsourced its own problems to Turkey with the 2016 refugee agreement. According to UN figures, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. De facto, the EU-Turkey agreement, which has been sharply criticized by human rights activists, has been suspended since 2020. Since then, Turkey has stopped taking back migrants who are not entitled to protection in the EU. However, his coast guard continues to contribute to the decline in the number of refugees arriving on the Greek islands.