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Sarajevo Braces for Erdogan’s Visit

Turkish leader hopes to garner support from Europe-based Turks as he seeks to secure his grip on power. 18 May 2018

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will address Turkish citizens from around Europe at a rally in the Bosnian capital tomorrow, in what is expected to be his only European campaign event ahead of Turkey’s snap elections on 24 June.

 

Austria, the Netherlands, and Germany – all with sizeable Turkish populations – have banned Turkish parties from campaigning, a reflection of the frosty relations between Western Europe and Turkey, Balkan Insight writes.

 

Turks in Europe generally support Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to AFP, which adds that about half of the 3 million European Turks that are eligible to vote in the elections live in Germany.

 

A Turkish referendum last year extended the powers of the presidency, starting from the next presidential election. Erdogan then brought presidential and parliamentary elections forward by a year and half, the Guardian writes.

 

But while many in Europe criticize Erdogan’s heavy-handed suppression of dissent, Bosnian Muslims look to Turkey for both spiritual and economic guidance.

 

“I think Europe’s reactions to Erdogan are too harsh,” said Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, speaking yesterday at the EU Balkan summit in Sofia.

 

“I think Europe sees Turkey as burdensome, but in spite of that, it is strongly lifting its economy. Europeans should hear out Turkey and Erdogan more,” Hurriyet Daily News quotes Izetbegovic as saying.

 

Bosniak politicians look to Turkey as a counterweight to the Bosnian Serbs’ close ties with Russia, Balkan Insight says.

 

Turkey might also been seen as a counterweight to Brussels, especially after yesterday’s Balkan summit produced little more than promises of closer integration for the region.

 

Yet while Erdogan’s supporters in Bosnia “see Turkey as a strong financial and diplomatic ally, a protector of Muslim Bosniaks in a country still vulnerable to the rivalries of outside powers,” others “argue Erdogan treats Bosnia as a vassal, a tool in his efforts to build Turkish influence in former Ottoman lands,” Balkan Insight comments.

 

 

 

  • Former EU Special Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina Paddy Ashdown argues Bosnia is perilously unstable. Speaking yesterday at a panel in Washington, Ashdown, a member of the UK House of Lords, said “Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot advance to the European Union if it is not modeled after European standards,” Bosnian N1 television reports. “Bosnia and Herzegovina is a powder path which leads to an explosion. If that's not solved then all other huge problems in the Balkans will follow,” he added.

 

  • Izetbegovic recently lauded Erdogan as “a long-awaited great leader for the Muslims." According to Turkey’s Daily Sabah, he sees the West as fearful of Turkey’s rapid development under Erdogan.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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