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What lies beneath the hostile rhetoric in Turkish-EU relations?

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12.07.2018

"George and Hans cannot defeat us". That is what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a gathering of his supporters in the Anatolian city of Manisa on May 28. Hans is the German doppelganger of George - the personification of the US.

There was a time when Erdogan marketed himself, both domestically and internationally, as a friend of the West, but that is now only a fading memory. He presently stands for the Turkish nation fighting back foreigners whose main objective is to stem its rise.

The presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 presented a golden opportunity to rally voters behind this flag, especially at a time when the lira was depreciating, pumping consumer prices, raising consternation among ordinary Turks and providing a tailwind for the opposition "Nation Alliance".

Erdogan prevailed. Harnessing nationalism, he won in the first round of the presidential race, defying predictions for a runoff with the charismatic Muharem Ince from the People's Republican Party (CHP). Meanwhile, the governing AK Party and its coalition partner, the ultranationalist MHP, retained control over the Grand National Assembly.

On the other side, the rhetoric has also sharply escalated. Western publications have depicted the Turkish president as a dictator and a tyrant and have described his supporters as an "Islamist mob". Germany, the Netherlands and Austria barred Erdogan and his party from holding election rallies for the large Turkish diasporas there.

Meanwhile, Greece has upped its alarmist rhetoric, saying that it is ready to respond to "Turkish aggression". In their fearmongering tactics, Greek politicians have gone as far as evoking the Ottoman past, with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras calling Erdogan "a sultan".

In the end, no EU leader apart from Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and........

© Al Jazeera