“The Turkish friend betrays Renzi with Hollande,” the leading Fatto Quotidiano newspaper said, “by now the privileged relationship that the Muslim President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had with Berlusconi has been lost.”
Analyzing the official visit that Renzi made to Ankara Thursday, the newspaper’s respected analyst Roberta Zunini wrote that “military supplies, gas pipelines and major projects” were at stake in the Italian premier’s trip.
“After Hollande and Putin in Turkey, today it was Renzi’s turn – too bad that he arrived a few months too late.”
Although Italy is now virtually at the end of its revolving chairmanship of the European Union, “Renzi met President Erdogan not so much as rotating EU president as, above all, in the role of prime minister of a country in profound economic crisis, which, after the departure of Berlusconi from the scene, has lost its privileged link with the sultan of Ankara,” Zunini said.
Rome’s oldest daily Il Messaggero meanwhile noted that Italy is still Turkey’s fourth largest trading partner after Germany, Russia and China with as many as 1200 Italian firms working in Turkey which generate turnover together worth as much as $20 billion a year. Renzi was determined to try and defend this position.
Renzi in Ankara recalled Rome’s long support for Turkish EU membership, and told Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu that Italy “next week will insert a passage into its final presidential document to the Council of Europe as an additional stimulus for Turkey joining Europe.”
The Italian prime minister added that “on January 13, when I make a speech in Strasbourg with which I will close the Italian presidential semester, I will underline the importance of enlargement to (include) Turkey.”
Renzi’s friendly words were welcomed, but they lacked impact, given that Turkey’s fast-growing economy no longer needs EU economic support, Il Messaggero said.
The newspaper noted the irony in Davutoglu’s reply in which he told Renzi “employment has risen for us. In Europe it has fallen. If we were already in the EU we would have compensated for this.”
“If Ankara continues to push for EU membership, it does so above all for political and military reasons, and no longer to obtain economic assistance and advantage,” said Il Messaggero’s correspondent, Alberto Gentili.
Indeed the Turkish Prime Minister told Renzi flatly in what Il Messaggero said was “a clear message,” that “we are an integral part of Europe, also from a geographical point of view, and our EU membership must happen for reasons of security in the Mediterranean area, in Asia and the Middle East.”
As Zunini sees it, Renzi failed to make significant progress during his visit, because President Hollande “managed to substitute Berlusconi in Erdogan’s heart. “
Hollande “has been crafty in exploiting our weakness in foreign policy, and succeeded in taking over by sharing, at least in words, the Turkish objective of overthrowing the Syrian President-despot Bashar Al Assad.”
Il Fatto, widely considered the best-informed Italian daily with the only truly independent editorial policy, quoted the Turkish daily Hurriyet as saying that “in defense, Hollande has become Erdogan’s new Berlusconi.”
“This wasn’t very difficult, knowing all the cynicism of the authoritarian Turkish Islamic leader,” Zunini claimed.
Energy policy was also high among Renzi’s concerns during his brief Turkish concern, commentators said, particularly after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent cancelling of the South Stream pipeline project, a major blow to Italy’s energy giant Eni and its engineering arm Saipem.
“The latest proof of Erdogan’s cynicism is his friendship with Moscow, despite the Kremlin being the biggest sponsor of Assad. But gas is well worth making an exception for,” the Italian commentator snorted.
Defense business between NATO allies Italy and Turkey boomed in the first decade of this century, with Italian companies winning contracts worth billions of dollars.
“Now that Berlusconi has been replaced by Hollande, and EU membership has been replaced by a common policy on Syria, the winners are the French arms manufacturers,” Zunini said.
Most concerned about the relative decline in Italian influence in Turkish circles is the Italian engineering giant Finmeccanica, which has an office in Turkey, and which became the second defense supplier to Turkey after the U.S. With multi-billion dollar contracts for the construction of military helicopters, of patrol aircraft, military vessels and the first Turkish military satellite at stake, Finmeccanica has a lot to lose, Italian pundits say.
Against this background Finmeccanica still enjoys “a position of advantage, but it is more than ever in jeopardy,” concluded il Fatto Quotidiano’s commentator.