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Mamma Li Turchi

This expression comes from the Sicilian dialect and means "Catastrophe", a bit like "Mamma mia"! It has its roots in the raids committed on the Mediterranean coast in the 16th and 17th centuries by Barbary pirates who paid tribute to the Sultan. Their arrival ashore heralded atrocities, looting, massacres of men, abduction of women and children to supply the harems and the units of the Janissaries.

It is precisely the uniforms of the latter that the current Turkish president is insisting that some of the guards who populate his sumptuous palace must wear. In his nationalist excesses, he refers to the "glorious history" of the Ottoman Empire with numerous films, slogans and clichés, stirring up rancour. Erdogan's Turkey has abandoned the lessons of Mustafa Kemal who, being no less a nationalist, nevertheless dared to claim: "Civilization is in the West" and gave his country a resolutely secular and pro-Western orientation.

Was this policy the source of a humiliation that we know still nourishes the worst feelings of revenge, vengeance and violence among the people? In the course of the 20th century, Turkey did not shine in its choice of alliances and in the end always found itself, more or less, on the wrong side, which was also that of the losers.

Today, it is standing alongside the brotherhoods that are destabilising all the Arab regimes, it wants to be the ally of Muslims disappointed with them and is nurturing expansionist ambitions on all fronts.

There is now a new "Turkish question" which of course concerns NATO, but especially Europe and the Mediterranean.  Europeans will have to find the means to contain Turkey's aggressions so as to compel it to discuss with its partners before acting in an increasingly brutal manner.

Europeans are divided over the answer. The French immediately showed solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, whose international maritime rights have been flouted, while the Germans have preferred to try to mediate by playing the "honest broker". The two actions combined have not been in vain and might help find a negotiated solution in the Aegean Sea.

On the other hand, whether it is in Syria, where Turkey bears a great deal of responsibility, vis-à-vis the Kurds, in Libya or Nagorno-Karabakh, Ankara is a destabilising factor which is increasing tensions and resorting to the worst tactics (militias, armed interventions, etc.).

But this reckless trajectory will not be stopped by the good will of interested diplomats alone. Once again, Europe faces its original dilemma: since it is neither a state nor an empire, built by and for peace, the use of force, firmness and confrontation are not part of its software.

Nobody wants to drag Europe into conflict. Instead, conflicts come to it and they are drawing ever closer. Europe must respond before it is forced to do so. The attitude towards this dangerous and turbulent neighbour will be the first test of its mettle.