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Erdogan's Thin Skin: an Impediment to Turkey's Realization of International Influence

If Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan continues in his beliefs that he is non reproachable and undeserving of criticism, then he imperils the Turkish people's attainment of full influence on the international stage. 

Thus far, inside Turkey and within the European Union(EU), Erdogan has garnished much criticism for his clampdown on free speech in Turkey and his restrictions upon independent media expressions. In Europe he has asked the German government to prosecute a German comedian for criticizing him, while his authorities in Turkey have detained a European journalist who criticized him in her writings in the Netherlands.

However, Erdogan's thin skin is creating an impediment to Turks to realizing full influence at home and abroad. European governments will have to vote to approve a plan to allow Turks to travel visa-free in the EU-zone as soon as this June. Yet, Erdogan could encounter some resistance to this possibility in light of his demands that foreign nationals be punished for criticizing him.

But Erdogan could atone for his pressures upon free speech and freedom of the press by heeding the suggestion of an elder learned European leader, former Polish Prime Minister and EU official, Donald Tusk, who has encouraged Erdogan to grow a thick skin to criticism.

Asked about Erdogan's recent laments as he toured a refugee camp along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at Gaziantep, Turkey, close to the Syrian border on Saturday, the Polish Statesman, cited by Reuters admitted: "As a politician, I have learned and accepted to have a thick skin...and that the line between criticism, insult and defamation is very thin and relative." Tusk warned: "The moment politicians begin to decide which is which can mean the end of the freedom of expression, in Europe, in Turkey, in Africa, in Russia, everywhere."

Tusk noted that both he and Erdogan had once been jailed for expressing their views - he in Poland, by the communists in the 1980s, and Erdogan by previous Turkish rulers in the 1990s. Yet, Tusk reiterated that press freedom has remained a "permanent topic" in talks with Turkish leaders.

Since Erdogan assumed the Turkish presidency in 2014, prosecutors have opened about 1,800 cases involving journalists, cartoonists and even children for criticizing the thin-skinned Erdogan.