Bildt, who worked to bring peace to the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, said EU leaders had “responded tepidly” to the attempted coup.
In an article headlined “Europe, Stand up for Erdogan” for the Politico news website, he questioned the time it took Europe’s leaders to denounce the coup, which Turkey has said was carried out by the supporters of U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen.
“There was no sign of senior EU representatives afterward flying [to] Turkey in support of an accession country facing the gravest threat to its constitutional order yet,” he said.
“Instead, Europe’s leaders immediately began to question measures taken by the Turkish authorities to cleanse from power any elements thought to be associated with the Gulen movement.
“When Turkey asked for derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights, EU leaders howled with disapproval, forgetting that France did the same after the November terror attacks in Paris. There is no question that Turkey has the right to, and indeed must, take measures to safeguard itself against forces trying to topple its constitutional order.”
Bildt, who served as prime minister from 1991 to 1994 and as foreign minister from 2006 to 2014, said a successful coup would have seen “major bloodshed on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul as coup forces tried to suppress opposition demonstrations” and the outbreak of civil war.
“Millions of Turkish citizens fleeing violence, chaos and death would have joined the more than 2 million Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey in setting sail for Europe,” he added. “The EU would now be facing a refugee disaster of even larger magnitude than in 2015.”
The co-chairman of the European Council on Foreign Relations said Europe risked “losing its moral authority if it does not appear particularly engaged in dealing with the coup itself.”
He added: “The EU would be in a far better position today if EU leaders had gone to Turkey immediately to express their horror at the coup, congratulate the people of Turkey for defeating it and sit down with the president, the government, the leaders in the Grand National Assembly and others to discuss how to collectively ensure a democratic and European path for Turkey.”