The state of Turkey – EU relations

The state of Turkey – EU relations


By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara

Ankara is concerned about Turkey’s EU accession process and the negative turn relations between the two sides have taken.

Many European countries, headed by Germany, express reservations about the democratization of Turkey, especially following the violent reaction of Turkish police against Gezi park demonstrators in Istanbul and the events that followed.

Germany tried to delay the opening of a new chapter in accession talks with the Turkish Minister of EU Affairs, Egemen Bagis, threatening Angela Merkel she will lose elections in September “just like Sarkozy did”.

The former President of France opposed Turkey’s accession to the EU. In 2011 he stated “the full integration of Turkey will not benefit Turkey or the EU, negotiations and the accession process are tools for the deepening of relations”.

Turkey on the verge of joining the EU since 1959

Turkey believes it is being treated unfairly by European states as it has been waiting to join the Union since 1959 while accession talks begun in 2004 and chapters have been opening since. Ankara feels wronged as many countries that applied for EU entry decades after Turkey have already joined it.

Only in recent years Turkish policy has changed and it now believes the EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the Union!

Ankara refuses to recognize Europarliament decisions

A prime example of the way Turkey sees Europe is the Turkish reaction to a European Parliament decision condemning the way protestors were repressed by police in Gezi park.

“I will not accept any announcement or decision by the European Parliament on the Gezi park demonstrations. Decision – makers in the European parliament should first take a look at Greece. In Greece, police had fought the people, but what did European officials do other than give the country money” Recep Tayyip Erdogan says. Europeans took the statement to mean Turkey will recognize EU institutions only when it is in Turkish interests.

This is probably the problem. Turkey believes it meets EU entry criteria while it also maintains police intervention in Gezi park was done “properly” even though four people died and 5.000 were injured.  It also believes it has the right to restrict twitter and facebook use, as well as the right to interfere with people’s lives by determining the hours alcohol sale is allowed and arrest journalist, etc. Many European leaders believe all these things are not consistent with European values and express their skepticism.

Turkey preparing alternative solutions

Of course, the Turkish Prime Minister last month had signaled that Turkey has alternatives in case Turkey doesn’t join the EU.

“The EU wants to forget us but it is afraid and so it doesn’t. NATO once accepted a country with a Muslim population but now they don’t want to accept one. The EU says “I don’t want to make the same mistake NATO made”. We are with you in OSCE and NATO, why do you have such a different approach in the EU? This is what I told Putin a short while ago. Take us to Shanghai and then we will resign from the EU. Shanghai is stronger, it is better”, the Turkish Prime Minister stated.

These statements and Turkey’s negative stance brought about the “half-hearted solution” the EU gave on the issue of the opening of a new chapter in accession talks with Ankara.

After days of tension in Turkey – Germany relations, a compromise was finally reached where the EU postponed the opening of a new chapter in accession talks to October. The 27 EU member-states will wait for the Commission’s annual progress report on Turkey. Talks were supposed to begin on Wednesday.

The issues negotiated have been divided into 35 chapters of which 14 have opened and been completed.

Turkey has not implemented the “Ankara protocol” which provides it opens its ports and airports to ships and planes from Cyprus.