EU-Turkey relations: Will Turkey manage to revive the EU accession process talks?

From left to right: Mr Recep Tayyip ERDOGAN, Turkish President; Mr Donald TUSK, President of the European Council; Mr Jean-Claude JUNCKER, President of the European Commission.
Location: Bruxelles – BELGIUM. Date: 25/05/2017. Copyright: European Union

The EU leaders meet tomorrow in Brussels in a two-day summit where the relations with Turkey and particularly the accession procedure is going to be one of the main topics. The European Commission has been supporting the freezing of the EU membership talks as Jean Claude Juncker condemned President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on political opponents.

Angela Merkel stated last Saturday that don’t expect a decision from the EU side. It seems that the Chancellor wants to know where the other member states stand regarding this issue and act at a later time if all EU countries agree with Germany’s view.

However, Turkey is determined to continue its efforts for EU membership despite the negative stance that the EU holds after President Erdogan has gone backwards as far as the rule of law and human rights are concerned.

Germany pushes for a tougher stance

Angela Merkel and German politicians are supporting a harsh stance on Turkey but a decision on the Turkey’s EU accession process is not awaited according to the Chancellor. More specifically, Ms Merkel stated last week that: “We will certainly not make any decisions, but I would like to hear my colleagues’ opinions as to how they see bilateral relations with Turkey, and what conclusions we can potentially draw from them”.

Several other politicians have referred to the issue and are against Turkey’s worsening situation on human rights and rule of law. Particularly, Roderich Kiesewetter, a foreign policy spokesperson for Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said last Saturday in an interview at Die Welt newspaper: “It should be determined whether Erdogan’s clan holds assets in Europe. If necessary, some of these assets could be frozen.” Furthermore, Omid Nouripour who is a politician with the Green party, stated that “Germany restrict arms exports to Turkey over the deteriorating human rights situation”. Thus, there is a very tense atmosphere in Germany against the Turkish actions and the Turkish accession process is most likely doomed to fail or at least to freeze.

EU shares Germany’s opinion

The jailing of EU citizens from the Turkish government has shaken most EU countries which share Germany’s view on the issue but also fear of breaking the ongoing co-operation on migration and security. More in detail, an EU diplomat stated that:  “Turkey is drifting away with regards to the domestic situation, human rights and the rule of law. It is a situation Europe has to respond to by looking at all aspects of EU-Turkey relations, including the accession process.” In addition, another EU diplomat anticipated “a full and frank discussion as several countries led by Germany pressed for a public display of the depth of concern in the union”.

Turkey still fights to be an EU member state

Recep Tayyip Erdogan together with the Turkish government have decided to push further their efforts to join the EU despite that fact that most EU leaders has expressed their anger about the ongoing situation in Turkey.

Bekir Bozdag, a Turkish lawyer and deputy PM, when spoke at the ceremony of the Eyup Sultan Mosque complex in Strasbourg, France last Sunday said: “Turkey will strengthen the EU, and gain strength after being granted full EU membership. We have been striving for this membership since 1960. Despite all these hurdles, Turkey has never given up the EU accession process.”

All in all, Turkey pushes hard in order to remain alive in the negotiations for their future membership in the bloc and also take advantage of the EU funds. The Turkish side risks losing more than 1 billion euros in financial aid to its effort to be part of the EU the moment the Old Continent looks for alternatives. What is more, EU should pay 3 billion euros before the end of 2018 if Turkey manage to meet all the conditions of the migration deal; a very tempting motive. It remains to be seen though how long the EU will keep the accession process of Turkey open because of the migration benefits provided by Ankara.

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