The long-awaited Turkey Progress Report prepared by the European Commission concerning Ankara's accession negotiations has been made public. It is worth remembering that Turkey, as a potential candidate and associate country, has been closely monitored through annual reports since 1989. After Turkey filed the application in 1987 to start accession negotiations immediately, as was the case for Greece in 1976, the EU has been preparing different evaluation reports for Turkey. The first modern evaluation report is the Emerson report, so called because of the rapporteur's name. It was published in December 1989. This first report stressed that Turkey at that time was not fulfilling enough of the conditions to become a member state. At the same time, it pointing to Turkey's economic potential, which it found very promising.
Turkey was told to follow the path drawn by the Ankara Agreement and the Additional Protocol to the Agreement, which foresaw the completion of a customs union before contemplating full-fledged membership. Turkey succeeded in forming a customs union before becoming a member, which is extremely rare in EU enlargement history.The political eligibility for membership was granted in December 1999, and Ankara has since been struggling to become a member without much success. I have had ample occasions to point to the irresponsibility and short-sightedness of some EU countries, which have been sabotaging this process. Now we have attained a point where the EU can look like the good guy, because of huge shortcomings in Turkey's democratic functioning.
The EU report covers September 2016 to February 2018. It is based on input from a variety of sources, including contributions from the government of Turkey, EU member states, European Parliament reports and information from various international and nongovernmental organizations. In that sense, it can be seen as a pertinent evaluation of the developments in social, economic and political areas. However, this is a report written not by an independent assessment body, but by a political entity, which is vested with the power to accept or reject Turkey as a member into the club.
Two major vectors can be discerned underlying the Progress Report evaluations. First, there is a fear to see Turkey moving away from the EU and ultimately from Western alliances. The report starts with an important sentence that sounds like a motto: "Turkey remains a key partner for the European Union." It also stresses a positive evaluation pertaining to the migration issue: "Turkey sustained its outstanding efforts to provide massive and unprecedented humanitarian aid and support to more than 3.5 million refugees from Syria and some 365,000 refugees from other countries." The second vector is a deep-running criticism regarding the harmonization of Turkey with the EU values. There, the evaluation is as bad as it is possible to phrase in an official document: "The Turkish government reiterated its commitment to EU accession but this has not been matched by corresponding measures and reforms. On the contrary, Turkey has been moving away from the European Union. The Presidency conclusions of December 2016 stated that under the currently prevailing circumstances, no new chapters are considered for opening." This has the merit of being crystal clear that there are no new steps to be taken regarding accession negotiations so long as Turkey is not normalized concerning democratic functioning.
The threat of an official, indefinite suspension of accession negotiations is not visible. However, the EU report emphasizes the shortcomings in the functioning of the judiciary, barely hiding the threat likely to be posed by the Council of Europe in the coming weeks or months.
So here we are, the Ankara Agreement entered into force as of Dec. 1, 1964. Sixty-four years have passed and we are still at the threshold of the EU, owing our position to our strategic importance, realpolitik and nothing more. This is a very sad analysis. We have seen the limits of our relations with neighboring Russia and Iran during the last attack performed upon Syrian chemical sites by the U.S., Britain and France together. Our Western alliance is vital for us and our partners in Europe and in the United States. How to mend these relations seems to be another story altogether.