A crisis between Turkey and the EU

Published 20.12.2014 01:22

Relations between the EU and Turkey have come up against a verbal confrontation. Turkey has been sitting at the negotiating table since 2005. Over nine years not even half of the related chapters could be brought to the agenda. Negotiation talks have turned over into a widely used political instrument to put pressure on Turkey by the deeds of a small number of EU states. Recently, three of those states emerged - Greek Cyprus, Greece and astonishingly, Austria - as the main and irreducible opponents. France, during the Nicolas Sarkozy era, served as a very violent anti-Turkey opponent for mysterious reasons, but current President Francois Hollande changed France's stance. Now it is trying to mend the ailing bilateral relations. The other countries are perhaps more interested in pursuing and deepening talks with Turkey, but there is a growing feeling in a variety of circles and the mass media in the EU to leave Turkey as it is - an eternal suitor.

Recently, due to the new investigations in Turkey against the "parallel structure," EU officials in the European Commission and Parliament have made extremely harsh declarations. During all previous investigations and court hearings in Turkey, EU officials have taken a much more cautious and attentive stance, whereas this time a barrage was almost instantaneously opened.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a violent response to the European Commission vice president and foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. It was followed by similar declarations from the government. This whole situation remains difficult to understand because merely 10 days ago, there were important, high level meeting and agreements over how to revive Turkey-EU relations among the same parties.

The Turkish public is tired of this situation and does not expect the EU to deliver anything much in the foreseeable future. The last opinion poll by TNS Piar showed that only 28 percent of the population believes EU membership as a good thing for Turkey. This level was 38 percent only six months ago, in a poll organized by the Eurobarometer.

Why are the public and voters hopeless about the EU? Why did all authorities, especially Erdoğan, take a position of "enough is enough" for this event? To understand this one does not need to do too much research. The EU yearly evaluation prepared on the countries to be included in the enlargement process was finalized few days ago. It is sufficient to look at the contents of the report adopted recently in the council: " Active and credible accession negotiations, which respect the EU's commitments and established conditionality, along with all the other dimensions of the EU-Turkey relations addressed in these conclusions, will enable EU-Turkey relations to achieve their full potential. The Council reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the European perspective of the Western Balkans."

The simple translation of these diplomatic formulas is that the EU is ready to show political will for eventual membership of Western Balkan countries - this is not an issue for Turkey. Accession negotiations with a country are not a political pressure tool to be used eternally. If there is no membership objective, the whole process loses its credibility. The very low public support in Turkey for EU membership is clear evidence for this. The short-term, narrow-minded, arrogant approach on the part of some EU countries will not make the EU a more credible target for the Turkish people.

Will EU-Turkey relations come to a halt? The current international conjuncture, from whichever perspective you look at it, has already made NATO, the EU, U.S. and Turkey need each other more than ever. Respectively, terrorism, civil war, immigration problems, energy transmission lines, transatlantic free trade and investment zones, deepening cooperation for growth and employment push the EU and Turkey against each other more than ever. However, this mutual indispensability will be strengthened by cooperation between equal partners, not with insults and threats.

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