Any collective response to the refugee crisis formulated would tell a great deal about the future of Turkey-EU relations, the head of the Economic Development Foundation (İKV) pointed out during a press conference on Tuesday.
"When we look at the EU's approach to Turkey, we see two factors: the first one is the refuge problem and the EU's call for Turkey to stop the flow of refugees into the bloc. The second one is the EU's critical posture toward the pace of reforms in Turkey," said Ayhan Zeytinoğlu, the chairman of the IKV. "The EU is having a hard time trying to balance these two opposite factors," he added.
He also drew attention toward the upcoming G20 summit, saying that the summit would serve as an "opportunity for both the EU and Turkey" to deal with the crisis. Associate Professor Çigdem Nas, the secretary general of the IKV, also stated that the EU has to be "more sincere" when it comes to the refugee crisis. "So far we have not seen any burden-sharing efforts from the EU," she said, stressing the need for a more realistic approach to solve the crisis.
Zeytinoğlu underscored the importance of Turkey as a strategic partner for EU member states, especially regarding energy, migration, security and foreign policy issues. However, Turkey's full membership to the EU is off the agenda. The head of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, earlier stated that he expects no enlargement to take place for the next five years.
"During the accession process, Turkey has to stick to its EU membership bid. The biggest threat for Turkey is a de facto approval of a privileged partnership. This is not to be considered as an alternative to full membership, as Turkey needs to be part of the EU decision making process," Zeytinoğlu noted. He also stated that many nongovernmental organizations, together with the Turkish business world, are ready to give their full support to Turkey's EU accession.
The press conference mainly centered on post-election Turkey-EU relations. İKV viewed the EU progress report as "positive and constructive" because it includes instructive feedback, encouragement and a road map for Turkey's accession. Some suggestions to the new Turkish government were also introduced. The need for improvements on political reforms, the rule of law, freedom of expression and judiciary were addressed during the conference.
The EU progress report praised Turkey's humanitarian efforts and support to about 2.2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq, describing it as "unprecedented." It also expressed concerns for media freedom, rule of law and human rights.
Turkey has been subject to the longest accession process in EU history. Turkey applied for full membership in 1987. The accession negotiations started in October 2005. Out of 33 chapters, only one chapter was provisionally closed. So far, 14 Chapters have been opened to negotiations. Chapter 22, which covers regional policy and coordination of structural instruments, was opened on Nov. 5, 2013. Chapter 17, which deals with economic and monetary policy, will be opened for negotiations soon. Currently, 14 chapters are blocked due to the political decisions of the EU Council and the Cyprus issue.