EU politicians use Turkey's accession negotiations as political tool

Published 07.01.2019 00:00
Updated 07.01.2019 08:01

Anti-Turkey rhetoric, which has been used to garner popularity in elections by European politicians, is once again on the agenda in European Union politics with the approaching elections for the European Commission presidency.

Manfred Weber, the candidate of the pan-EU conservative group the European People's Party, who will run for the presidency of the European Commission in the May elections, said on Saturday that he would speak to Ankara immediately to put an end to negotiations, if he is chosen to replace Jean-Claude Juncker this year.

Pointing out that full membership of Turkey is impossible Weber added the partnership between the bloc and Turkey, however, is important for both sides.

In relation to Weber's remarks, the Green-European politician Franziska Brantner commented that this approach "is not to defend Europe and democracy but it is to act populist."

It is not the first time that a high-ranking EU official made statements opposing Turkey's full membership. The European Union's commissioner for enlargement, Johannes Hahn, called for ending accession talks in early November and said that holding on to accession talks, which have been running since 2005, has been blocking the way for what Hahn called "a realistic, strategic partnership." Previously, French President Emmanuel Macron also underscored a need to build a strategic partnership with Turkey, instead of granting EU membership.

Turkey's journey to become a member of the EU has seen numerous ups and downs in the last 50 years. Turkey has always been open to cooperation, doing its part within the bounds of its capabilities in the negotiations, which started in 1963 with the Ankara Agreement. Yet, Turkey has been waiting for membership for decades as the EU keeps dragging its feet on the process.

The objections revolving around why Turkey couldn't become a member have also dramatically changed. Instead of a lack of sufficient alignments in Turkish laws, many European leaders rejected the prospect of Turkey's EU membership from an identity-centered perspective and for political reasons.

In 1963, Turkey first signed the Ankara Agreement that foresaw the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods as part of integration in the customs union with the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor of the EU, acknowledging the final goal of membership.

After a long interim period, Turkey signed the European Constitution in 2004, leading to negotiations for full membership to be launched in 2005, when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was enjoying its first term in power. However, the negotiations stalled once again in 2007 due to objections to open chapters by the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus.

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