European Western Balkans

Turkey drifts farther away from EU accession

Photo: Yasin Bulbul / Turkish Presidential Press Service via AP

Skepticism over Turkey accession to the European Union was always present in deliberations of the future of the Union, but with the latest developments dilemma seems to be resolved – Turkey will not, in the foreseeable future, be a member of the EU. This fact does not come as a shock to many – relations between EU and Turkey were cooling for more than a year.

For Turkey, chances and efforts for the acquis have steadily declined because of perceived autocratic tendencies of its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After a failed military coup attempt, Erdogan used a state of emergency and a threat of internal instability as carte blanche for ousting his political opponents. Tens of thousands were purged from the public institutions, or jailed, media freedoms took a sharp dip, and the Ankara’s rhetoric shows no sign of easing the relations with the EU and NATO allies which are strained as never before.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs addressed the media on July 25, saying that it is “important to keep a dialogue open with Ankara”. According to The British Guardian, she stated that “Turkey is and stays a candidate country. Many of our colleagues prefer to focus on the red lines. I prefer to focus on what we have in common.”

She gave this statement after her meeting with Turkish Ministers. Constructive or productive talks with Turkish President, Erdogan, are absent for months, despite his meetings with EU dignitaries.

Mogherini’s statement comes off as hollow diplomatic gesture, since the leadership of the Union seams united in demanding some sort of tangible foreign policy action in order to hinder Turkey in further human rights violation. EU’s enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said that EU administration cannot keep “shrugging our shoulders” in the face of increasingly erratic and bombastic threats from Ankara.

Before this, EU parliament and several member states have called for membership talks with Ankara to be scrapped – not halted – as soon as possible.

The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s said during the State of the Union Address that “Europe is a continent of mature democracy, those who knowingly offend pull up the drawbridge and sometimes I have the impression that there are those in Turkey who want to pull up the drawbridge and later blame the European Union for the failure of accession negotiations.”

Deutche Welle’s Senior European correspondent Barbara Wesel considers Angela Merkel’s latest visit to be cold and her reception “very bad”. She sees the current developments as something that was expected, even though at the time of Erdogan’s early years he was considered a democratic reformer.

During the live election debate with Martin Schulz from Social Democratic Party of Germany, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she will seek joint position with other EU leaders to ensure Turkey never became a member. Schulz has reiterated this position, which means that the main contenders for Germany leadership aligned on policy towards Turkey. These statements came after Erdogan urged a large German Turks minority to boycott Germany’s main parties in the recently held parliamentary elections.

“Nobody in Europe, at least very few people, let’s put it that way, had the real intention, honest commitment to Turkey’s accession,” German liberal MEP Graf Lambsdorff said to Euronews, after the mounting (un)diplomatic statements from both sides. “Turkey has already given up on looking towards Europe, for its standards, its values and its policies.”

Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States

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