Turkey and EU: End of the road?

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan has threat­ened to call a ref­er­en­dum on the fu­ture of Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship bid, while Brus­sels ac­cuses Ankara of “back­slid­ing” on key com­mit­ments. Af­ter an al­ready ex­haust­ing process of over half a cen­tury, could this fi­nally be the end for the long-run­ning saga of Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship bid? The sit­u­a­tion reached a turn­ing point af­ter the failed July 15 coup, with Brus­sels an­grily crit­i­ciz­ing a re­lent­less crack­down and Ankara ac­cus­ing the bloc of fail­ing to show sol­i­dar­ity.

Turkey for­mally ap­plied to be­come a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union in 1987 and ac­ces­sion talks be­gan in 2005. Its am­bi­tion to be­come part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s. An­a­lysts say that, de­spite all the prob­lems. both sides are keen to keep up an il­lu­sion of an ac­ces­sion process. Brus­sels is also acutely aware of the im­por­tance of a deal with Turkey to re­duce the flow of mi­grants to Europe.

Half-Cen­tury Ac­ces­sion Bid Over?

The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment said it may now pro­pose bring­ing back the death penalty, a move the EU has warned would mark the im­me­di­ate end of its ac­ces­sion bid. “It’s their (the EU’s) choice to con­tinue the path with or with­out Turkey,” Er­do­gan warned in Oc­to­ber. But Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Walter Stein­meier, vis­it­ing Ankara this week, said that the ball was in Turkey’s court. “It is not a de­ci­sion for Europe or the Euro­pean cap­i­tals,” he said. Aykan Erdemir, se­nior fel­low at Wash­ing­ton-based Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies, said there is “a re­luc­tance in Brus­sels to sus­pend Turkey’s ac­ces­sion process”. “The con­tin­u­a­tion of Turkey’s mem­ber­ship bid is seen as one of the last tools avail­able to the EU for check­ing Er­do­gan’s ar­bi­trary rule.”

What is the Im­pact of Crack­down?

Since a rogue mil­i­tary fac­tion tried to oust Er­do­gan from power, over 100,000 peo­ple within the ju­di­ciary, media, mil­i­tary and civil ser­vice have been ar­rested, sus­pended or sacked. Among those ar­rested in­clude sec­u­lar daily Cumhuriyet columnists and the co-chairs of the sec­ond biggest op­po­si­tion Peoples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP). For Roy Karadag, po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at the University of Bre­men, the crack­downs mean “fac­tu­ally, this is the end of the Turk­ish ac­ces­sion process”. “This is a tough sell, diplo­mat­i­cally speak­ing, but no Euro­pean leader can cred­i­bly com­mit to the Turk­ish ac­ces­sion, any longer,” he told AFP.

Yet on the sur­face at least, EU lead­ers have been keen to keep the mem­ber­ship bid go­ing, with only Aus­tria at a meet­ing of for­eign min­is­ters this week sug­gest­ing a halt. EU for­eign af­fairs chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini said it was “very im­por­tant that chan­nels re­main open be­tween a can­di­date coun­try and a part­ner and the EU”. Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote in Daily Sabah that mem­ber­ship was a “strate­gic goal” for Turkey and talks should be ac­cel­er­ated rather than stopped.

What Fu­ture for Refugee Deal?

Last year the con­ti­nent ex­pe­ri­enced its worst refugee cri­sis since World War II, with more than a mil­lion peo­ple flee­ing war and poverty land­ing on Europe’s shores mostly via Turkey. In a bid to stem the flow, Brus­sels and Ankara agreed a Ä6 bil­lion ($6.4 bil­lion) deal in which Turkey would take back mi­grants in ex­change for money, visa-free travel and the open­ing of new chap­ters.

Soner Ca­gap­tay, di­rec­tor of the Turkey Pro­gram at the Wash­ing­ton In­sti­tute for Near East Pol­icy, said the EU was painfully aware it needs Er­do­gan’s co­op­er­a­tion in the refugee cri­sis. Er­do­gan “could ac­tu­ally bluff and walk away from the EU, know­ing that the EU will come to him (al­most beg­ging) in the spring when the Aegean warms up and be­comes cross­able for refugees again, threat­en­ing to in­un­date the con­ti­nent with refugees.” he said.

How Great is Eco­nomic De­pen­dence?

While the rhetoric now is red hot, a sig­nif­i­cant rea­son that cooler heads may pre­vail is Ankara’s eco­nomic de­pen­dence on the EU, say ex­perts. An­thony Skin­ner, head of po­lit­i­cal risk at Verisk Maple­croft con­sul­tancy, said with Turkey’s slow­ing GDP growth an end to talks “would land a heavy and multi-di­men­sional blow to trade with Europe and in­bound Euro­pean for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment (FDI)”. Erdemir agreed, say­ing that the pres­i­dent could “shy away” from sus­pend­ing talks to pro­tect the Turk­ish econ­omy. “The Turk­ish pres­i­dent might be a fire­brand pop­ulist but at the same time he is smart enough to know that 85 per­cent of Turkey’s FDI comes from the West.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.