How will the EP report affect Turkey’s EU membership process?

By Haydar Oruç

On September 13, the European Parliament published its controversial 2022 Turkey report, adopting it with 434 votes in favor,  18 votes against and 152 abstentions. In fact, this report did not come as much of a surprise to us, as it had already been discussed and adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee on July 18th before coming to the EP Plenary.

Although the European Parliament’s annual monitoring reports are advisory in nature, they have caused great outrage due to their anti-Turkey articles and excessive demands.

Before moving on to the content of the report, which is one-sided and far from reflecting the spirit of the time, and the reactions to the report, it is worth recalling that Turkey applied for membership to the European Union, then called the EEC, in 1959, was granted candidate country status in 1999, and started membership negotiations in 2005.

On the other hand, the process, which was planned to proceed through 35 chapters with the start of the negotiations, has been hampered by the decision of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on December 11, 2006, “The Council decided to suspend negotiations on eight chapters and not to close other chapters related to Turkey’s restrictions on the SCGA until Turkey fulfills its commitments under the Additional Protocol to the EU-Turkey Association Agreement extending the Customs Union to 10 member states, including Cyprus”. And since then, no new chapters have been opened and no chapters have been closed.

Besides this, Turkey’s EU membership process was first interrupted and then cut off when the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus became a member of the Union in 2004, almost as a fait accompli and in violation of the EU’s previous decisions. Because the SCGA used its veto power to block Turkey’s membership and the other members turned a blind eye to this situation.

Despite the ineffective negotiation process, the EU and Turkey signed the “Memorandum of Understanding on Visa Liberalization Dialogue and Readmission Agreement”, also known as the “readmission” agreement, at the end of 2013 in order to prevent the influx of refugees from reaching Europe due to the civil war in Syria. This agreement, albeit limited in scope and purpose, was seen as an opportunity to rekindle the fading relations. However, it became clear that the EU was only trying to alleviate the refugee burden that would fall on itself and demanded that the burden be borne entirely by the candidate country, Turkey, with a certain amount of money.

During the treacherous coup attempt on July 15, 2016, it was clearly understood that there was a major rupture between Turkey and the EU and that it was no longer possible for the parties to catch up with the atmosphere in which the negotiations started in 2005. EU institutions and member states remained silent and refrained from supporting the legitimate elected government during this process. In fact, EU countries, many of which are NATO members and our so-called allies, welcomed the traitorous FETO members who took part in the coup attempt and fled when they realized that they had failed.

Turkey-EU relations, which were already problematic, began to deteriorate from that date onwards, and similar reports were prepared every year, gradually alienating Turkey from the Union, and fabricated models such as privileged partnership instead of full membership began to be loudly voiced.

It would not be wrong to evaluate the EP’s latest report in this context. Likewise, while the report draws attention to Turkey’s geopolitical importance and praises its policies towards refugees and its role as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine war, it criticizes Turkey for its alleged deficiencies in democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and underlines that it is therefore not possible to resume negotiations leading to full membership and that instead formulas such as privileged partnership should be considered.

The first reaction to this report, which cannot be accepted by Turkey, was given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “This report, full of unfair accusations and prejudices based on the disinformation of anti-Turkey circles, is a reflection of the EP’s usual shallow and visionless approach to relations with our country and the future of the EU. Unfortunately, this report also shows how far the members of the EP are from developing the right strategic approach towards both the EU and our region as they are captives of daily populist politics.” It was stated that the allegations, which reflect the one-sided views of certain circles and are disconnected from historical and legal realities, have no validity.

The statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that the structure of the EP will change in the elections to be held in 2024 and said “We hope that the new parliament that will be formed after the elections will act with an impartial, rational and constructive perspective.”, leaving an open door, albeit conditionally, for the continuation of relations.

Despite the diplomatic language used by the MFA, President Erdoğan’s response to a question on the issue was highly significant. Likewise, President Erdoğan said, “The European Union is endeavoring to break away from Turkey. During this period, we will make our evaluations in the face of these developments and after this evaluation, if necessary, we can part ways with the European Union.” President Erdoğan clearly stated that Turkey is not obliged to the EU.

Although President Erdoğan’s words were interpreted as a bluff by some Western media outlets, those who closely follow Turkey and Erdoğan underlined that these words were a sincere warning rather than a bluff and that the EU should put its hat in front of its face and make a decision about Turkey.

In conclusion, it is not known whether the EP’s latest report will lead to a complete termination of the membership process between Turkey and the EU and a parting of the ways, but there is a concrete fact that the EU is no longer the driving force for Turkey. Because Turkey has implemented most of the criteria put forward by the EU as the Ankara criteria and is now more advanced than many EU member states. The EU’s ambivalent stance, which neither includes Turkey nor completely excludes it, is no longer sustainable.

In the reshaped global order, the EU is not the only alternative for Turkey. However, the EU is no longer an anchor of contemporary civilization. Therefore, it is essential for the EU to give up its spin and make a rational decision on Turkey’s membership. Otherwise, it should come as no surprise that Turkey will consider other alternatives for its own interests.

This article was originally published in Diriliş Postası on September 19, 2023 in Turkish.

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