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By: Yasser Amer
Writer and researcher in International Relations
The EU-Turkish relations have witnessed considerable tension since the coup attempt on June 15, 2016, and was characterized by successive diplomatic crises, most notably the diplomatic crisis with Netherlands and Germany, then Austria and Denmark.
It is worth mentioning that the series of crises between Turkey and Europe are not sudden or transient crises, but they are deep crises, created by the dissatisfaction with Turkey’s foreign policy, which has exceeded its limit over the past years, in addition to the consideration of the Turkish economy as a rival economy threatening European economies. For example, the third airport is one aspect of that economy which creates concern to Europe, as well as the religious and cultural background of the Turkish nation, especially if it is based on the factors of history and the size of the population.
The historical reasons are not justification for the European countries to delay Turkey’s accession to the European Union, despite some talk about the level of President Erdogan’s speech and his sharp language, but the European justification is Turkey’s failure to meet the criteria required for accession.
“After the failed coup attempt, the most important criticisms of European institutions on Turkey ,were related to democracy and political reforms, as well as criticisms related to freedom of expression and human rights,” said EU professor at the University of Istanbul Aydin and former EU minister Dr. Egemen Bağış, EU called Turkey to carry out democratic reforms.
The strange point is despite the EU calls Turkey to undertake democratic reforms , it has taken negative position from the last coup attempt which is considered a coup against democracy. All of us know that President Erdogan has not come to the power by a military coup but with a popular will through free election , he did not win with 99.99 of votes as it is in the States that claim to exercise democracy and gain the support of some European countries itself. The matter does not stop in this level ,but it reached to harshly criticize the capture of those involved in the coup attempt, which pushed the Minister of Foreign Affairs , Mawlood Jawish Oglu, to describe such criticism as it reached to support.
This contradiction in the European position reveals the double standards of the EU countries, which makes the crisis in its first place a crisis of confidence and credibility, and makes the official Turkish anger justifiable and a logical result of this duality and contradiction, all these happened at a time when Turkey confirms the European Union that what brings both together more than what divides them, and shows a good faith, stressing the common interests and strategic relations between the two sides.
In the midst of these successive events , crises and economic problems, Erdogan announced that snap elections will take place, which is within his constitutional powers, these elections come at a sensitive time, where Turkey witnesses a turning point, and the scene is depicted in a different way, as Turkey seeks to escape from the restrictions imposed by the 100 years Convention of “Lausanne”, which will end in 2023, in the period within the next electoral period, and will witness the challenges of the great procedures to stop the hands that tamper the Turkish economy.
After the next presidential elections, I think that there are several events that will reshape Turkey’s relationship with the region as a whole, not just with the European Union. The most prominent of these are the Israeli and Iranian issues, but there are two main points that will determine the outcome of the elections. If the ruling The Justice and Development Party )Ak Party) wins, this will strengthen its position on common issues with the EU and make it stronger than ever. The EU should then deal more seriously and more credibly than ever before, and redefine the relationship with the EU and understands the nature of the common interests that bind the two sides, unless the crisis will see greater development, and its negative effects will not be limited to one side, especially those relating to the influx of refugees crisis and the security issue.
The second scenario is the wining of another party which is The Republican People’s Party (CHP), the second most prominent of the rival parties, then the Turkish-European negotiations will take a different direction. The European Union will set its conditions and the fear is that the EU’s demands from the new ruling party will not be restricted on provision of concessions on the level of discourse, but the implicit claim to change the nature of the Turkish-European relationship, from the relationship of ” rivalry” to “dependency.”
However, in my estimation, if the conditions of dependency are to be dictated, as the EU countries wish, it will not contribute to the success of the process of full EU accession. Turkey may be granted some economic and customs privileges in addition to the Schengen visa, in a certain method . The reasons for the impeding accession are historical reasons for the country’s identity, religion, culture and history, not just the nature of the ruling regime.
In addition to that, Turkey’s population will double Turkey’s representation in the European Parliament, If it becomes a member of the EU. The number of seats in the European Parliament should be commensurate with the size of the population in each member state. Turkey will be the second largest country in the European Union after Germany, in terms of the size of representation in Parliament, which increases its chances of voting , which is considered a threat to the European legislative structure.
These reasons, in addition to outstanding fundamental issues, have been a major impediment to the accession process, whether old problems such as the Cyprus issue, which in case of solution , according to the European perspective, would be a strategic threat to Turkey or recent issues such as the influx of refugees into Europe across the Turkish border.
Of course, one cannot confirm the impossibility of accession , but this is unlikely, because new changes in the structure of the European Union may arise in the future, and new structures are emerging that reshape the economic and political map or at least the security aspect of the EU itself, in a way that requires EU to reconsider the issue of Turkey’s accession, and deals with it seriously.