Turkey and the EU: A broken relationship?

27.06.2013 / 04:30 CET

The European Union's member states agreed on Tuesday (25 June) to
resume talks with Turkey on its bid to become a member of the EU,
ending a three-year suspension of talks.
The decision had seemed to be a foregone conclusion, following
France's agreement in February to lift its objections. In the end,
though, the decision became highly uncertain because of the Turkish
government's crackdown on nationwide protests that began on 28 May
over plans to build over Taksim Gezi Park in central Istanbul. Even
now, obstacles may emerge, because the talks - on adoption of EU
legislation related to regional policy (chapter 22 of the accession
talks) - will formally be launched only in the autumn, after the
European Commission's annual report on Turkey's progress towards
meeting commitments made to the EU.
In the past month, the European Parliament has collectively criticised
Turkey's handling of the demonstrations, eliciting accusations from
Turkey's Europe minister, Egemen Bagis¸, that it was guilty of
`disproportionate, unbalanced and irrational declarations' and `dirty
plans for and manipulation of national and international instruments'.
European Voice asked six MEPs whether the EU should re-open accession
talks with Turkey and how the EU's relations with Turkey should


Teary eyes filled with fear, unarmed citizens running from the police
- those are the pictures from Turkey these days. The sad result of the
brutal police force: five dead and thousands injured. Not to mention
the large number of citizens who have been arrested.

In light of the images from Istanbul and other Turkish cities, it
puzzles me that some politicians - including the president of the
European Parliament, Martin Schulz - are still calling for the
European Union to open new chapters in negotiations in Turkey's bid
for membership. They argue that this is the only possible way to exert
influence on Turkey and to keep Turkey on the right track. In my
opinion, Turkey abandoned the right track long ago and is deliberately
driving in the opposite direction. Where was the influence of the EU
when the Turkish government gradually turned away from secularism and
towards an Islamist regime? Where was the influence of the EU when
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog?an accepted a diplomatic crisis with
Israel in order to appeal to anti-Semitic voters? And where is the
influence of the EU if we ignore the brutal approach by the Turkish
government towards its own citizens and continue with business as

I agree with those who view the protests themselves as a product of
the process of democratisation within Turkish society in recent years.
However, the protesters do not yet represent the majority of citizens.
Furthermore, it is not with the Turkish population that the EU
negotiates about potential accession; it has to address itself to the
Turkish government. Erdog?an and his ministers have made it more than
clear, however, that they have no respect for European values and its

If a government openly denies the legitimacy of the European
Parliament, which represents 500 million EU citizens, and threatens to
recall its permanent representative if the opening of new chapters is
delayed, the EU has no option but to suspend negotiation. Anything
else would convince Erdog?an that he can continue with his
authoritarian leadership, the suppression of citizens and blackmail of
the EU.

But what is the alternative to accession negotiations? I am convinced
that a privileged partnership would allow us to maintain our support
for basic rights and freedom through financial and administrative
assistance, while granting Turkey its sovereignty. The current events
show that our constant support for civil society organisations in
Turkey is bearing fruit. Maybe one day those fruits will be harvested
in the form of political change.

Renate Sommer is a German centre-right MEP and a member of the
European Parliament's delegation to Turkey.

Andrew DUFF

For some time now we have been working on the false assumption that
the Turkish government is ready and willing to make the large
sacrifice of national sovereignty that is required on joining the
European Union. While the process of assimilating the acquis
communautaire continued, it was pardonable to pretend that European
integration was good for Turkey and for the EU, and the more aligned
Turkey got to be to European norms and values, the better all round.

As fiscal integration deepens, however, and political union nears, it
becomes more difficult to maintain that pretence. Neither the ruling
Justice and Development Party (AKP) nor the Republican People's Party
(CHP) are ready to make the minimal changes in Cyprus that would
normalise Turkey's accession process, let alone to embrace a European
federal agenda. On the EU side, several member states would veto
Turkish membership. So we know perfectly well that if Turkey is ever
to draw closer to the European Union, it will be more on the lines of
semi-detached Britain than as a full member state.

The revolt of the Turkish middle class is a welcome protest against
the stifling, statist conformity of the Ankara establishment. Both
Kemalist and Islamist ideologies are challenged. This is good news for
those of us who yearn for Turkey to become a modern European place.

Once we see where Turkish society is headed, we will be able to take
decisions on how to recalibrate EU-Turkey relations. We will need more
reliable interlocutors than we have had recently in Ankara. We will
watch eagerly for progress in relations with the Kurds and on Cyprus.
We will engage across Turkey with whoever wishes it. In the meantime,
this is the time to stop pretending that the opening of new chapters
in the formal enlargement process is meaningful. Taksim Gezi Park has
changed the `positive agenda' for good.

Andrew Duff is a British Liberal MEP and president of the Union of
European Federalists.


When the European Parliament this March adopted a resolution on the
European Commission's report on Turkey's progress in 2012, the
Parliament affirmed the importance of a constructive relationship
between the European Union and Turkey. It also stated the belief that
a renewed mutual engagement in the context of the negotiation process
was needed in order to maintain this constructive relationship.

Looking at the current status of the negotiations, I believe the
opening of chapters could be helpful to bring back the much needed
dynamics in the process, and I therefore welcomed the steps undertaken
by the Irish presidency of the Council of Ministers to open chapter 22
on regional policy.

At the same time, it is important to stress that it would be much more
important, also in light of recent developments in Turkey, to take
steps conducive to the opening of the chapters on judiciary and
fundamental rights, and on justice, security and freedom. These are at
the heart of the European project, and I believe Turkey still needs to
make significant efforts in this area. The international community has
expressed concern about the recent events in Turkey, and it is
important that the concerns of Turkish citizens throughout the country
are addressed.

However, while the opening of chapters certainly is one element in the
relationship between Turkey and the EU, it does not define the
relationship. Relations between Turkey and the EU transcend the mere
opening of chapters. They are about working together and creating
synergies for a prosperous future for all our citizens. They are about
jointly tackling common challenges in key areas such as energy,
economy, trade and foreign policy, and it is important to further
dialogue and co-operation in these areas.

What we need now is a strong commitment from both the EU and Turkey to
improve the relationship and to re-build the conditions for a
constructive dialogue and the foundations of a common understanding,
based on common values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for
human rights. This will require efforts from both sides. This is
certainly a difficult time, but I strongly believe that genuine mutual
commitment today will strengthen our relation in the future.

Ria Oomen-Ruijten is a Dutch centre-right MEP and the European
Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey.


The European Union urgently needs to re-launch the negotiation process
with Turkey by opening at least chapter 22, but also, as soon as
possible, the chapters on judiciary and fundamental rights, which are
at the heart of the demands being made by the peaceful protesters in
Turkey. After a hiatus of three years, a longer pause than ever
imposed on a candidate country, the credibility and influence of the
EU on Turkey is at risk of being destroyed if we do not respect our
commitments and do not fight, at the same time, against populist,
nationalist and authoritarian temptations present both in Turkey and
in the EU. A delay in opening talks, on the pretext of indicating our
solidarity with the peaceful demonstrators, could end up penalising

The EU can no longer act as a lever for democracy and peace to
strengthen the camp of Turkish liberals, or leave the field open to
abuses against those liberals. The EU has many ways in which it can
signal its disagreement with the Turkish government's handling of the
crisis. One could imagine, for example, the opening of a chapter in
the absence of a minister or commissioner.

Turkey is currently at a historic crossroads, of which Taksim Gezi
Park is symptomatic. The debate about the peace process begun with the
Kurdish seperatist movement, the PKK, the drafting of a new
constitution, and reforms to counter-terrorism laws are causes of
hope. Freedom of speech has been freed, and the number of political
actors, forums and instruments has multiplied. But Turkey is also
facing a growing social polarisation, a re-activation of a culture of
security, the embrace of military history by a police force that has
put itself in the exclusive service of the state against its citizens.
These features are undermining the historic opportunities that Turkey

In this highly volatile context, the events of Taksim Gezi Park could
lead both to a deepening of democracy in Turkey and a significant
regression in terms of fundamental rights. In the worst-case scenario,
the isolation of Turkey could profoundly destabilise a country that is
already being affected by the situation in Syria, mark a resumption of
the conflict with the PKK and lead to direct confrontations between
the majority Sunni and minority Alevi communities in Turkey.

To prevent this nightmarish vision and to contribute to the
strengthening of the pro-European liberal movement in Turkey, it is
particularly crucial to offer the prospect of accession. No offence to
the devotees of Orientalism and to those who like conspiracy theories,
but the future of European and Turkish democracy is and will remain

Hélène Flautre is a French Green MEP and chairwoman of the European

Parliament's delegation to Turkey.


Almost eight years since the launching of Turkey's membership
negotiations, Turkey finds itself somewhat isolated and lacking the
support of many of the member states that could push the country into
the European Union's orbit. Many member states support the accession
of Turkey, some member states are pretending that they support it, and
others are against it and they are hiding behind others. A sense of
scepticism is rising in some key European states concerned about the
effect that the admission of a country the size of Turkey could have
on the EU's balance. `The country [Turkey] would overburden the
European Union because of its size and the structure of its economy,'
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said. So the challenge for
Turkey is to change the way it perceives its own size and power.
(Honestly, I believe that Germany needs to do the same itself, but the
fact is that Germany is already a member state and not a candidate

As for the question of opening chapter 22 of accession talks with the
EU, I am very clear. I and other Greek Cypriots support the opening of
talks. But a general comment should be made: if Turkey is honest about
its interest in opening chapters and in making progress in the
accession process, it must - like any other candidate country -
promote democracy, implement reforms and reinforce human rights. This
is the only way to prove itself to be a reliable partner. But there
can be no democracy in Turkey without respecting the rights of the
minorities, without a solution to the Kurdish issue, and without
restoring the fundamental rights of all Cypriots. We, as Cypriots,
honestly support Turkey's accession to EU, since this presupposes a
solution to the Cyprus problem. Furthermore, we need Turkey as a
democratised member state and as a reliable neighbour, rather than as
a fundamentalist, aggressive state.

I will conclude by saying something very crucial for Turkey: Turkey
must be very prudent these days, as it cannot be excluded that the
idea of a new Kurdish state may emerge as a solution to the problems
posed by the country's inability to manage its size and power.

Takis Hadjigeorgiou is a left-wing Greek Cypriot MEP in the European
United Left-Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament, and is
a member of the Parliament's delegation to Turkey.

Richard HOWITT

I make no apology for being one of the strongest proponents of
Turkey's accession to the European Union. But no true friend of Turkey
could or should remain silent in the wake of the brutal crackdown on
the Taksim Square protests - even if the country's own media tried to
remain silent. But my reaction to the crisis is the need for more, not
less, Europe in Turkey.

It is precisely European values of human rights and the rule of law
that the protesters desire. And would the government's response have
been so anti-European if the EU had allowed - as the European
Parliament demanded - the opening of negotiations on chapters 23 and
24 of the accession talks, which addresses issues of justice and
democracy raised by the Turkish authorities' attempts to suppress

But the proposal on the table is to open the chapter on regional
policy. The objective case for this is strong, given the need to
buttress support to the south-east of the country, where the minority
Kurdish community is concentrated, and where peace in the long-running
conflict with PKK terrorists is within reach.

To restore constructive relations between the EU and Turkey requires
an end to the aggressive rhetoric from the Turkish government, which
called criticisms from myself and fellow MEPs `insane' and threatened
that we would `pay a price'.

I was deeply disappointed that the Turks cancelled the delegation I
was due to take part in with colleagues from the European Parliament's
foreign-affairs committee, because dialogue is needed now more than

Which is why European leaders must refuse the temptation to make a
decision that would be perceived as a deliberate `snub' by the Turkish
side (and would be intended as such by some of them, if they were to
speak frankly).

It is time for both sides to show diplomacy.

For the European Council, that means that the EU should show that it
can and will honour its own promises, and not allow the debate to be
led by the minority who seek to obstruct Turkey altogether.

This week, that means sticking to our criticisms but at the very same
time opening the new chapter, to show all in Turkey that they have a
real choice to make - a choice for democracy.

Richard Howitt is a centre-left British MEP and a member of the joint
committee of the European and Turkish parliaments.

© 2013 European Voice. All rights reserved.


From: A. Papazian