Turkey’s chance to mend its relations with Europe

Turkey’s chance to mend its relations with Europe

At a time when Turkey’s relations with Europe are believed to be at the lowest level, the visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to France gives hope that there is a new opportunity to reverse this trend. Will 2018 give us the chance to reset relations between Turkey and Europe?

President Emmanuel Macron, during a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace on Jan. 5, underlined the common values shared by France and Turkey. He emphasized that those values were based on two pillars: That Turkey is a member of NATO and is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. This accurate and articulate definition is in full compliance with Turkey’s vocation to take its decent and deserved place among the Western community of democratic nations.

Turkey and France have had long and deep-rooted bilateral relations. Those relations have developed on political, economic and cultural spheres and formed a solid basis for further development throughout centuries. It should be kept in mind, however, that those bilateral relations also had ups and downs. France, for example, has been one of the members of the European Union to block five chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations.

Today, with a new vision introduced by the new president of France, strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries is expected to have a positive impact on Turkey’s overall integration into Europe. Erdoğan’s visit, from this point of view, has many dimensions.

The French president, during the press conference, first underlined the importance of the fight against terrorism which has hit both countries and resulted in tragic losses of lives. Cooperation between the respective agencies of the two countries develops in an exemplary manner. France recognizes the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization and takes all the necessary steps to obstruct its access to funds. In this respect, Macron also underlined that the same level of cooperation exists within territories of Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other related terrorist organizations.

Turkey’s agreement to participate in the EUROSAM project also reiterates its commitment to NATO and its enhancement of air and missile defense through cooperation with its European allies. Hopefully, this renewed commitment will neutralize the suspicion over Turkey’s willingness to buy S-400s from Russia.

Turkey has also agreed to buy 25 new Airbus planes for Turkish Airlines. Additionally, the two countries reviewed the potential in agricultural cooperation to enhance trade and commerce, an area which opens new horizons for Turkey’s exports. France, in a joint consortium together with Japan, also looks forward to develop Turkey’s second nuclear power plant in the Black Sea province of Sinop.

Turkey and France have similar views on finding a solution to the Palestinian problem and the issue of Jerusalem. On Syria, Macron has carefully underlined that the two countries have a commonality in views and strategic interests. France defines its vision for the future of Syria very clearly by underlining the necessity of a rapid transition where “all minorities and political sensitivities are recognized and included in the process.”

Macron’s main message was about the values which has brought Turkey, France and Europe together. These were the principles of the rule of law and democracy, and the fight against terrorism should not undermine those principles. He particularly emphasized that evil forces would like to weaken these principles and draw our countries to their terrain, which is formed of hatred against reason, intellect and liberties.

Turkey’s overall relations with Europe, as Macron puts it, are seen from the perspective of the European Convention on Human Rights. To the extent that Turkey maintains full and complete commitment to this convention, which also is a part of its identity, it will have the perspective to see progress on the path to Europe.

Currently, the opening of new chapters and the continuation of Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU do not seem to be on the short-term agenda. Respecting the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms seem to be the key to unlock that impasse.

Ünal Çeviköz, hdn, opinion