A humble wish on Europe Day
A recent pollster has revealed that more than half of the Turkish population is in favor of Turkey getting EU membership, although only one-third of it believes for it to happen. I think this perfectly translates the current psychological state of ties between Turkey and the EU.
Most of the Turks believe that the close relationship between Turkey and the EU is to the former’s advantage in terms of the development of the nation through increased economic and trade activities with the world’s one of top economies. They also underline that Turkey’s devotion to the EU membership will help Turkey’s evolution as a more democratic country, promising a better future for the next generations.
It’s also observed that the rate of Turks in favor of EU membership increases when ties between Turkey and the EU are fine and free of crisis as well as when economic and social conditions deteriorate.
After a couple of years of strained ties between the two sides, Ankara and Brussels are now trying to set a new understanding enhanced by a high-level dialogue. Although shadowed by the “sofagate” incident, a visit by EU Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Ankara last month was noteworthy to this end.
All eyes will now be on the EU Council meeting in June, where EU leaders should formally give a green light for the launch of negotiations with Turkey for the modernization of the customs union. If approved, a long and difficult negotiation process will begin, and it will perhaps affect the course of Turkey-EU relations. Moreover, this will be of symbolic significance in terms of embodying the positive agenda that the EU has been talking about for a long time.
Another item of the positive agenda is the renewal of the EU’s assistance towards the Syrian refugees being hosted in Turkey since 2011. As can be recalled, the EU pledged 6 billion euros in two installments for the refugees in Turkey through the 2016 statement. The assistance the EU will provide to refugees in the next period is expected to be roughly that much. It will be seen whether EU leaders will be able to compromise on the matter, although it seems there is consensus among the 27 nations for the continuation of the migrant deal with Turkey.
As seen, cooperation in the field of economy and continued assistance for the refugees are making the most important avenues of the current Turkey-EU ties, which no longer include the former’s accession to the bloc. That’s why EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi has never paid a visit to Turkey since he took office in late 2019.
Given the current complexity surrounding Turkey-EU ties, it’s perhaps reasonable to stick with the concrete areas of cooperation. However, the long-term basis of Turkey-EU relations is the modernizing effect of EU membership on Turkey. As once stated by senior Turkish officials, the EU is the most contemporary civilization project, and Turkey can both contribute and benefit from this project.
This requires important duties and responsibilities for both sides. The EU should build its relations with Turkey on the potential and future of this country. The strategy created with short-term implications and the pressures of some members might not keep relations with Turkey on the desired route.
Turkey, for its part, should completely change its approach toward the EU and strive for the full implementation of the European acquis. In addition to many other things such as human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, as well as addressing environmental problems and improving conditions in the country for direct foreign investment, Turkey should also see that it can best benefit from its potential if it keeps EU accession as one of its top objectives.
I can’t imagine a better wish on Europe Day.