Turkey, EU should adopt a new language in post-Brexit era
It’s too early to make sound and comprehensive forecasts on how Brexit will affect the Turkey-EU relationship, but it appears likely that Turkey’s accession will be delayed amid the processes associated with the U.K.’s departure.
As stated by European Council President Donald Tusk, EU leaders will come together in an informal meeting on June 28 to discuss the Brexit vote, marking the beginning of a very long process for the finalization of the U.K.’s departure on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty.
It’s hard to say how long negotiations between London and Brussels will take to craft the divorce deal, but diplomats believe they will take at least two years. In the meantime, the EU has to find ways to stop other member countries from going to a referendum, as demanded by some political leaders of prominent members. The only way to ensure this is to reform the EU.
Both processes will require long-term efforts, which will further postpone the EU’s enlargement plans. However, the most important problem is whether the EU will be able to maintain its unity and existing model.
The U.K.’s departure will surely introduce a new model of a relationship between the EU and non-member countries and there will also be new ideas to produce a special relationship between Turkey and the EU.
Second, Turkey-EU ties are marked by the migrant deal that includes granting visa liberalization to Turkish nationals in return for the implementation of a Readmission Agreement. Although the EU will be deeply engaged in Brexit, negotiations between Ankara and Brussels on this particular issue will likely continue, as stopping the flow of irregular migrants into the EU remains one of the most important issues for Brussels.
In this very critical process, Turkey should better underline that its strategic goal is to join the EU, in order to avoid giving ammunition to Turkey-skeptics in the EU who have used every single opportunity to agitate against Turkish membership in the bloc.
Positive messages from Ankara
Turkey’s initial assessment of the Brexit vote was given by consecutive statements from Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and EU Minister Ömer Çelik. One common point of these statements was the fact that they all said Turkey continues to regard full membership of the EU as a strategic goal, despite the fact that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey could hold a U.K.-like referendum to decide on the continuation of accession talks.
Yıldırım underlined that Ankara favors a “strong and united” EU, while Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu vowed to continue meeting technical criteria and called on European counterparts to avoid imposing political obstacles in front of Turkey.
Positive remarks from Turkish officials that underline the need to protect the unity of the union are particularly important, as senior officials from both sides will come together in Brussels next week for the opening of chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions.
This development will have additional significance for both Ankara and Brussels, in order to demonstrate that the enlargement process will continue on the basis of the Copenhagen criteria.
Despite a rise in Turkey-skeptic language and extreme right-wing politics in Europe, the Turkish government should continue to pursue EU membership by increasing its democratic standards and partnering the EU in resolving common problems like migration and terrorism.
Meanwhile, the EU should also be more visionary in its outlook toward Turkey’s membership and its members should stop using it as an argument for short-sighted internal political gains.