Turkey, EU should change perspective: GRF report

Turkey, EU should change perspective: GRF report

With only a few days before the European Union Council, where relations with Turkey will be on the agenda, it is necessary to take a step back and analyze the current situation and the future shape of Turkey-EU relations.

A recent report by the Istanbul-based Global Relations Forum (GRF), under the title of “Roadmap for Turkey - European Union Relations” is perfectly fulfilling so. It suggests that Turkey’s full membership goal is getting farther away because of missed opportunities, the mistakes the two sides made over the years and the consequent mistrust.

“We believe it is high time to look beyond the past and into the future of the relationship in a new manner,” read the executive-summary penned by a group of prominent academics and retired ambassadors.

Not only the policies of the EU and Turkey, but also their perspectives towards each other should change, they stress, urging, “A new perspective based on objective criteria and a serious political will are needed for any positive development to occur in Turkey-EU relations. Otherwise, it will be difficult to overcome the lack of trust. There is an obligation for both sides here.”

The report is not only evaluating the general situation regarding Ankara-Brussels relations, but also is making policy recommendations to both sides. The EU should change its perspective on Turkey by avoiding populism for domestic policy purposes and quitting imposing new political preconditions when it comes to upgrading Customs Union and to other matters.

“Turkey also needs to return to predictable policies, re-evaluate its relations with other countries and allies, especially with its neighbors, and continue the détente it initiated in foreign policy,” it says, calling on Turkey to foster respect for fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law.

In addition to these, some practical steps with a political dimension can create the desired trust between the parties, the report stresses. Obviously, the most important proposal cited in the report is that Turkey should extend the customs union to Greek Cyprus in a bid to remove multiple obstacles over the former’s accession process.
Here are some proposals:

-The momentum that can provide some progress by Turkey passes through the Customs Union. In the current environment, the area that will most likely create an atmosphere of trust between the parties is the modernization of the Customs Union, where both parties have interests and can benefit economically and commercially. In this respect, Turkey should focus on reviewing whether the Customs Union could be applied (without recognition) to Greek Cyprus. Because the expectation of the EU is that Turkey will not fulfill this condition, such a move will allow progress in the following two important areas.

-The extension of the Customs Union to Southern Cyprus will eliminate the justification of the Council’s decision, and the Council may be called upon to unblock the said eight chapters. First of all, the opening of chapters 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security), which are among the chapters that the Greek Cypriots single-handedly blocked in 2009 may be envisaged.

-If Chapter 15 (Energy), which is also among the chapters blocked by the Greek Cypriots, can be opened, it may have a positive effect on the reduction of tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. This issue, which is closely related to the European Green Deal, especially in the context of renewable energy, can accelerate the advancement of the negotiation process.

-The EU, for its part, should implement the 2016-dated migrant memorandum in good faith, and in particular of the Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme that is included in this memorandum and still not activated.

-In addition, increasing financial aid for Syrian immigrants and disbursing it rapidly, as well as the swift completion of the projects within the scope of financial aid and the continuation of renewed financial cooperation would be beneficial.

-A solution-oriented approach to the problems arising from the EU which could not be overcome for a long time in the implementation of the Customs Union.

Along with these, enhancing dialogue at all levels, Turkey’s mobilization for fulfilling the remaining six benchmarks for visa liberalization and more cooperation in foreign policy so that Turkey can harmonize its defense, security and foreign policies with the EU are also cited in the report.

It rightly concludes: “It is essential to bring Turkey-EU relations to a certain level in the short and medium-term.

Therefore, now is the time to make a breakthrough with a creative perspective. Otherwise, the current blockage in the relationship and cooperation will continue without any concrete progress. Although it is not easy to change perceptions and prejudices, it is possible to start a positive change with implementation and practices instead of words.”

Diplomacy, foreign relations,