Who would suffer most from Turkey’s break with EU?

Who would suffer most from Turkey’s break with EU?

One of the most important messages delivered by EU Minister Ömer Çelik at a recent meeting with the Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets was that the Turkish government is not willing to turn current spats with the Netherlands and Germany into a fresh source of tension with the European Union. 

Çelik stressed that some of Ankara’s rivals, in Europe and elsewhere, are rubbing their hands with glee in the hope that its ties with the EU will be broken as a result of such a crisis, which is why Turkey’s continued engagement with Brussels is important. 

However, although he reiterated Ankara’s willingness to continue its engagement with the EU, messages voiced by senior Turkish leaders, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, indicate the opposite. 

In a televised interview broadcast late on March 13, Erdoğan suggested that Turkey could revise its relationship with the EU, on the grounds that the bloc failed to keep its promises on a number of issues since negotiations began a decade ago. He went further, asserting that the EU had lost its place as the symbol of the democracy and human rights while vowing that Turkey will seek to mobilize other key international organizations, particularly the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), against the rise of fascism in Europe that directly affects Turks, Muslims and all foreigners in the continent. 

His typically strong-worded language described the Netherlands as a “rogue state” committing “state terror,” slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel as no different from the Dutch authorities who attacked Turkish protesters with dogs and horses, and claimed that the entire continent had surrendered to “neo-Nazis.”

In addition, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş hinted that Turkey could abandon implementation of the migrant deal with the EU, saying Brussels did not deliver on its requirements stemming from it. The deal will mark its first year on March 18 and Turkey will certainly be analyzing it and concluding what step to take next. Increasing numbers of people in Turkey say the government should break the agreement, while EU Minister Çelik has suggested that they revise measures taken for migrants’ passage into EU territories over land.  

No doubt, this language does not come from nowhere. EU countries’ decisions to block Turkish ministers’ meetings with voters in their countries are clearly not in line with the EU’s values and democratic norms. What’s more, the Dutch police’s use of force against peaceful demonstrators and the forcible deportation of a minister and detention of Turkish diplomats have no precedent in modern politics or diplomacy. 

Compounding this, one-sided statements from senior EU officials that completely ignore the Dutch government’s violation of international laws and diplomatic traditions are little more than a shame. 

Still, at this crucial point where key European countries are heading to the polls, Turkey should be able to keep its temper and not widen the scope of ongoing tension with individual European countries. It should refrain from using offensive language against European leaders, as this will only create more solidarity and unity in the continent. 

Such language may help the government ensure a more consolidated stance ahead of the April 16 referendum on shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system, but it will also surely deal a huge blow to Anakra’s relations with the EU and prominent European countries in the long run. 

Given that there is already a very deep lack of confidence between the two sides, it will be very difficult to fix this ruined dialogue with European partners even after Turkey’s referendum and elections in these countries.
Unfortunately, all these developments are pushing Turkey and the EU to make a final decision on the state of Ankara’s accession process. The end of that process will not be to the advantage of this country if its priority is still to be one of the 10 most developed nations by 2023.