The future of the EU: What’s in it for Turkey?

The future of the EU: What’s in it for Turkey?

The United Kingdom’s decision on Brexit has not only triggered a serious discussion on the country’s relations with the European Union but also kicked off preparations for the future of the EU itself. Apparently, the EU Commission is now drafting a white paper to explore the road map for the union in a post-Brexit era.

Such an explorative study will determine the future vision of candidate countries who are still willing to become part of the EU. Notwithstanding the escalating controversies between Ankara and many European capitals, one would wish to assume that Turkey is still on board. It is important, however, to understand whether the scenarios discussed in Brussels fit Turkey or whether they are to be used as pretexts to widen the gap between the bloc and Ankara.

Reports leaked from Brussels suggest five scenarios on which the EU will contemplate its future direction.

The first scenario is nothing different than the status quo. Emphasis will continue to be on deepening integration within the single market, alongside greater effort to increase coordination on foreign and security policy.

This scenario does not offer anything new for Turkey but only aggravates the frustration and confrontation with the union. Even on foreign and security policy coordination, Turkey will continue to suffer from being sidelined.

A second scenario considers focusing uniquely on the single market which, in a way, reduces the EU to an economic union. The U.K. has always given priority to the single market aspect of the EU and would really regret its departure if this scenario emerges as the favored model. This would end the European ideal of collective conduct, too, if not the process of collective decision-making.

In such a model, Turkey will continue to wait at the gate in order to become an attractive economic partner. Under the circumstances, the EU would expect Turkey to make a leap forward in its quality production with the value added factor, but that is perceived by many European observers as a distant possibility.

A third option favors integration on selected policy areas only, such as security, defense, trade, innovation and others which have priority. Such an approach would result in a more introverted EU and endanger Turkey’s journey to becoming part of the union.

As the EU continues to enhance its collective decision-making on those selected policy areas, Turkey will have to prove that it is a reliable, predictable and valuable asset abiding by the standards of universal human rights, freedom of expression and rule of law in order to be deemed as an attractive candidate.

Another option is increased integration in every aspect of the EU, giving further power to Brussels and resulting in reduced national sovereignty for members.

Turkey has always been perceived as an antagonist of reduced sovereignty and would not be considered a likely candidate for any such EU. Above all, many of the existing members see this model as the least probable outcome as well.

The final scenario revisits the old concept of variable geography with deepened integration and enhanced cooperation among different sub-groups of members in different areas.

Although it will create non-equal statuses for members that feature stronger defense and security cooperation among some members and closer coordination on financial and economic issues among others, it may become a model for a future multispeed Europe.

In such a new conceptualization of European integration, Turkey could find a better place for itself as an efficient partner.

Obviously, Brussels has begun a long process of thinking about its future. If Turkey still wishes to become a member, it should show interest in becoming involved in this process and participate in the search for a viable relationship with the future EU. At the same time, Turkey’s inability to identify the differences between domestic and foreign policy is not helping the EU perceive Turkey as a possible contributor to the exercise.