Turkey and the EU
1) Any strategic view concerning the future of EU – Turkey relationship and especially Turkish membership inside the EU must have a longterm perspective as its basis. Looking at it with short time considerations we will always see primarily today’s obstacles and barriers. We will see the additional problems, Turkey’s accession will bring to the EU and not its potential benefits. And to be honest, for the moment an accession of Turkey would bring new crises into the EU. But we should always remember, that these crises exist and already now have negative influences on Europe. The „Turkish“ diaspora ( including Turkish Kurds ) already link our countries with Turkey. And in critical situation as we saw with Kobane, it may raise tensions inside the Turkish community and our societies in general. In addition some young Muslims are attracted by terrorist groups acting in Turkey’s neighborhood, as long this neighborhood is affected by divisions, war and chaos.
2) Both the EU and Turkey have a fragile and conflict ridden environment. In fact part of our problematic wider neighborhood are Turkey’s immediate neighbors like Iraq and Syria.Therefore today we speak less of the dynamism and chances of the Middle Eastern region, but about fractions and turbulences. Exactly this chaotic environment is an additional argument for a closer cooperation between the EU rand Turkey with the – longer term -objective of membership. In this turbulent environment which is also affecting Europe as such, any interruption of EU – Turkey relationship could have very negative consequences. Europe would need a cooperative Turkey for its policies of stability and security in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Region.
3) The Cyprus issue and the new energy resources found in the sea, are additional arguments to find a solution in the framework of a successful negotiation process concerning future membership. The revenues of the energy extraction and selling must be benefiting all the citizens ( as the European Parliament argued with the Sahaouris in the occupied area in the framework of the Fisheries Agreement with Morocco ) ! All countries and people concerned should have a say in the extraction and marketing of the energy resources found in the common sea, of course with respect to international law. This could create a boost for inner Cyprus talks and for wider cooperation in the Middle East, bringing together at least Cyprus, Turkey and Israel.
3) The present process and procedures concerning the different chapters of „negotiations“ is not very helpful in having an overview about the different countries progress. It creates with its necessary unanimity for opening and closing each chapter the possibility of blackmailing by any member country and mistrust on the side of the candidate countries. The accession needs unanimity and therefore all vital bilateral issues have to be cleared before accession anyway. But to block – out of political reason – the dialogue between Commission and the candidate countries about the important issues creates a negative climate and is often an obstacle for the necessary reforms and preparations for the accession. As long as this is the case and member countries insist on this „weapon“, the candidate countries themselves – in this case Turkey -should proceed with the necessary reforms in a open and transparent way. This could bring the blocking countries in difficulties and put shame on them. Because as is reiterated again and again, the reforms Turkey should do, are reforms in the interest of Turkey itself. So let’s do them and do them speedily.
4) Concerning the rule of law and fundamental rights Turkey should have a special interest to proceed with all reforms according to the „aqui communitaire“, the European standards. There exist serious doubts, that the different reforms in the judiciary, the police and concerning the media are in conformity with European standards. Still there are many journalists in jail and there is the impression, that the fight against the followers of Fetullah Gülen is used to strengthen the influence of the ruling party. But due to the lack of clear procedures, overview and control of the fulfillment of the relevant criteria, there is no reasonable discussion about these perceptions and criticisms possible.
5) One of the most pressing issues to be solved is the Kurdish issue. One has to remember, that not so long ago, it was anathema to speak of a Kurdish problem in Turkey. The Erdogan government started to address this issue with direct talks with Kurdish representative including Öcalan. The developments in Syria and especially the success of ISIS underlined the urgency of continuing the peace process with good will on both sides. The good relations between Turkey and the regional government of the Kurds in Iraq (KRG) developed by Erdogan and President Barzani helped and will help to have sincere talks with the Kurds in Turkey and in Syria. Of course Europe should make it clear, to all Kurdish representatives, that the Syrian and Turkish Kurdish leadership must be helpful as well and fight against those terrorists in their own ranks, who still adhere to violence.
6) The Kurdish issue is only one, where Turkey and the EU – with many Kurds in some of our countries- should cooperate and have the same general line. The whole Middle East should be the subject of our permanent dialogue. We both have an interest of a united Iraq, which is respecting all its citizens: Shias, Sunnis and Kurds and of course the few Christians left. We both have an interest of a new beginning in Syria. It is true, the insistence of Turkey of getting rid of Assad meets the European view, that we also have to know, what follows afterwards. But even with these differences we have to enhance the dialogue – including several representatives of the Syrian people -about the future of Syria. If Turkey’s attitude towards Israel would improve we could work together in bringing forward the long decided but not fulfilled UN decision of creating two states or at least give strong support to the Palestinian self – determination.
In general Turkey would need a greater flexibility and more support for stability and human rights irrespective of the political force in power. Many of us criticize the takeover of the military in Egypt, if we call it a coup or not. And especially we strongly oppose the harsh measures against any demonstrators. But we should also see the big mistakes by the Egyptian Muslim Brothers after the election of President Mursi – contrary to the Tunisian ones. If Europe and Turkey would intensify their dialogue it could mean a rapprochement of their different attitudes. As sometimes Turkey seems to be more isolated today, than in the last years, such a dialogue with Europe and taking up also our perspectives could be helpful for Turkey. But also Europe would be wise to look more into Turkey’s point of view and help Turkey to manage the huge task of caring for the many refugees.
7) Bothe sides, the EU and Turkey must clearly define the purpose and interest of Turkey’s accession to the EU. Irrespective of today’s differences we should look at the longterm potential benefits. The EU can live without Turkey as member and Turkey can live without being member of the EU. But both would loose some influence and strength to manage their neighborhood. Together we can bring stability and solve some of the outstanding issues in the region. Turkish foreign policy has not have the success it was looking for. And the EU is today confronted with a much more fragile and turbulent neighborhood than expected when our neighborhood policy was designed. To have Turkey as a partner in the Black Sea area and in the Mediterranean would be a of great benefit for Europe and Turkey as well. In course do such a partnership European authorities could argue, that to bring Turkey into the EU would help solving issue and not introducing new ones.
8) Accession of Turkey to the EU is not around the corner. It will still need a long way to go. The project of EU membership had an unclear start, but it definitely has an unclear and not yet decided end. It is not easy for both sides to live with this uncertainty. But that is something we have to live with in that world of uncertainties. But what we should long for and achieve are intermediate steps which keep the accession process alive and would enhance and improve the mutual relationship irrespective of future membership. To introduce visa free traveling for both sides would be such an important step. Hopefully the necessary requirements will be fulfilled soon.
And in addition we have to think about some progress concerning the customs union. If TTIP comes it would anyway have effects on Turkey – negative ones- , so we would be obliged to think about compensatory measures. An extension of the Customs Union into the area of services and agriculture would not be easy, but has to be considered. Whatever is useful and feasible we should extend and enhance the cooperation and links between the EU and Turkey, not to loose any dynamic in our partnership.
9) Is there an alternative for Turkey to close relationship with Europe? Some Turkish officials threaten, they will orient themselves to the East, specially the Middle East if Europe is not more accelerating the accession process. But such reorientation is really not an alternative, neither economically nor politically in any sense. That Turkey is also looking to their immediate neighbors is natural and could be helpful for linking Europe with this region. In today’s global world and in view of the fractions and disputes in this region, Turkey could and should play a stabilizing role. These links are particularly important for a smooth energy transit from the energy rich countries like Iraq and Iran but also Russia and Central Asia via Turkey towards Europa.
10) Europe should and must also be engaged in this region. While we should have good relations with all countries, especially the strong regional powers including Iran and Saudi – Arabia, Turkey is the one which is most close to us, not only geographically. We have criticism about some authoritarian tendencies, which have substituted the undemocratic influence of the military. But, still Turkey is a democracy with many freedoms. To keep this freedom alive and to prevent unacceptable restrictions Europe should keep up its engagement with Turkey. Only this engagement and the ongoing accession negotiations give us the legitimacy criticizing legislations which would extend political control and influence over the judiciary, the police and the media.