A belated article, but “never too late” when it comes to the EU ……..

The great, mostly fabricated, leaders of the EU members and institutions met last April in a Council format and took some big decisions. The summit document included a section on Turkey. In the past, EU decisions and texts on Turkey used to attract public attention and be discussed for days. Since there has been no progress in our relations with the EU, that interest has disappeared. Even I, although I have been involved with the EU for years, did not look at the latest Summit decisions. I was contented with reading the articles of a few of our expert friends. It seems that there is nothing new for us under the EU sun.

It was clear in 2004 and 2005 that we would reach these days. When I left my EU post in Brussels, I told my press colleagues who asked my opinion on the future of Turkey-EU relations, “First scan, then don’t call me.” The right was rising in Europe, and it was clear that they would use the Greek / Greek Cypriot excuses to trip us up at the first opportunity. On our side, those who had internalized the EU business were very narrow. I knew many politicians, many military and civilian bureaucrats who claimed that if we entered the EU we would suffer a moral collapse, or that we would be divided, or that we would have to make vital concessions in the Aegean and Cyprus. At the end of 2006, the Sarkozy/Merkel duo tripped us by using the Customs Union and some aspects of the Cyprus problem as an excuse. However, they could have solved this problem, which they defined as a trade dispute related to the Customs Union, by taking it to the World Trade Organization. They forgot that it was the Greek Cypriots who said no to the Kofi Annan plan.

There was no question of Ankara compromising on Cyprus. “Even if the progress of our EU process is blocked for political reasons, we will continue our efforts to harmonize with EU standards. Because these standards are necessary for us.” This position was adopted at the verbal level. However, the need for progress, especially in the areas of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, has not been internalized by the ruling party, which is why the harmonization process with EU standards has been hampered. Within a few years, the well-known process of regression in these areas began. Turkey-EU relations also deteriorated. So much so that our status as a candidate country is not even emphasized in the documents. We are considered as a refugee warehouse. We are seen as a neighbor with whom good relations can be established if we accept Greek / Greek Cypriot demands.

If you ask EU members, “why are we like this?”, you will get the answer “Well, you don’t fulfill the criteria!”. It is true that our rulers have no intention of adopting the EU criteria, but this is not the case. I will never forget the words of a famous French right-wing politician: “You can fulfill the EU criteria. But even if you fulfill all the criteria, we will not make you a member. Because the EU means France and Germany. If Turkey enters, it will become the third power. We don’t want that.” This is the situation.

The coming to power of a political movement that has internalized democracy in Turkey is not in the interest of this reactionary understanding that dominates the EU. Because such a movement would meet the EU criteria and the other side would be left with only Greek / Greek Cypriot demands as a card to use against Turkey. Everyone in the EU knows well that the foundations of those demands are weak. It is impossible for the EU side to win the debate on those demands against our real diplomats. However, it will take a multi-dimensional diplomatic campaign to create the conditions for the EU to turn to the Greek / Greek Cypriot duo and say “enough is enough”.

So what are we going to do with the EU? We are not going to try to ingratiate ourselves with them. We will strengthen human rights, democracy and the rule of law for ourselves. Moreover, the EU and some of its members are failing badly in these areas because of the Gaza conflict. They are not only double standardizing but also hypocritical. We need to be strong enough to defend EU values against the current EU.

On the other hand, if the Commission has still not sent us the screening report of the chapter on free movement of workers, I do not think it is realistic to expect progress on visa exemption at this stage, no matter what we do.

Updating the customs union is of course a good thing and a necessity, but starting negotiations without securing the Cyprus aspect of this issue will lead to us being backed into a corner at the end of the process. Unless the EU reverses its decision against us at the end of 2006, it seems difficult to improve our relations. However, there is nothing preventing us from continuing our efforts to harmonize with EU standards. There is no need to seek a new status for EU-Turkey relations. Let’s keep the candidate status. If we negotiate another model of relations, we may be at a disadvantage.

This is how relations are likely to continue under the AKP. The EU has no complaints about this course of events that keeps Turkey at arm’s length. Hopefully, a Turkey with a democratic and economic development under a new government through early elections will help the EU to come to its senses. The EU and Turkey’s need for each other is strategic. We can see this more easily, but the EU has a difficult job as it becomes more right-wing… Nevertheless, the day will come…

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