Turkey wants to hit the reset button. Hostile rhetoric is being replaced with rapprochement (possibly encouraged by Turkey’s ongoing currency crisis). As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visits Berlin, how should the European Union respond to these overtures? Turkish EU accession talks are currently suspended, yet could they potentially be reopened? And, if so, what should the EU expect in return?

What should the EU’s relationship with Turkey look like? Once, Turkey was seen as one of the leading lights of democracy in the Muslim world. However, for over a decade now power has increasingly become centralised around Erdoğan, who has effectively held the reins for the last 15 years. An abortive coup attempt in 2016 only accelerated this authoritarian turn, with a far-reaching crackdown on those seen as political opponents of the regime. On the other hand, is Turkey simply too big and important a partner to ignore?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from John, who argues that Turkey will never be a Member State of the European Union because the older members, such as France, do not want to lose their voting power against such a big state. Is he right? What are the biggest obstacles in the negotiations? And why is Turkey not an EU Member State yet?

To get a response, we spoke to Ambassador Faruk Kaymakcı, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs. How would he react?

[…] The biggest obstacle in the accession negotiations and, in general, in Turkey-EU relations is the prejudice, double standards, and lack of EU anchorship towards Turkey. If the EU becomes a real anchor towards candidate Turkey, like it has been towards six other enlargement countries, the accession process would advance in the interest of both sides. However, the Cyprus question has been abused to slow down and jeopardise Turkey’s accession process despite the fact that Turkish Cypriots and Turkey accepted a solution, the UN Annan Plan, which was also favored by the EU in 2004. Also, the developments after the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey complicated the situation in Turkey-EU relations.

Turkey has not become a member of the EU so far because of the EU-Turkey anchor-credibility dilemma which still exists. If the EU displays sincere anchorship as it did for the enlargement countries in 2004, and it does today towards six Balkan countries, Turkey will become a more credible candidate, fulfil membership conditions and can join the EU.


Next up, we had a comment from Thorsten, who thinks that Turkey is looking increasingly diplomatically isolated at the moment, which potentially offers an opportunity. International NGOs have been sounding alarm bells about the political and civil rights situation in Turkey for a long time. Yet, if the EU offered the hand of friendship, might it encourage Turkey to chart a different course?

We put Thorsten’s comment to Aydan Özoguz, a German politician of Turkish ancestry who served as Minister of State for Migration, Refugees and Integration from 2013 until March 2018. What would she say?

[…] I think the path that Turkey is currently taking is really leading into the abyss. If you take a look at the conditions [in Turkey] today, retirees can no longer afford the simplest things. I have never before experienced something like this in my life there…

And, I mean, what where will we be when Turkey gets so unstable that people start to leave there too [as refugees]? People are currently fleeing for political reasons, but what happens when it goes completely down the drain there? That cannot be in Europe’s interest at all. And that is why you have to talk to difficult partners – and I say this also with regard to Russia, or even Poland and Hungary – over and over again. We [need to talk to them, whilst] somehow managing to defend our fundamental humanist values ​​to a certain extent. And, of course, we need to say: ‘We want to live together peacefully, ensuring that the situation in your countries provides a basis for this’.

Finally, we had a comment from Christian, who thinks there would be no benefits at all to the EU or its citizens if Turkey became a Member State, and therefore wants the EU rule out Turkey ever joining.

To get a response, we put Christian’s comment to Ambassador Faruk Kaymakcı. What would he say?

[…] Turkey’s bigness, size, population, and global weight will be an asset for the EU, for a shrinking Europe, on the global scene. Turkey’s young and dynamic population, with an average age of 31 and increasingly skilled human capital, could be the antidote to the EU’s aging population and to the troubled European social security schemes.

As to being ’poor’; one could argue that Turkey is not poor any more, thanks to its fast economic growth performance in the last decade. It is now Europe’s 6th largest economy and 17th largest globally. According to recent forecasts, Turkey will become the world’s 12th largest economy by 2030. Turkey will contribute to EU’s economic power on the global scene. Turkey’s accession will increase the size and competitiveness of the European internal market…

As a reliable NATO ally, Turkey’s membership will consolidate both the military and the civilian aspects of the common foreign, security, and defence policies. A European Union which includes Turkey will be more efficient in tackling political problems and crises including threats from undemocratic regimes, terrorism, illegal immigration and trafficking in drugs, arms, and human beings. Turkey’s membership will provide sustainable stability in the Aegean regions and the Balkans. Moreover, Turkey’s geographical position and connection to the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Islamic world, Russia, the Caucuses, and Central Asia, will grant the EU a greater say in the international arena…

Finally, Turkey’s predominantly Muslim population and secular state will contribute to the bloc’s cultural diversity, which in turn could help to alleviate the rise of Islamophobia, xenophobia, and radicalisation across the EU. Moreover, the membership of a secular state with a predominantly Muslim population could facilitate the integration of Muslims in Europe into their respective societies, as well as increase the bloc’s ability to reach out to the Muslim world. In other words, Turkey’s membership will strengthen the EU’s multicultural society and democracy. It will be a solid confirmation, refuting the ‘clash of civilisations’ scenario and emphasising the essence of the EU, as a union built upon and through common values.

What should the EU’s relationship with Turkey look like? Is there a position between membership and outright rivalry that can satisfy both sides? What would a constructive, long-term relationship look like? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) bigstock – homeros; Portraits: Özoguz – Susie Knoll, Kaymakcı – College of Europe

39 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Say goodbye to Europe as it was once known!! As predicted it will necome a Muslim state, total annihilation of Christianity!! It’s like getting into bed with the devil!! This man can never be trusted, its a ploy to secure free movement and Greece for one will be wiped out!! No authority has the right to decide on the fate of the sovereignty of a nation and the survival of it’s citizens!!

    • avatar

      Europe will never fall to Islam, certainly not naturally, the biggest threat is mass Islamic refugee migration eg 2015/16 like what Merkel was pushing. Only something as irresponsible as that could even have a remote chance at creating such a nightmare scenario.
      Turkey should never become part of Europe because it is not a European culture we see this everyday with Turks living Germany, Switzerland, Austria etc. This is not a disrespect but Turkey simply is not European, the day it fell to Islam it stopped being part of Europe, and was used to attack Europe. How can historic enemies of Europe become Europe it makes no sense. I suspect the EU wants Turkey as a means to project power against Russia and deep into the Middle east and Asia. And also cold blooded business interests with a population of soon to be 90Million there is obviously a huge market for consumers. Maybe the EU is also afraid of Turkey, imagine Turkey making an alliance with Russia or creating a Middle East or Islamic Union.
      As long as Erdogan is in power Turkish EU membership is impossible anyways as his reputation is not a good one amongst European politicians, the media rightfully or wrongfully depending on who you ask portray him as sultan Erdogan, a dictator, islamist, Turkish Trump and everything in between.
      Go to any street in Europe and ask the people if they want to be one EU with Turkey and see what they say.

  2. avatar

    As long as they’re an islamic autocracy nothing but sanctions.

  3. avatar

    Turkey needs to go its own way as long as Erdogan is in charge.

  4. avatar

    Merkel and Erdoğan has joint rulers.

  5. avatar

    No relationship with people who ruminate totalitarianism and Ottoman empires

  6. avatar

    Thanks for the debate and the dialogue. United planet is the big target.
    They r welcome if they respect our European voted rules.

    • avatar

      Manolis better to discard delusions. Very dangerous to approach turkey with delusions. Like being mesmerized by the snakes eyes. You get close and

    • avatar

      Not scared by yr snake. Our guns can kill it if neccesary.
      Turkey is not stronger than EU. They r people. More education will have the right impact.

    • avatar

      Turks are good people :) .

  7. avatar

    It is an endless love in which no marriage exists

  8. avatar

    Priviliged partnership of some sort. Better than pushing them into arms of Iran, for example.

  9. avatar

    We shouldn’t have any relationship with Turkey

  10. avatar

    As our ex-colonies mentioned below, they still have the pain and hate of the past. Though, Turks forget very easy..

  11. avatar

    У Султана Эрдогана великолепного отдыхать,,,, есть много замечательных мест в Европе,,
    Sultan Erdogan has a magnificent rest,,,, there are many wonderful places in Europe,,

  12. avatar

    Like the aggresive redneck mad uncle in every family…
    only occasionally and with caution

  13. avatar

    Just give money to Turkey to keep the illegal immigrants.

  14. avatar

    a privileged partnership is the best choice since the Turkish State will never become a European State in matters of Human Rights, Law of Justice, Freedom of Press, Peaceful relations with neighbors.
    Of course, Turkey is better than other States but she is miles away from becoming a normal European State.

  15. avatar

    Лика прилика като два стръка иглика .Много си подхождат във всичко допадът си попълват си .Това са много редки случаи
    It looks like two planted plants. They’re very suited to everything they’ve done. These are very rare cases.

  16. avatar

    It s strange… many ( not all ) Greeks here coughing their hate against Turkey…
    When will you stop this complex against the Turks? 🤔.

  17. avatar

    As long as turkey keeps an agressive agenda against two EU members caution is advised and of course only after stopping having expansion dreams and getting reforms towards democracy and start respecting human rights some steps could be made towards each other. A friendly,democratic and secular turkey could join EU but i m afraid that s far away…

  18. avatar

    very very pragmatic. There are certain matters we have to pay Turkey for. Apart from that Germany should stop Turkish immigration. It has been clear from today’s protests that these people are not loyal to Germany but to Erdogan

  19. avatar

    Neus. Krieg.deutche v. Waffen. V
    New. War. German v. Weapons. V

  20. avatar

    Stop imidiatly any finance for one dictator regime

  21. avatar

    I think we’re rational people and we don’t want 20-30ish million turks flooding our streets looking for benefits maybe a job….that will kill both The EU and Turkey’s economies….

    • avatar

      Pavel are you kidding? Turks will come to Bulgarian streets for working?

    • avatar

      Emre I think you’re mistaken check my location again…

    • avatar

      But all member states must give you the green light…let me just tell you that bulgarians will never forget Batak. I am sure the greeks can give you similar examples why that will never happen…

  22. avatar

    Turkey is a big and a pivot country in the eurasian geopolitics to be ignored! Europe has to help the Turkish people to find its way to the real democracy and prosperity and to get rid of ΑΚP`s megalomaniac ideas about the reestablishment of the Otoman empire!!!etc

  23. avatar

    There should be no relationship. Turkey is a sliding state,bon its way straight down to hell, if nothing changes. With such states we should have nothing to do.

  24. avatar

    I guess in Europe’s interest to have a good relation with Turkey and keep radical Islam at bay. Turkey also is a good business and military partner, one of the most important in the region, therefore I don’t see why not to have a good relation with Turkey.

  25. avatar

    There should be no relationship.

  26. avatar

    Turkeys are turks ,they are not europeans, and they are a muslim country, and what have they done to help Europe they once occupied romania greece and bulgaria as the ottomans, and killed many, let them do something for europe, stop all illegal imigrants crossing into europe via turkey and take as refugees a few million illegals who crossed illegally into the EU from Northeern africa. Turkey needs to do something to help europe, at moment turkeys only think about its bank balance and trade, which favours itself with regard to Eu interactions.

  27. avatar
    Olga Cosmidou

    They have change attitudes? Of course since they thought they were so powerful to be able to defy US and Europe and this didn’t bring them the expected advantages. They can change back at any moment though. One cannot trust Erdogan’s illiberal regime. Enough problems already with the illiberal regime of 2 member countries to add another bigger one. On top of it they keep threatening 2 EU countries, NATO allies! and they don’t even recognise one of them. Diplomacy has to keep talking to help Turkish people understand that if they chose illiberal sultans to govern them they have no place in a democratic Europe. This is the result of their choices.So as long as Turkey doesn’t abide by democratic principles any closer relationship should be excluded. If European politicians don’t listen to this overwhelming feeling of european voters they risk to be replaced in the elections by parties who promise a clean cut: this wouldn’t be in the interest of any of the 2. And allow me to say with all due respect that Mr F Kaymakci’s arguments do not reply to these elements. they look more like an advertisement -commercial promotion: not very convincing!

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.