Turkey’s accession process started in with the official recognition of the country as a candidate for the Union but negotiations started only in 2005. The European Commission and Turkey adopted a “positive agenda” in May 2012, but since then the relations between both actors have deteriorated dramatically.
For the European Union, the unacceptable is closed to be reached
Today, adhesion no longer seems desirable on any side. For the European Union, the Copenhagen criteria, which define the conditions for a country to become a Member State, are undermined. Indeed, from massive police repression to counter the 2013 protest movement against the regime, the controversial Judicial Reform, the large arrests, suspensions and dismissals following the coup d’état attempt by the Turkish army (July 2016) tomany other events in progress, the authoritarian drift of the President Erdogan regime has then been accelerated. The European Union can only continue to denounce serious violations of human rights, a major hindrance toof membership since the beginning.
The possibility of the reintroduction of the death penalty announced by the Turkish President in March immediately prompted the European Commission to react. “If the death penalty is reintroduced in Turkey, this will lead to the end of negotiations”, said Jean-Claude Juncker.
Provocation and intimidation from Turkey
By multiplying authoritarian decisions and provocations towards the European Union, there is also the question about willingness from the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and from Turkey to integrate the European Union.
The victory of the “yes” vote in the referendum on constitutional reform, reinforcing the powers of the president, showed that a majority of the Turkish people supported this political shift, which still keeps away the country from the application of European standards on the rule of law.
During his referendum campaign, the tone was very firm to Brussels. “They keep us waiting at the door of the European Union for fifty-four years, (…) We will be able to meet our people and we will obey its decision” President Erdogan said. He also suggested launching a popular consultation on the continuation or not of pre-accession negotiations with the EU without advancing dates (Le Monde, 17.04.2017), thus raising anti-European sentiment.
However, both parties are not ready to stop the process
Europe is clearly stucked, as Didier Billion, a Turkey specialist at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations, says: “If Europe wants to have a role on the international scene, it must find systems alliance. Turkey is a major country for stability in the region.” (L’Express 17.04.2017).
Maybe it is a comfortable position for Turkey, as long as, it benefits from funds from the European Union (4.5 billion euro 2014-2020), from economic cooperation with the EU and from the Migration Agreement: another 3 billion euro adopted this year.
Finally, are both parties aware that a closure of the conventions would inevitably lead to a radical closure of borders and relations? None seems to be prepared to take this risk today in the name of the relative stability of the area and in the name of widespread strained international relations.
The American disengagement in the defense of the European continent and the growing tensions with Russia put European partners in front of the urgency of building a Europe of Defense. Will Member States be able to succeed when no agreement has ever been possible?