Are Turkey and the European Union close to divorce?

Are Turkey and the European Union close to divorce ?


Author: Elisa Mariani
Translated by: Lorenzo Giusepponi
October 2016

In 1963 Turkey and the European Economic Community came to an agreement to encourage trade and bilateral economic relations.

After more than 50 years, despite the improvements achieved, the relation risks breaking up. Indeed, it has been since 1987 that Turkey has shown willingness to enter the European Union, but today this process seems long and difficult.

After the country candidacy in 1999 and the start of negotiations in 2005, different aspects have been discussed and concluded with positive results, indicating that Turkey is meeting the requirements demanded by the EU. Despite the plan implemented by the European Commission in 2012 to accelerate Turkey’s access to the EU, there are still some unresolved matters, which are not only slowing down, but also impeding the process and threatening the delicate and unstable balance achieved.

In May 4, 2016, the European Commission press release stated that the European Union is in favor of adopting measures regarding the request of Turkey about exempting its citizens from the need of a visa. However, this will be possible only if Turkey respects the conditions expressed by the Union in matter of corruption, anti-terrorism, collaboration with the judiciary institutions of the member states, partnership with the Europol and data protection.

Current Turkish reluctance to review the anti-terrorism law has created tensions that are hindering the relation between Turkey and the EU and frustrating their initially good purposes.
Moreover, such a stall has further worsened due to the recent events that occurred in Turkey after the attempt of coup d’état in July. The repressions ordered by Turkish authorities to impede the coup saw forced detentions and the possible breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, along with the threat of reintroducing death penalty. This has worried the EU, and led it to harshly condemn the measures adopted, because considered a violation of the rule of law.

In August the Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said to be in favor of interrupting the negotiations for the Turkish membership to the EU. However, the stakes are high because of the immigration issue.

In fact, Turkey is involved in the reception of Syrian refugees in its territory and it’s discussing an agreement to contain the wave of illegal immigrants coming from Turkey who are stuck in Greek islands, which allowed the country to get a fund of six billion euros from the EU.

In an interview the Commissioner for Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos has reminded the importance of the agreement, which has already achieved excellent results in terms of decreasing the migration flow to Europe. This is the reason why the EU wanted to confirm its willingness to maintain and enhance the relations between the two, and it did it with a visit in Turkey by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, on September 9. Also the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker has called the possible interruption of the relations with Turkey as a “serious foreign policy mistake”.

So, the difficult cooperation between Turkey and the European Union is still on thin ice.