My experience is still quite fresh in my mind although it is already a couple of years since it took place: I still held my position as a commentator in a newspaper. I was in Brussels to attend a symposium, organized to discuss relations between the European Union (EU) and Turkey in the context of media. I was among a good number of invited journalists from Turkey and Europe.an countries
During a break, I had the opportunity to talk to the person who was then the European Parliament (EP) rapporteur on Turkey. To be more precise, a colleague was already in a conversation with the rapporteur, and he beckoned me to join their conversation as the third participant.
It was a period that relations between the EU and Turkey were particularly tense due to many disputable topics between the parties. So, it was likely that the EP rapporteur would prepare a report filled with harsh criticism directed at Turkey, and recommend suspending the ongoing negotiations.
Our European conversation partner, who heard from two journalists with different inclinations stating that such a harsh conduct would prove to be wrong, that if being insisted, possible consequences would cause multi-faceted troubles for the both sides, did not make any remark that would bind himself, but he made it felt that he was now somehow concerned about what we had told him.
When the report announced a few weeks later, we saw that criticism directed at Turkey had been softened, and the negative recommendation that was expected to accompany the report had been excluded.
“Oui, Yes, Si, Evet…” banners
That displeasing recommendation came out as an EP decision yesterday.
The EP voted and accepted the report which recommended suspending the negotiations with Turkey regarding the country’s full membership into the Union.
The pro-government media depict the EU’s confirmation of the report and the accompanying recommendation as ‘scandalous’. The spokesperson of the ruling Justice and Development Party attempted to defy the EU’s decision, stating “It is worthless and invalid for us.”
In its entire history, the EP has taken such a decision for the first time about a country that is in the process of accession negotiations.
The decision may seem not-so-important when the long story of negotiations taken into consideration; yet, it is still significant considering that Turkey had enjoyed a while ago a strong support from the EP members who once moved “Yes” signs in different languages enthusiastically on their seats in the parliament.
Yesterday’s message of such an institution is likely to be taken into consideration by the other institutions of the EU later on.
I am afraid, a clear shift in the direction of Turkey-EU relations is on the horizon, a direction that is quite different from the one in 2004 when the door to negotiations for full membership had been opened.
The negotiations had been frozen, now they may come to an end.
Clearly, nothing is unexpected about this.
End of the ball game
It is true that the EU withheld from Turkey the care that it has been showing to some European countries which obtained their independence in recent years. It even refrained from acknowledging Turkey’s natural rights arising from the existing bi-lateral agreements, and it kept quiet when several European spokespeople made some humiliating remarks against Turkey.
Yet, there is some grim truth we need to be concerned about: The very vigor that was shown on the governmental level during the early days of the accession negotiations withered away long time ago. The ‘Copenhagen criteria’ were long forgotten, and the ‘Ankara criteria’ that were promised to replace them are far from being satisfactory.
Turkey does not give the impression to become a member of the EU eventually, and she is not unhappy about this appearence.
We don’t need to be reminded by the report that Turkey experiences a break in its perspective for membership as a result of its own free will. The report and the EP’s decision merely make this to be seen clearly.
Let’s leave no room for any misunderstanding: No one had really expected Turkey and the EU to become Siamese twins by progress of time. The both sides adopted and benefited from the policy of ‘appearing to be together’. Turkey was acting as if it showed genuine effort to adopt the essential principles of the Union, while the EU let the process continue as if it intended to allow Turkey to become a full member in the end.
For Turkey, acting as if it could become a EU member served the purpose of attracting foreign capital the country’s economy needed and making home-made industrial products have a chance to be sold in European markets.
Turkey, which seemed to bind itself to the requirements of the ‘Copenhagen criteria’, thus, appeared to be a country that cared about the criteria for democratic rights and freedoms experienced in democratic countries, enjoyed advantages of giving such an impression about itself.
That impression has died already, and our economy is affected by this negatively.
We would not really need to face the EU’s report in order to realize this.
Different views merging at the same point
Let me briefly tell you why I told you about my experience in Brussels years ago that I mentioned above at the beginning of my article:
Seeing two Turkish journalists agreed on the message of “Turkey, in spite of everything, must pursue the full membership perspective, and the EU must never recommend suspension of the negotiation process” during an event where the question of media being discussed had an effect on the EP representative. The reason of this effect was that he knew those two Turkish journalists had different political inclinations from one another and held completely different views on many issues.
Turkey is deprived of such a possibility today because of the current media order is discernible from outside, too.
Nevertheless, the EP must have refrained from the decision of suspension of the negotiations.
[This is the translation by Bernar Kutluğ of a piece appeared in this site on 14 March 2019.]