|Posted by [email protected] on October 27, 2017 at 6:05 AM|
By Simas Kojelė
On the 24th of September the Federal elections of Bundestag occurred in Germany. In the period of the election campaign, candidates discussed many different topics: migration, social policy, economic growth, the future of the European Union, the future of military forces and defence budget, etc. Regarding the agenda of foreign policy, one of the most important issues was Turkey, and Turkey’s relations with Germany and European Union. Turkey was a huge object of harsh critics from all main political parties in Germany. The Foreign Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, “Turkey will never join the EU under Erdogan”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she did not believe Turkey should become a member of the EU, and that she would take up with her EU partners the issue of ending accession talks with Ankara. The leader of Social Democratic party, Martin Schulz stated, “If I become German Chancellor, if the people of this country give me a mandate, then I will propose to the European Council that we end the membership talks with Turkey. Now all red lines are crossed, so this country can no longer become a member of the EU.” Finally, Savim Dagdelen, spokesman of the Left party (Die Linke), emphasized that the EU and Germany must impose sanctions against the President of Turkey, Recep Tayip Erdogan and his associates.
These statements can be related to the provocation of populism’s sentiments inside Germany’s society during their elections. But if these proposals really exist within the German political agenda, it is a really dangerous and an irresponsible sign for the future of the EU-Turkish relations. In my opinion, the EU’s should consider a resilient, flexible and constructive relationship between itself and Turkey. Turkey has the potential to strengthen EU in the competitive 21st century world.
First of all, Turkey is a rapidly growing economy. At this moment, Turkey is 6th largest economy in Europe and 18th largest economy in the world, a member of G-20. The prognosis of economic situation in the world by 2030 shows that Turkey has the potential to be the 12th largest economy in the world.
Secondly: the population. The global weight and size of Turkey could be a very important factor of the future of the EU. Contrary to the aging population of the EU, Turkey’s population is very young and dynamic with huge perspectives in the future.
Thirdly, Turkey is a member of NATO and is a serious military power. In different military rankings, Turkey is ranked as the 7-8th largest military power in the world. In this context, Turkey can reinforce the EU common defence and security policy and new initiatives proposed by European Council and European Commission in terms of cooperation on common defence budget and the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO).
Fourthly, Turkey is an Islamic country but simultaneously remains a secular state with divisions between the state and religious authorities. It could help to build the bridges between Europe and Islamic world. Moreover, it could reinvigorate the Muslim community integration inside European Union.
Fifthly, the EU and Turkey have a refugee deal. Yes, this deal is quite controversial, very difficult, but this deal contributed to stabilization of migration crisis inside the EU.
This package of important aspects shows why the EU needs Turkey, and why these relations with Turkey are really important for the future of the continent.
There’s no doubt that the EU must be concerned about what happens in Turkey. After the failed coup d’état on the 15th of July, 2016, many started to question many the measures against opposition, media, NGOs, and human rights activists. Turkey has a huge problem with imprisoned journalists and the Turkish government is one of the biggest incarcerators of journalists in the world ant that is real challenge in the future of this country.
Turkey also has a real issue in the field of historical justice. Unfortunately, Turkish authorities shamefully do not recognise the Genocide of Armenians in the first half of 20th century. It is a very painful thing, because the European project builds on understanding and sensitivity for our history. By the way, in this context, the Bundestag of Germany did a very powerful gesture when in spring of 2016 recognised the Armenian Genocide.
Moreover, Turkish authorities intervened in elections in Netherlands and Germany with disgusting comments about the Dutch and German governments and called them fascists, Nazis and so on.
The EU must definitely underline these problems and persist with the Turkish authority. But in my opinion, ending or suspension accession negotiations with Turkey will not help solve these issues. In fact, the opposite will occur. The ending or suspension accession talks just will free the hands of Erdogan to tighten up the situation in the country. I am sure that after that Erdogan will put the death penalty referendum on the political agenda. Is this in the EU’s interest? I doubt it.
The ending or suspension of accession talks will disappoint the liberal, progressive-minded, educated part of Turkish society mostly in the biggest cities of the Turkey like Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. After the referendum to strengthen the powers of President, we know that this part of Turkish society is very huge. So, the EU must fight for Turkish citizen’s hearts and minds. The ending of accession talks will not serve for this goal totally.
In my humble opinion, the EU must revive the talks of reforming the customs union with Turkey and resume negotiations on visa free regime for Turks. That would be very constructive and useful approach for the EU-Turkey relations in the future. I remain an optimist, and hope that one day Turkey will join the EU.