BRUSSELS DECIDED TO PUNISH ANKARA

BRUSSELS DECIDED TO PUNISH ANKARA

When at the end of November 2018 Ankara and Brussels for the first time in a year and a half returned to negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Union, it seemed that the EU does not intend to part with Turkey. Although the parties exchanged harsh verbal blows, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European neighborhood policy Johannes Hahn said that «it would be ideal for Ankara to withdraw its application for EU membership.» Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan replied that «Ankara should not worry about the European Union and not dwell on joining it.» Well, if «Europe is not on the way with Turkey, it must declare it first.» But words are words and deeds are deeds. For various reasons and with different motivations, Brussels and Ankara still did not stop the dialogue, only temporarily suspending it sometimes, led the discussion on the introduction of the necessary reforms for European integration, especially on the part of the Customs Union and the liberalization of the visa regime. At that time, the importance of Turkey was also determined by the acute immigration problem facing Europe, which somewhat muffled European criticism of Ankara, which intensified only after the constitutional changes that turned the country into a presidential Republic.

For Brussels looms two scenarios of action. First: despite everything to go to the maximum rapprochement (but not integration) with Ankara, creating a situation in which it will be forced to carry out the desired political and other transformations for the EU. Second: to continue to keep Ankara at a distance, but under the gun of harsh criticism, constantly threatening to suspend negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the EU. The goal is to play on the feelings of the European identity of a part of the Turkish ruling class, pushing it to a confrontation with Erdogan, when he says that there is an alternative in the form of joining Russia and China in the Shanghai cooperation organization. Although at other times he begins to convince everyone that this is «the way back — to the East, not forward — to the West.»

Recently, an annual report of the European Commission on EU enlargement policy appeared, which States that «Turkey continued to withdraw from the European Union, seriously retreating in the field of the rule of law and fundamental rights and weakening the balance in the political system due to the entry into force of the constitutional amendment». That «the negotiations on Turkey’s accession, therefore, actually reached an impasse.» Thus, we see that Brussels is implementing the second scenario with regard to Ankara, pushing it away from itself, linking its actions exclusively with Erdogan’s policy. But Turkey and before Erdogan came to power for decades kept in the waiting room of Europe. Recall that the Association agreement of the Republic of Turkey with the European economic community was signed in 1963. But the formal status of a candidate for membership of the country received only in 1999. Negotiations on accession to the European Union resumed in 2005. At the same time, Brussels sought to influence the balance of political forces within Turkey through the policy of half-open doors.

Now such a policy has ceased to be an effective lever against Ankara, but Ankara, due to geopolitical changes taking place in the Middle East, has received many strong arguments for pressure on Brussels. If earlier Turkey only in words declared its increasing role in this region of the world, which was perceived as a form of political bargaining with Washington and Brussels, in the new conditions, Turkey is in an Alliance with Russia and Iran in the Syrian direction, getting the chance to build a balanced relationship with its Western partners. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which Turkey, even if it were admitted to the EU, would cede part of its national sovereignty to Brussels. As a result, now there is an intriguing situation. The EU does not want to say that it «loses» Turkey, and Turkey does not want to give up Europe.

Formally, no one for their internal reasons does not intend to burn bridges, to break the existing trade and economic ties, making sure that not very skidded on the turns in foreign policy. Brussels hopes, in the words of one European expert, that «Turkish wounds in the field of democracy and the rule of law will sooner or later turn into domestic political gangrene.» Turkey says that «the EU is on the verge of collapse and the UK was only the first country to leave the Union.» In short, Ankara demonstrates its intention not to act against the EU as a Junior partner, and the EU is looking for ways to teach her a lesson, as has happened more than once before. At the same time, Erdogan continues the game.

He States that his country «will not turn its back on its largest trading partner» in the face of the EU, despite the «injustice experienced» by a number of community States that «used Turkey for their domestic political purposes.» This is a new introduction, a new intrigue, as the next time.

Dana Tessen

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