Incompatible Turkey

The launch of EU talks with Ankara has exposed Turkey’s lack of harmonization with the acquis communautaire, defeating the expectations of the country’s cheerleaders. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s boycott of a news conference with his Danish counterpart to protest the presence of a Kurdish journalist shows that Ankara aspires to extract special treatment from Europe. Greece’s political system, which has overwhelmingly backed Turkey’s EU entry, should expect growing Turkish intransigence. Indeed, it’s getting more difficult to be optimistic about Turkey’s willingness to comply with EU norms and standards, considering the attacks on the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul (one of the strongest advocates of Turkey’s EU ambitions), the new strategy approved by the National Council (which reiterated the casus belli against Greece), and the growing number of air-space violations by Turkish fighter jets. There’s also Turkey’s stand toward the Republic of Cyprus, which Ankara continues to snub even though progress in its negotiations with Europe will also depend on Nicosia’s consensus. However, this is not just about Turkey’s incompatibility with EU principles. The prospect of EU membership in a country that is used to being governed along authoritarian lines has also fueled tension. The recent riots in Turkey’s southeast are to some degree driven by a hope for stronger European attention to the Kurdish population. Most importantly, the prospect of EU membership seems to be fueling internal tension in Turkey – and this should concern the Greek political establishment. A troubled government could become a more aggressive one, because it can afford to be so. Perhaps the theory that allowing Turkey to board the EU train will stabilize bilateral relations needs to be re-examined.

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