The EU-Turkey paradox

The European Commission progress report on Turkey induced smiles in Athens because it tied Ankara’s casus belli threat to its European obligations. It was also welcomed in Nicosia, as it warned of repercussions should Turkey fail to meet its obligations to the Republic of Cyprus, meaning opening its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft. But the satisfaction in Greece and Cyprus may only be temporary, because the time of real political bargaining and lobbying is only just beginning and will culminate with the European Council meeting in mid-December. Naturally, it should be the officials of EU candidate Turkey who should be feeling uncomfortable under the close inspection of EU governments. But alas, the Turkish establishment has shown little nervousness, acting as if the Cyprus issue has nothing to do with Turkey’s EU ambitions. Islamic-leaning Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not risk any change of course in Turkey when nearing a preelection run. The Turkish establishment seems to have no second thoughts about its policies, and the ball seems to be in the EU’s court for the time being. No European country wants to tip Turkey off the EU track. The Commission’s warnings will not ruffle the Turkish establishment. As a result, all that European governments can do in the next five weeks is to try to save the pretexts. We’re in for some strong warnings but no fatal blow to Ankara’s EU dream. In a sense, Ankara is right to claim that this is not its own problem but Europe’s. Instead of seeing a Turkey anxious to adapt to the bloc’s foreign and security policies, we see European concerns over a possible estrangement between the two sides. This paradox will dominate EU-Turkish affairs in the months to come.

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