EU-Turkish relations

The European Union’s decision to award EU candidate status to Turkey at the Helsinki summit two years ago was the product of political expediency par excellence. The EU members were aware that the chasm between Turkey and the acquis communautaire was prohibitive but, also under pressure from Washington, decided that Turkey should be granted candidate status. This was done, first, in order to bind Turkey to the EU train and, second, to consolidate the customs union which allows them free access to the Turkish market. Even though they do not say it in public, most of Europe’s politicians deem that Turkey is, culturally speaking, alien to the Continent. For this reason, they have a negative outlook on Turkish membership. For the time being, the EU invokes the fact that Ankara still falls far short of meeting the requisite criteria. The stance of the Turkish regime is also inconsistent. On one hand, it favors a pro-European orientation but, on the other, it rightly fears that adapting to EU standards will be self-destructive. Ankara wants an a la carte Europe, but this is not feasible. Turkey wavers. The adoption of the recent reforms was a significant step, but much still remains to be done. Nevertheless, Turkish officials hoped that with some help from Washington they would, at least, succeed in extracting an EU commitment on the start of membership talks. The European Commission rejected Turkey’s demand, but sugared the pill by doubling economic aid to Turkey. It is worth noting that Washington publicly reacted to the release of the Commission report, thus prompting an ironic response from Europe. This development may cause a rift inside the Union, as some of the members put their relationship with the US as first priority. This often pushes them into lining up behind American policies, even when they disagree.