It’s not me, it’s you: The EU-Turkey courtship

By Georgia Logothetis, Managing Dirctor, HALC

“We don’t need EU membership any more,” proclaimed Turkey’s president this week.

That the Turkey-EU relationship has been strained for a while would be an understatement. The accession process began way back in 1987. About 12 years ago, negotiations were started for full membership. Since then, only 1 of 35 Chapters — or conditions — necessary to complete the accession process have been satisfied (relating to science & research).

“Turkey has been moving away from the European Union in leaps and bounds,” said president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. “That rules out EU membership for Turkey in the foreseeable future.”

To hear Ibrahim Kalin, the president’s spokesperson, describe it, Turkey is almost a blameless actor in the drama. In a piece for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Kalin does his best “alternative facts” impression as he paints the portrait of a blameless Turkey and a vicious, abusive Europe. He refers to Turkey’s “alleged” authoritarian and it’s “supposed drift from Western values,” and calls any attempts to point out the obvious “Turkey-bashing.”

He heaps praise upon Erdogan and scorn upon Europe, and calls on European leaders to “treat Turkey’s elected leaders with due respect” and says that “Turkey-EU relations can be reset only on the foundations of equality, fairness and mutual respect.”

“Equality, fairness and mutual respect” have been foreign concepts in Erdogan’s Turkey. Erdogan has shown little respect for Germany’s leaders, calling them “Nazis” and labeling them “enemies.” His son, who is involved in politics, called Europeans “infidels” this week. Erdogan, the same leader who proclaimed that “women are not equal to men,” now has the gall to mention “equality.” As for mutual respect, certainly it is a sign of disrespect for Turkey to continue to invade Greece’s airspace. Yesterday alone, Turkey violated Greek airspace 66 times. And who can forget Erdogan threat that “no European in any part of the world [will] walk safely on the streets” if his demands aren’t met.

Europe’s issues with migration and integration are certainly a factor as well, but for Turkey to now cast itself as entirely blameless and claim it doesn’t need Europe is peak Erdogan.

A reset in relations and progress on Turkey’s membership bid won’t happen as long as Erdogan is at Turkey’s helm. Until a more moderate successor is elected, one who values democracy and justice with more than just words, the EU-Turkey relationship will unfortunately remain toxic.

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