Dimitris Rapidis

The discussion over the future of Turkey inside the EU has been stalled for years. Any development has been scheduled for the years to come, but with no specific plan nor prediction for the membership bid. Finally, should Turkey be member-state of the EU or not?

Since 2004 and the lauching of the negotiation talks, lot of water has been streamed into the channel of membership. Turkey could not at the time comply with some of the major chapters of the negotiation process, mainly dealing with human rights and the bilateral revendications against Greece in the Aegean, and therefore the discussions have stopped or put in future time. Meanwhile, the stong anti-Turkish standpoint of France’s President Sarkozy and the floating rhetoric of Germany also contributed to this deadlock.

In the years that followed, Turkey achieved to solidify its pivotal role in the region by exerting robust politics when dealing with balances in the Middle East and the Central Asia states. The Davutoglu doctrine planned to open a wide sphere of concern in international politics for Turkey while the shift of Ankara towards more activeness in its backyard changed the landscape and, thus, the balances between EU and Turkey regarding the potential negotiations, the role and power of Turkey and the mismatch created after the triggering of the economic crisis and the softening of the international role EU used to play before 2008.

There is much discussion about the future of bilateral relations between EU and Turkey, and this is fundamentally linked with enlargement policy. The EU has freezed any prospect of enlargement for the moment as convergence -i.e. on the grounds of which enlargement policy was established- is impeded by the debt crisis inside Eurozone as well as by the poor performance of a growing number of candidate member-states, especially in the Balkan region. Nonetheless, Turkey is a case by itself and I strongly believe that a new project of enlargement policy should first start from Turkey.

The crisis in Europe has weakened its global role as well as the synergies that such a political establishment should develop and nourish. Turkey is a vital player in the Middle East area and a country with sustainable influence and growth, despite any deficiencies observed and occured, and the EU should consequently take them into consideration for its future evolution.

Here comes the long-lasting and non-answered question of whether or not Turkey is part of Europe. To my point of view, Turkey is by its 1/8 part of Europe geographically, but 10/10 part of the European Union politically and economically. No matter what the problems of the Turkish political system might be, since the rise of Erdogan in power, the country has achieved to prevent military coups and instability of the past, which I personally consider a great accomplishment.

With emphasis to current conditions, Turkey is faced with a considerable insurgence in its backyard, with Syria and the Kurdish question to be on the frontline. No matter what the future state of Syria will be, Turkey runs the danger of receiving an escalation backlash from a possible outburst of a conflict in Middle East; a conflict that could entangle Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and possibly, Israel. This scenario, even if it has been longly impeded and prevented by the United States and Russia, turns to take more solid dimensions. In case a wider escalation occurs in Middle East, it would certainly affect Turkey as well. How? By downgrading political stability and bringing into surface paramilitary groups that could put the country into an endless internal clash and devastate all economic and political achievements done since 2002. In this framework, EU could function as a protective shield for Turkey and solidify its external support.

The future of Turkey is found inside the European Union and the future of the European Union has to be linked with Turkey in order to secure peace in the homeland and the wider region while endeavoring to re-catch the lost ground of international influence in the framework of a wider synergy that would entail both EU and Turkey. It is a win-win game and both Ankara and the European Commission should start thinking on that basis.

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