What line should the EU take with Turkey?

After the yes to the constitutional reform in Turkey the EU faces the question of how to redefine its relations with the country, which is officially still a candidate for EU accession. Tensions in Turkey are running high and Europe must treat it with kid gloves, some commentators warn. Others believe the country should even lose its Nato membership.

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Cicero (DE) / 19 April 2017

Nato should give Turkey the boot

The question is not whether the EU accession talks should be ended but whether Turkey under Erdoğan can remain a member of Nato, Cicero contends:

“The man is a loose cannon on board of this defence alliance based on shared values. What if after the next coup attempt Erdoğan decides to blame foreign powers, the Gülen movement or whoever, and calls on his Nato partners for support? Does anyone in the Western alliance want to face such a request? … After weighing up the pros and cons a lot can be said for bidding farewell to this Nato partner. The strategic goal of the West must be to reduce dependence on Erdoğan's Turkey as much as possible.”

Kathimerini (GR) / 19 April 2017

A closed door must be secure

Greece and the EU as a whole must now be wary of Turkey, Kathimerini warns:

“Turkish history has often shown that triumph and defeat can be very close to each other. The problem is that Greece shares a border with Turkey and will feel the consequences of the developments there. If EU-Turkey relations become even more strained, our interests will also be at risk, especially if Erdoğan feels that he has Trump's and Putin's support. … It won't be easy to coexist with a neighbour who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown, with a leader who is veering between gigantomania and paranoia. Perhaps we must even convince our European partners that they must carefully select a stance vis-à-vis Turkey. They must be cautious because if they do close the door on Turkey permanently, it would be good if that door was very secure.”

Der Standard (AT) / 19 April 2017

Turkish opposition needs an accession option

The EU should refrain from formally ending the accession negotiations with Turkey because this would only further weaken the opposition, Der Standard warns:

“Breaking off the accession negotiations definitively, as Austria's government wants the EU to do, wouldn't change anything in practice, since the talks have de facto already been frozen. But it would send a signal that the EU no longer believes in Turkish democracy - just as Donald Trump did by congratulating Erdoğan on his victory. An end to the talks is precisely what the Turkish president wants because then he can cast himself as the victim. The reintroduction of the death penalty serves the purpose of provoking this reaction. The EU shouldn't fall into this trap but instead explain clearly that it won't conduct accession talks with Erdoğan, but it will with a future leadership that adheres to Europe's values. Formally ending the talks would rule out this option - and greatly weaken the opposition to Erdoğan.”

Foreign Policy (US) / 17 April 2017

Referendum offers chance for a fresh start

The fact that Turkey has no chance of joining the EU for the foreseeable future could help both sides to reach viable compromises on individual issues, the US magazine Foreign Policy believes:

“Some observers hoped Erdogan's demonization of Europe would end after a successful referendum. However, it may signal the start of a permanent shift in Turkey's perspective. ... If Turkey surrenders (or forfeits) its bid for EU accession, two orders of business will likely remain on the table. First is the refugee crisis, with EU leaders having a vested interest in maintaining arrangements negotiated last summer to stem flows. ... The second is economic. The sides may dispense with unpleasant discussions about rule of law and focus instead on strengthening their customs union and potentially negotiating a free trade agreement.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) / 17 April 2017

Allow Turks visa-free travel

For the daily taz it's clear how Europe must now react:

“It's just a matter of time before Erdoğan puts an end to the EU accession process by reintroducing the death penalty. The most important thing now is to maintain contact with the 50 percent of the Turkish population that voted for democracy and closer ties to the West. Europe must make use of every opportunity to support civil society initiatives, even if Erdoğan tries to get in the way. And as strange as it may sound: Europe should lift visa restrictions for Turkish citizens as quickly as possible. Because only in this way can Turkish civil society maintain the contact with Europe that it so urgently needs.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) / 18 April 2017

Sultanate unacceptable

The EU must adopt a clear stance against Turkey now, Dagens Nyheter urges:

“Even before the referendum, the EU accession negotiations had no chance of success. As long as Erdoğan is in power there can be no question of membership for the country. At the same time trade relations with the EU remain important for Turkey, especially as the country is now moving backwards. Growth is low, inflation is high, the lira has rapidly declined in value. ... Erdoğan has promised to revive the economy if he gets a free hand. The truth is that he doesn't want any more reforms, because they could chip away at his power base. Instead there is the risk that corruption will now increase. The fact is that Turkey is where it is, and the EU and Nato will have to live with that. But saying Yes to the Sultanate of Erdoğanistan is something else altogether.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) / 18 April 2017

EU will continue to collaborate with Erdoğan

The EU may well continue to show willingness to compromise even after Turkey's move towards authoritarianism, Il Sole 24 ore fears:

“The long fiction about Turkey's accession to the EU has reached its final episode. With the reform that turns the country into a presidential autocracy Erdoğan will become a rais and take his place between Putin and Assad in the gallery of oriental despotism. What a paradox for a country that is a member of Nato. Now we will watch how Europe, with its usual hypocrisy, tries to cling to the fiction of EU accession. After all, the West prefers autocratic leaders as they guarantee stability. … And there are other reasons. Erdoğan doesn't just control politics. By founding a Turkish state fund the president has already secured access to strategically important companies and major projects through which European companies have undertaken obligations vis-à-vis Ankara. After the first words of warning the Europeans will reach compromises with the new rais - at the expense of the opposition, the Kurds and democracy.”

Dnevnik (SI) / 18 April 2017

Turkey drifting away from Europe

By adopting the presidential system Erdoğan is burning all bridges with the EU, Dnevnik concludes:

“At several campaign rallies Erdoğan made it clear that he has decided against EU membership. He will now reinforce this decision with the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey. With this move he will turn back time in Turkey, consolidate his power and break off Turkey's membership talks with the EU. When Erdoğan began dismantling the constitutional state, the millions in pre-accession assistance that the EU was providing to Turkey for strengthening the rule of law ceased almost entirely. After the death of democracy on the Bosphorus the EU is an even weaker position vis-à-vis Turkey.”

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