The EU and Turkey - the million-dollar question

In the refugee crisis the collaboration between the EU and Turkey has increasingly come under the public spotlight. Journalists and academics discuss how much the two sides need each other and who stands to gain or lose from closer cooperation.

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T24 (TR) /

The EU was an anchor

Human rights activist Oma Baydar laments the current tensions in relations between the EU and Ankara and sees Turkey's chances of joining the EU receding into the distance in the online paper T24:

“People like me defend accession to the EU because it would pave the way for democratic development, universal values, respect for the law, pluralism and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict. Naturally we know even better than those who oppose accession that the EU is no heaven on Earth. … But for our extremely fragile democracy the process of moving closer to the EU was an anchor that kept the ship, which had entered stormy waters, from crashing into the rocks. … Now we have reached the point where the chemistry between Erdoğan and the EU is no longer right. On his path towards totalitarianism Erdoğan sees the EU as a millstone around his neck. … And the EU has contributed to this development because it prefers to remain a Christian club and to betray its values every now and then.”

Karar (TR) /

Don't reduce relations to accession

Turkey has little chance of joining the EU, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, the conservative daily Karar believes:

“For a long time Turkey's relations with Europe were stuck over the question of its EU membership, and that did a lot to influence its view of Europe. Recently, however, the country has undergone a process of change, forging a new kind of strategic relationship with key EU countries - first and foremost Germany. And while such a relationship doesn't exclude EU membership at a later date, it doesn't anticipate it either. ... The fact that in its budget for 2014 - 2020 the EU Commission didn't earmark any funds for Turkey's membership shows that at least in the medium term the EU has no interest in Turkey joining it. In short, Turkey's relations with Europe will slowly move away from the question of EU accession, which is basically a positive development.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Turkey also needs Europe

Angela Merkel travelled to Turkey with Donald Tusk and Vice-President of the EU Commission Frans Timmermans on the weekend, and visited a refugee centre there. Their visit shouldn't just be written off as an attempt to curry favour with the Turkish leadership after the refugee deal, the daily paper Süddeutsche Zeitung argues:

“The Europeans are succumbing to their Eurocentrism when they only see themselves in trouble and claim the Turks have carte blanche to do as they please. Beyond the jubilant scenes with the European trio organised by Davutoğlu's party Turkey is in a precarious situation, both internally and externally. The country is surrounded by adversaries and enemies. Syria, Iraq, Iran and Russia to the north - with none of its neighbours are its relations good. And within the country the situation is more strained than it has been in years. … So Turkey needs Europe, even it if won't say so openly because it could be interpreted as a sign of weakness. And this great need could also represent a great opportunity.”

Yeni Şafak (TR) /

Ankara is finally receiving fair treatment

The pro-government daily Yeni Şafak is convinced that the refugee deal will force a change in EU-Turkey relations:

“This time the EU countries that are relying on the Turkish leadership to halt the migratory wave from Syria will have to give up their habit of blocking Turkey's EU adventure. For years the EU has brushed Turkey off in a way it didn't deserve and always found excuses for not conducting membership talks. But now we have the chance to make the EU grant Turkey its rights, including visa-free travel, the opening of a new chapter in the membership negotiations and the revision of the customs union agreements.”

La Croix (FR) /

The wrong time for concessions

Concessions are not a good idea in view of the Turkish president's political ambitions, the daily La Croix believes:

“The question remains: is this the moment to make major concessions to Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? The answer is no. Politically the Turkish leader shows each day that he does not share the European ideals. He sees his country as an independent regional power and not as the 29th member of the Union. He sees himself as the leader of a Muslim world that is a counterweight - or even rival - to Europe and the West. ... In this context such a step is inappropriate. On the other hand, Europeans must actively support Turks who are fighting in their country for Western-style democracy, freedom of religion and expression, and the equality of men and women.” (GR) /

Europe afraid of even more Muslims

The discussion over the eased visa restrictions promised to Turkey when the refugee deal was signed is particularly emotionally charged. The liberal web portal Protagon looks at why many EU countries are resisting visa-free travel for Turks:

“For months thousands of Muslims have been arriving in numerous EU capitals as a consequence of the flood of refugees. This has aroused many people's conservative instincts and made them even more frightened than before. The national governments fear that these reactions will be exacerbated if even more people from a large Islamic country like Turkey have easier access to the EU. That explains why some governments are considering setting up obstacles to the implementation of the agreement. And so we see the following contradiction: the EU will give Turks largely visa-free travel to Europe while the governments of the member states will seek out ways (plausible and implausible) to sabotage the agreement as much as possible.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Turkey needs more self-confidence

Europe needs Turkey - but in a modern and self-confident version, the daily paper Jutarnji list warns:

“This Turkish government behaves as if it were full of complexes. Yet both the past and the prospects for the future show that Turkey certainly has no reason to suffer from complexes. A Turkey that gave women the right to vote before many European states did, and that shows no less tolerance towards minorities than the long-gone Ottoman Empire did could be a true partner for Europe. But if it keeps acting like a proud and angry little Ceasar - we have enough such Caesars in Europe. With this behaviour Turkey is hurting both itself and the Muslims in Europe towards whom it should feel a moral responsibility. It is strengthening the anti-Islam forces in Europe. In this way too, it could contribute to the homogenisation of the EU - but on an extremely negative basis.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Turkey just doing the EU's dirty work

The refugee deal with Turkey shows that the EU remains stuck in neocolonial ways of thinking, Dries Lesage, professor at the Ghent Institute for International Studies, writes in De Morgen:

“Our discussion of social issues should delve far deeper into the consequences of the crisis, instead of confining itself to cheap propaganda. ... Why is hardly anyone interested in a thoroughgoing discussion of the costs and the distribution of the burden? It's because the deal has been placed in a neocolonial framework, both politically and mentally. The richer regions of the world must not be disturbed by the influx of a few million refugees. Many people accept that as a matter of course. It's strange that Turkey has allowed itself to be forced into such a dishonourable, subordinate role.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Hypocritical criticism of democracy deficit

It is indeed strange that all of a sudden Europe is showing an interest in problems in Turkey which it has systematically ignored for years, the liberal daily Hürriyet Daily News comments:

“European capitals turned a deaf ear to claims of human rights violations in the Turkey’s southeast. Journalists and academics that were sent to jail never made it to Merkel’s agenda. But Europe in general has been turning a blind eye to the deterioration of democratic standards in Turkey ever since it started after 2010. That in fact suited the interests of the Europeans, since democratic back-pedalling meant a further postponement of Turkey’s eventual membership in the EU. The European public opinion’s recent discovery of Turkey sliding towards authoritarian rule is not motivated by a sudden wish to see a more democratic Turkey. Unhappy with the refugee deal, they opted to criticize Merkel for engaging with a leader who is not respecting democratic norms and values.”