Mutual distrust and interdependency, mix of conflict and cooperation are terms which have characterized Turkey’s relations with the Eu for decades.
I have now been asked to look into my crystal ball and talk about possible scenarios for Turkey in respect to its accession to the EU. Modelling scenarios can only rest on assumptions, on determining a time period for which the analysis will be valid. These scenarios need also be concomitant to those valid for the EU but one must also be reminded that scenario building in a context of flux and uncertainty is not easy.
- I. Let us start with the short run, that is for this year and the coming year. When we look at Turkey and try to describe what characterizes policies conducted three terms come to mind mind:
Reshaping: reshaping the army, the judiciary system, the bureaucracy, the media, the NGO s and now the educational system so that it will fit the identity of the new Turkey that the present government wishes to build.
Boosting : to boost economic growth the government has made appeal to financial measure as yet never used. The government has expanded a credit guarantee fund guaranteeing loans banks write to businesses. This has been followed by large private credit expansion at the same time as the government continues its huge infrastructure projects, building roads, hospitals, subways and high-speed rail. Shot of steroids will continue with the use of the wealth fund when the effects of the credit guarantee fund will have worn out.
Shifting: Shifting of axis in foreign policy. Turkish foreign policy to-day displays a fundamentally different pattern compared to previous governments. Shifting of axis is followed by what I would also call having now a loose anchor, having an erratic compass . We now drift away from the West, but at the same times messages sent are that we will not pull the plug out. We focus ourselves to our Muslim Middle Eastern neighbors but alienate ourselves from them by interfering in their domesitc affairs , talk of our belonging to the BRIC (Brazil, India, Russia, and China) countries , discuss becoming members of the Shanghai group. Drifting back and forth in our narrative is never constructive. Foreign policy in Turkey is concentrated mostly on Syria, the PKK the Ydp and ISIS and keeping our borders safe.
When we look at the present state of the EU we see that the impact of the rise of nationalism, xenophobia and racism has caused a shift in member countries public opinion towards further enlargement.The geopolitical situation in the Middle East and North Africa which is driving millions of people from their homes causing millions to be displaced, seeking asylum causes fears and ends up with talks about border closure. Turkey is being viewed as a buffer zone between a supposedly peaceful EU and a crise ridden Middle East. The EU is also faced with successive internal crises, crises which started long ago such as the rejection of the constitution, the eurozone crisis, the possibility of Grexit, the refugee crise, Brexit and rise of illiberal democratic tendencies in some member countries which causes fatigue and unwillingness in dealing with others desires
Under these circumstances that is in the short run there can only be growing enstrangement in the relations between the Eu and Turkey. Enlargement can only be shelved. Members such as Portugal, Spain, and Italy who were supporters of Turkey are now mostly concerned about recovering from the economic crise, the UK who was a fervent supporter of Turkey has during their referendum campaign done a permanent volte face, northern member states Sweeden, Finland who had also supported Turkey now view negatively the democratic backsliding of Turkey . The new alliance built with Russia causes fear in the Balkans. The result is a strengthening of the anti Turkey constituency.
In the short run I see no chance of any new dialogue between the EU and Turkey but I also think it unlikely that the EU will suspend the accession process….except if there is a reinstatement of the death penalty…
- II: What about the medium term that is from 2019 to 2023
All will depend on the form the EU will have, on how the Brexit deal will have taken shape, on the turn domestic and foreign policy in Turkey will have taken and how public opinion both in the Eu and in Turkey will view impending relations. If scepticism and opposition towards Turkey’s EU accession is still strong, there will be little chance for full accession. If in Turkey concerns over national sovereignty, fear of loss of moral values, discrimination on religious grounds and fear of territorial partition continues to be the main drivers of euroscepticism in Turkey, dialogue will be at a stand still.
If no full membership is in the agenda the alternative could be what the Germans called a priviledged parnership,or a form of associate membership In the political arena, no longer anchored to the EU, Turkey will be left to do what it wants. Depending on who would have won the elections in 2019 Turkey will have either moved to a full presidential system or a move back to a more democratic form of government which then would allow for new dialogues. Ties on the economic front will be strong , the customs union agreement will be renewed and modernized , Turkey would continue to be a strategic country for the EU for security and energy route reasons.
This medium term scenario would lead Turkey to move even more away from Europe. A divorce is more than painful whatever the settlement.
- III. As to the long term, that is 25 to 50 years from now, what can I say. Most probably most of us who are here present will not be there to see it….