The Turkish Policy Quarterly (TPQ) organized a roundtable on Turkey-EU Relations which took  place on Tuesday, October 9th at the Netherlands Consulate at the Palais de Hollande. The topics of the panel moderated by TURABDER’s president included key issues on the agenda: visa exemption for Turkish citizens, updating the Customs Union, security cooperation, and maintaining a constructive dialogue on Turkey’s reform agenda. The program was as follows and the moderator’s opening speech

The Moderator, Gül Günver Turan’s  (President, Turkey-European Union Association) opening speech was as follows: 

We live in difficult times and this is true not only for Turkey, but also the EU.

Fretting about fragmentation within the EU with its north moving away from its south,

Discussing how Eastern member of the EU feel  left out, critizizing  their being considered as second class members by core members of the EU,

The isolation felt by applicant countries who have no hope for full membership until 2025 or maybe even at a later date,

Fears about outside powers such as China, Russia trying to penetrate even divide the EU

fill the EU agenda.

We hear leaders, pro european ngos say :   “We have to  fight for a more united Europe. We need to fight for an open and tolerant society”,

Our next European elections in 2019 are important and we have to vote for more unity and not divisions”.

We also hear about dangers facing democracy and this not only in emerging and developing countries but in developed ones too  .

We see across Europe  nationalist and far right parties having  made significant electoral gains, with some having taken office while others have become  the major opposition.

We see  centrist parties who to retain their power have seen themselves forced to adjust to the demands of extreme rightists.

Fear of globalisation, fear of dilution of national identity, having to live through  financial crises and facing migrant crises have exacerbated these tendencies.

And when a tempest of this size hits Europe the deluge reaches its neighbours in greater proportions, at greater speed . A different multiplier and accelerator enters the game.

The title of to-day’s panel is Differing views on Turkey EU engagement.

Will these views be differing or complementary was my first reaction to the title? We shall probably know more after the presentations.

I was also surprised by  the last part of the title “Turkey – EU engagement. Engagement? Should our relations just be labelled as an engagement. Have we accepted to be seen outside the accession process? Are we now going to talk only about Turkey- EU engagement on economic, and security issues which might  bring a common understanding on only  a small number of contentious issues?

Will our relations with the EU remain merely transactional? Will focusing only on narrowly defined issues such as migration and security benefit us all more or less?

All these questions to which I find no satisfactory answers and for which I yearn, long, crave to find answers.

I will not dwell any further I will leave the floor first  to Mr. Ayhan zeytinoğlu, Chairman of the Economic development Foundation  who will be discussing upgrading, modernizing  if ever possible  the customs union agreement. “Ayhan Zeytinoğlu has been the Chairman of the Economic Development Foundation (IKV) since 2015. He is also the Vice-President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) and the President of the Kocaeli Chamber of Industry since 2009. Additionally, he is a member of the General Council of the World Chambers Federation. Currently, he is writing his Ph.D. thesis on agricultural policy and Turkey’s integration to the EU at the Marmara University European Studies Institute. Ayhan Zeytinoğlu is also the General Director of Zeytinoğlu Feed & Pet Food  Inc., Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Autoport Terminal Operators, and General Coordinator of Zeytinoglu Maritime.Following his undergraduate education in London, Ayhan Zeytinoğlu graduated from the University of Indiana in 1980. He holds a master’s degree in International Finance from Butler University”

Our second speaker is  Dr. Zümrüt İmamoğlu who  will discuss another  hot and difficult topic: The potential implications of the Turkish economy’s volatility for bilateral relations with the EU  .  Hot because it affects the daily operations of firms and daily life of citizens, and difficult since the volatility has to be explained by the political volatility of the decision makers. “Dr. Zümrüt İmamoğlu has been serving as Chief Economist of TUSIAD since June 2015. Prior to TÜSİAD, she was a Research Associate at Bahçeşehir University Economic and Social Research Center (Betam). She has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Bahçeşehir University and Kadir Has University. Her main areas of research are Macroeconomics and International Economics. Besides her academic work, she has contributed to policy notes and reports for both the private sector and public sector policy-makers. She has been a commentator at various media platforms such as BloombergHT and CNBC-e.Dr. Zümrüt İmamoğlu graduated from Istanbul Technical University in 2000 and received her master’s degree in Economics from Boğaziçi University in 2002. She completed her Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 2010.

Our third speaker is Dr. Metin Gürcan a researcher at the Istanbul, Policy center…….His topic  is “Security Cooperation dynamics between Turkey and the EU

“Dr. Metin Gürcan, joined the Turkish Special Forces in 2000 and served in Southeast of Turkey, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, and northern Iraq as the team commander/military adviser/liaison officer until 2008. Between 2010 and 2014, Gürcan worked as an analyst officer in the Turkish General Staff. After resigning from the military in 2015. In 2014, Gürcan was a visiting research fellow at Changing Character of War (CCW) Program of Oxford University. He has been published extensively in Turkish and foreign academic journals such as Turkish Studies, Small Wars Journal, Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict, Perceptions, and is the author of two books: The Gallipoli Campaign: The Turkish Perspective and What Went Wrong in Afghanistan? Understanding Counter-insurgency in Tribalized Rural Muslim Environments. Gürcan is a columnist for Washington-based Al-Monitor and a regular contributor of Turkish T24 News Agency. Dr. Metin Gürcan graduated from the Turkish War Academy in 1998 and obtained his master’s degree in Security Studies from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 2010. He completed his Ph.D. at Bilkent University in 2016”Collaboration of the EU and Turkey on foreign policy issues, collaboration within Pesco and the  EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), are other dimensions of working-level engagement. If Turkey could be  viewed as an instrumental partner in foreign policy it might also slow down Turkey moving away from the West.

Our last speaker is Samuel Vesterbye

“Samuel Doveri Vesterbye is the Managing Director of the European Neighborhood Council (ENC) with a specialty in Turkey and the Middle East. He oversees ENC research projects and events, including Academic Council Members and regional research coordination. He has worked with EU projects related to foreign affairs and research on Turkey since 2012 through partnerships and cooperation with the European Parliament, business associations, the European External Action Service and various international think tanks. Previously, he was a journalist in Turkey and Belgium covering Foreign Affairs, Energy and the Middle East. He graduated in Middle Eastern and Central Asian Security Studies with a focus on inter-regional trade and security from the University of St Andrews.”

Mr. Vesterbyewho will be talking about The EU Member States’ current perceptions towards Turkey’s access process, and in the absence of progress on that front, the avenues of engagement that exist between Ankara and Brussels. Quite a controversial subject  especially if we consider  the data of   a  recent Survey recently made by Optimar in 26 provinces of Turkey with 1787 participants on August30-Sep 1 which led our President to talk about a referendum on the issue of membership to the EU