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Turkey and the EU: time for plan B?

Turkey and the EU: time for plan B?

POOL / AFP / File / OLIVIER HOSLET
Erdogan has begun 2018 in a more conciliatory spirit
After an over half century accession, Turkey and the European Union are moving into a new era of relations where they will focus on Ankara’s drive for full membership, analysts say. Ties between Turkey and the EU reached a low point in 2017 with the membership process and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing some key members, including Germany, of behavior reminiscent of the Nazis.
But Erdogan has begun 2018 in a different spirit, bounding off the first week of January on a visit to Paris and his foreign ministry making a key fence-mending trip to Germany. Meanwhile, French leaders have urged a new spirit of realism, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying during Erdogan’s January 5, “It’s time to end the” hypocrisy “that progress could be made on Turkish membership. “Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), said,” There is an understanding on the side of accession. “She told AFP, adding this would mean more emphasis on trade. “Ankara sees this as such and no illusions about revitalizing the accession process,” she added. – ‘Downsizing the relationship’ – The July 2016 failed coup marked a watershed moment in the history of Turkey-EU relations, with Ankara accusing the block of failing to show solidarity and Brussels sounding alarm over the post-blow crackdown mass. Erdogan has repeatedly been huffed and puffed over the length of Turkey’s EU bid, complaining that Ankara has been “watched for waiting for the door” for 50 years as it is watched by the former Communist States being let in without fuss. Accession talks began in October 2005. Out of the total of 35 chapters needed to be closed to the EU, 16 have been opened with just one closed. No new chapter has been opened since June 2016.

POOL / AFP / File / MARINE LUDOVIC
Erdogan puts Macron in Paris last week
“It’s clear that we are moving towards this hypocrisy of thinking a natural progression towards the opening of new chapters is possible when this is not true,” Macron said after his talks with Erdogan. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, whose country holds the presidency, said Friday it was better to have a “realistic” discussion with Turkey about membership without “hiding the problems”.
Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and an ambassador to Turkey, said Ankara “by its own choices”, especially on the rule of law, in the wake of the post-coup crackdown. “Essentially what we are witnessing is the downsizing of the relationship between counter-terrorism, trade and refugees,” he told AFP. Hurriyet daily columnist Sedat Ergin wrote Friday’s Macron’s words to “paradigm change” in Turkey’s relationship with the EU, for the French leader, would rather be defined “cooperation in pursuit of common goals” rather than enlargement. “He said,” This is a new format of cooperation. Incentives for Turkey without full membership include visa liberalization and an upgrading of the existing customs union. But EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said Ankara would offer a so-called “privileged partnership” as an insult, saying Turkey would never accept a “second class status”. – ‘Warming up to Europe’ – Elsewhere, Turkey’s hopes of a strong relationship with US President Donald Trump have been scuppered by rows of Syrian Kurds and a New York short box. Meanwhile Ankara is aware of its current pragmatic partnerships with Turkey’s historic Ottoman rivals Iran and Russia are precarious while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia has reshuffled the cards in the Gulf region. For all the rows of the last year, Turkey is the biggest trading partner, while Turkey is the EU’s largest and most important export market. The meeting between Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel at least changed the mood in a bumpy relationship, with Berlin’s top diplomat hosting his guest in his folksy Lower Saxon hometown and treating him to a cup of home-brewed Turkish tea.

AFP / File / Tobias SCHWARZ
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu held the fence-mending talks last week
Gabriel had late December suggested a deal for Britain’s relationship with the EU after Brexit could be a model for the future relationship of Turkey with the bloc. “Turkey is warming up to Europe and there is a deliberate effort by leaders in Ankara to distance themselves from the accusations and accusations,” said Aydintasbas.

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