On November 29th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that “Turkey has other alternatives to the European Union, but has not yet ‘closed the EU book”.
More vividly, on October 21st, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, during a Conference of the ruling “Justice and Development Party” (AKP), affirmed, inter alia, that “the European Union should not forget that Turkey always has other alternatives”, a reference being backdropped by the unsuccessful, up to now, Turkey’s efforts to come effectively closer and accede the European Union.
There is no doubt that in every EU enlargement process – on 1973, 1981, 1986, 1995, 2004, 2007, recently on 2013, but also in the current discussions with other candidate countries – many thorny and delicate points emerge, between E.U. institutions from one side and the acceding states from the other.
Nevertheless, even the most difficult problems, have been resolved up to now, under a spirit of cooperation and consent. In other terms, this is confirmed by the Treaties of accession which followed.
By the present statements, Turkish leadership – extending in some way some previous ones in the same direction – creates a European novelty : It’s the first time in the long EU history, that a candidate country directs threats against the European Union itself, an International body where it aspires to accede!
In 1963 Turkey signed an Association Agreement with the then European Economic Community. Turkey’s relations with EEC have been harmed by a series of military coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980.
The European Union, on December 1999 named Turkey as a candidate (eligible) country for accession and, in October 2005, after delicate and difficult discussions, has agreed to start open ended negotiations.
In that respect we have to congratulate the EU officials for their flexibility. In parallel, we have to pay tribute to Greek Diplomacy, which in an open-minded approach, focused on the substance of the enlargement procedure, had a long political vision and, despite its differences with Turkey, supported its European path, even at the risk of provoking the dissatisfaction of some European partners which had and still continue to have substatntial reservations on the matter.
Recently, EU Commission President Jean Claude Junker asked Turkey to “proceed with its commitments vis a vis EU”, while in Brussels, many European officials focus to the principle that “Turkey is acceding to the EU and not the EU to Turkey”.
In fact, could someone conceive a scenario where a state wishes enter an International Organization while by definition does not recognize its constituent Member States?…Could it be possible for Turkey, while wishing enter the EU, not to recognize Cyprus, a Member State of the EU? This is not only practically impossible but also theoretically inconceivable.
Could it be possible for a certain state, wishing enter an international organization, to systematically violate the most basic rules of International Law on Good Neighborly Relations against a member state of this organization?…Could it be possible for Turkey enter the EU, while applying a “casus belli” (war cause) policy against Greece, an EU member State, violating on a daily basis the most essential rules of International Law on the matter?
How could it be possible for Turkey to accede the EU without respecting the fundamental Religion Freedom, notably accumulating continuous threats against the Ecumenical Patriarchate of worldwide Orthodox Christians?
At the end of the Cold War, Turkey tried to perform a new role within its geopolitical dynamics. Many analysts agree that this role has been considerably strengthened after 9/11, Turkey being seen as a “bridge” between the West and Islam due to its Islamic Religion and at the same time due to the secular character of the State. Nevertheless, the large majority of European and international Reports on Religious Freedom are extremely cautious and some of them severely critical for Turkey.
In 1923, approximately 330.000 Christians, most of them of Greek origin, lived in Istanbul a city of one million inhabitants at that time. Today, only a few thousands still live there, after the quasi totality of them being expelled in 1955 and in 1964. On the other hand, if someone requests information related to minority issues in Turkey, he will receive the same stereotype reply minimizing or denying the existence of minorities in Turkey!…
Europe and European Union have their own rules. These rules have been applied – neither more or less favorably – in an equal and objective way towards all the up to now 28 EU Member States and they are still valid in a general application. If Turkey wishes to blackmail E.U., playing its own game, on a deeply humanitarian question, over the critical fate of the immense Refugees’ and Migrants’ flow to Europe, in order to abolish “here and now” the visa regime for Turkish citizens, she will give a real argument to those ones who blame her for undermining cooperation with Europe and the European institutions on the matter.
As far as Turkey’s geostrategic role is concerned, we have to mind that nowadays military technology, does not require in every case “boots on the field” but gives opportunities for operational control even by extensively long distance. Despite Turkey’s significant geostrategic role however, the big question is in what extend this role could be “usable” by the West. A good number of articles in the international press focus on Turkey’s fight against ISIS, while other ones underscore Turkey’s cooperation with ISIS. In this context, who could say with certainty that, in a hypothetical scenario, Turkey would consent to grant military facilities to the West, while she didn’t do so in 2003?
During the last weeks, President Erdogan has publicly put in question the International Treaty of Lausanne, a Treaty which contains, inter alia, regulations regarding the wider South East Mediterranean area and in a great extend Middle East.
Is this kind of regional policy that our friends from Turkey preach to follow?
Are these statements, the Turkish contribution for stability, development and cooperation in the wider South East Mediterranean area?
In that respect, many analysts note that even after Ahmet Davutoglu’s departure from the position of Prime Minister, his ideas on “Strategic Depth” and “Neo-Ottomanism” are present in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policy.
In which extend Turkey really has the will to get closer to the European Union? President Erdogan’s statement “If I have to chose between Turkey’s European perspective and my policy on Cyprus question, I opt for the second one”, can deliver only a very small amount of optimism, both for Cyprus problem solution, as well as for a “European Turkey”. Regardless the fact that this statement took place in 2006 and, “2006 is not 2016”, Turkish policy on this matter, is the same, then and now.
Very often some analysts underscore the “risk” of an eventual scenario for Turkey to turn to some “alternative” options of cooperation, if its way towards Europe faces insurmountable obstacles. The risk for the West to “lose” Turkey. Needless to clarify that this kind of threats are certainly fuelled by statements of Turkish leadership, such as above.
It is evident that, in general, every initiative for political and economic cooperation is always seen under a positive scope. The point in that scenario is whether Turkey is going to leave or to stay within the framework of what we call “Western Alliance”.
The question is not theoretical : If Turkey stays in the same framework of international, political and economic obligations within the Western Alliance, I wonder what could be the real value of any alternative option, the latter presented as a “substitute”.
Yet, the most essential : Does Turkish leadership estimate that any “alternative option” could alienate or abolish Turkey’s obligations within the “Western Alliance”?
If no, to whom these “threats” are addressed?
If yes, it is obvious that the West has to re-consider the whole situation in this case.