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Can Ankara initiate new relations with EU?

French President Macron, asserting that “Erdoğan’s Turkey is not Kemal’s Turkey,” regards “strategic alliance” rather than “full membership” with the EU as suitable for Turkey. What is in Ankara’s hand?

Hilal Köylü

Foreign Ministry’s response to Emmanule Macron found a lot more place in the national press compared to the French President’s actual statement. Such that the ministry’s response seems to amount to maybe the most clear statement so far regarding Turkey’s position in the Turkey-EU relations that have long been referred to as tense and crisis ridden.

The statement had some answers to the questions what actions Turkey is ready to take and not to take on the way to the EU membership. Turkey’s commitment to full EU membership target has been restated with the expression, “with the Presidential system, a more powerful, democratic and secular Turkey is determined to move forward in the direction of EU accession.” It is notable that this massage intended for both the Turkish public and the EU was strengthened with the following statement that, “in full defience of the populism and discrimination that has become our world’s disease, our objective is a more powerful EU with Turkey as a member, based on shared values.” The foreign ministry, announcing its “deep regret” regarding Macron’s statements, also accused Macron for not understanding Turkey’s realities. It is asserted that these realities are related to the ‘difficult period’ brought about by the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016. In the statement, it is also pointed out that the state of emergency had been lifted and reminded that Turkey had entered a period of progress in terms of EU reforms.


What had Macron said so upsetting and impelled Ankara to openly clarify its position regarding the EU:

Of course Macron’s most unsettling statement was “Erdoğan’s Turkey is not Mustafa Kemal’s Turkey.” Macron, in his statement on Elysee’s vision on foreign policy and opinions on EU’s security, had argued that the EU’s security should not be entrusted to the US and also suggested that the security measures should have been reconsidered in deliberation with Russia and the the EU partner countries. Macron, emphasizing the need for reassasment of the relations with Russia and Turkey, had maintained that, in the face of recurrent evidence of Erdoğan’s ‘pan islamist’ agenda, it was a must for the relations with Turkey to be reexamined.


Before Macron, Sarkozy and the German Chancellor Merkel had mentioned strategic partnership instead of full membership for Turkey. Macron was merely repeating them but it was the first time the deed was so openly put forward. However, there were great drawbacks in Macron’s statements.

Retired ambassador Selim Kuneralp, who had also served as the permenant representative of Turkey to the EU points out these drawbacks while also warning Ankara. Kuneralp, asking the questions, “why does not Macron explain the context of this strategic partnership? What is his proposal, what kind of a model does he suggest for Turkey? Is he dewelling on the Swiss or Norwegian model for Turkey?” maintains that Ankara should question the context. According to Kuneralp, Macron’s statements are precursor to a preparation of a plan regarding Turkey and EU. “Turkey has been discarded as a full member, the experienced tensions, regressions regarding the EU reforms in Turkey have come to an unrepairable point,” says Kuneralp and wants Ankara to realize this and question whether it is willing to negotiate on strategic pertnership or not. Kuneralp points out that there is not a single step taken to convince the Turkish and EU public opinion even though Ankara is saying that, “we are determined for full membership” and he adds, “the reform action group that has not convened in three years meets and announces that the EU reforms would be discussed. Ok than, why did not they convene for three years? How could Ankara explain this? The news are reporting that the JDP (Justice and Development Party – AKP) and the NAP (Nationalist Action Party – MHP) have agreed on the reinstatement of the capital punishment. Can there be any explanation for this regarding the EU membership?”


Ankara, with the ‘initiative target’ announcing its determination for progress in the EU relations is planning to start with the ‘diplomatic push.’ In early September German Foreign Minister Heiko Josef Maas will be paying an official visit to Ankara. Foreign ministry sources argue that the visit has ‘critical importance’ for the Ankara-EU relations and say that Germany, contrary to France, will be supporting Turkey’s arguments. However, the most vital contact on behalf of Ankara for improving relations with the EU will be Erdoğan’s official visit to Germany on September, 28-29. During the visit Erdoğan is expected to put most emphasis on the assertion that Turkey is determined for full membership and reject considering other alternatives.

EU is not in “full membership” relation with Switzerland and Norway but runs relations based on economic cooperation.

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