When the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was interviewed in Rome early this week, he refused anything less then a full membership of the European Union. Although this is not the first time either Erdogan or his government’s officials are vociferously rejected a form of privileged partnership with the EU, I believe this is probably the right time for Turks to seriously consider a partnership with the EU, provided the offer still holds.
There are two good reasons for this.
Currently Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU are on hold or it has been in hold for a while. Most people have lost track of what negotiation Chapter is currently open, if any, and which is closed/closed without completion and for what reason. While the EU’s migration deal of 2015 with Turkey was expected to re-energise the relationship between Turkey and the EU, it rather did not change much in the nature of this ever so complicated relationship. However it has been successful in helping the EU member states in stemming the flow of migrants reaching Europe from Sea. Additionally when the EU required the Turkish authorities to make certain changes in its Counter-Terrorism Law so that the EU could introduce visa free travel for Turkish citizens, something the EU promised Turks before approving the Migration deal, the Turkish government is resisting to take those steps.
As a result there is not a constructive or a friendly dialogue between the EU and Turkey that would, as one hoped, re-energise the relationship in some form. I believe if the Turkish government could agree to begin to talks about a Partnership with the EU, this ever slow progressing and complicated relationship could be given another shot.
Furthermore Turkey’s Syrian policy choices have ended up isolating her from the West and the United States of America at the international stage. Not acting in line with neither the EU member states nor with the Americans, it has been questioned whether Turkish government under Erdogan is cozying up to Russia. By seriously considering the option of privileged partnership, the Turkish government could show to the West that it still wants to be part of Europe or the EU. This does not however mean that the Turks would have to give up on full membership forever. Surely if a member state like the United Kingdom can exit the EU, and then hope to form a deep partnership with the EU, Turkey as a privileged partner of the EU could in the future ask to join the EU as a full member.