Erdogan's victory to pave way for Türkiye's EU accession despite anti-Turkish rhetoric
    Opinion by Matanat Nasibova

    ANALYTICS  31 May 2023 - 16:06

    Matanat Nasibova

    The victory of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the second round of the elections in Türkiye stumped the West, which followed the race and the voting tensely, hoping to detect some kind of violation, and maybe a fraud. However, the flawless conduct of the election, including the well-coordinated system of civil control, not only confirmed the true democracy in the country but also forced detractors to come to terms with the new reality of extending Erdogan's presidency for another five years and maintaining engagement with Ankara in various international formats.

    President Joe Biden was among the first world leaders to write on his Twitter account that, regarding Türkiye, "the US looks forward to continued cooperation as a NATO ally in the areas of bilateral policy and common global challenges". A little later, French President Emmanuel Macron, congratulating Erdogan, noted that France and Türkiye had "great challenges to overcome together".

    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in a telephone conversation with Erdogan, invited the Turkish leader to visit Berlin, expressing a desire to change the situation in the eastern Mediterranean in a positive direction, to cooperate in building relations between Türkiye and the European Union, and to work on decisions taken by NATO. This suggests that Germany's plans for Türkiye are quite ambitious and designed for prospective engagement. Perhaps, that is because, firstly, Germany is Ankara's most important partner, and secondly, the largest ethnic minority in Germany is Turks.

    In general, it is thanks to Erdogan that Turkish-German relations have strengthened markedly in recent times, with a sustained pragmatism and a positive dynamic in bilateral contacts. Although certain contradictions remain, notably on the migration issue, the interaction between the two countries is not only quite positive today, but also developing dynamically.

    Türkiye's relations with France are not so good - the countries are actually teetering on the brink of confrontation. And one of the main divergences, as well as with Germany, is the position of almost all European states on Türkiye's accession to the European Union. However, it should be noted that Ankara considers Berlin's position to be more honest on this issue than that of France, which also has a logical explanation.

    Back in 2004, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder pledged Türkiye's full support in its bid to become a member of the European Union and supported the political and economic reforms being implemented by Erdogan's government in every possible way. For Ankara, Berlin's support was very important, since Türkiye's accession negotiations were due to begin in December of that year. In August 2005, Chancellor Schröder urged Brussels to begin accession talks with Ankara and even indirectly criticised the opinion of Paris, which then urged Türkiye to recognise the Greek part of Cyprus before talks on its membership in the EU. Thus, the issue of Türkiye's accession to the "European family" dragged on for many years. However, Schröder's calls that the European Union needs a partner like Türkiye continued even after the federal chancellor left office. In an interview with the German newspaper Rheinische Post, the former chancellor reiterated in February 2021 that Türkiye had never taken an anti-EU stance and reminded all of Europe that Türkiye's bid for EU membership was still pending, although the process had lasted more than a decade.

    By the way, there were further statements that Germany would speed up Türkiye's accession process to the EU, already at the level of the then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She repeatedly urged the EU to provide €3 billion in financial aid to Türkiye due to the serious migration crisis. At the time, Germany was counting on the Turkish authorities to keep the flow of refugees from the warring Middle East on its territory, preventing an influx of migrants into Europe.

    Current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on the other hand, advocates continued negotiations between the European Union and Türkiye. So, it is possible that Germany will play a mediating role in promoting Ankara's interests in the EU.

    France's position has not changed since the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. Back in 2007, Sarkozy made a provocative statement saying there was no place for Türkiye in the European Union. Later, the same hostile stance was taken by François Hollande and now Emmanuel Macron. The latter said back in 2018 that Ankara's EU membership was impossible, and in January 2022, when asked by Le Parisien whether he would support Türkiye's EU membership, he replied "absolutely not", justifying his negative attitude by claiming that Erdogan had plans to expand political Islam, not recognise Cyprus as an EU member state and pursue an aggressive policy in the eastern Mediterranean.

    So there is no doubt about Paris' far from the benevolent attitude towards Ankara, and it is unlikely to change after Erdogan's victory in the recent elections. This is also indicated by the fact that the success of the incumbent has stirred up certain destructive forces in the European Parliament. Manfred Weber, head of the European People's Party (EPP) in the European Parliament, made the reckless statement in an interview with the Funke media group that neither the EU nor Türkiye wants EU membership.

    According to him, "recent years have shown that a close partnership is important, but no one wants full membership for Türkiye in the EU anymore". These kinds of calls were also made in the European Parliament in July 2017, so Weber's address, immediately after Erdogan's victory, suggests that there are destructive forces within the structure itself that are willing to torpedo the issue and obstruct any initiatives in support of Türkiye. But it appears that Ankara is not going to retreat and will actively promote the European agenda in spite of the anti-Turkish rhetoric of Paris and Brussels. At a meeting with the Dutch Prime Minister last March, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it very clear: "We expect the EU to open the issue of Türkiye's membership of the European Union quickly and to start talks on the Customs Union without giving in to internal untenable conflicts of interest". And the Turkish leader's warning was most likely addressed to France and to certain forces in the European Parliament hostile to Ankara. However, looking at how firm and consistent the Turkish leadership is, Erdogan personally, who has a clear vision for the future and tirelessly promotes national interests in the region and the world, there is no doubt that Ankara will push the issue of its EU membership till final victory.


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