Why Turkey and the EU should Make a Fresh Start

Turkey has always been, is, and will likely remain one of the most vital countries for the European Union. According to Richard Coudenhove, Turkey has always been an integral part of Europe’s history. Over centuries, relations between the two were characterized by cooperation and convergence— for instance, the deep economic, cultural, artistic, and societal exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and European powers and city-states in the fifteenth through to the seventeenth centuries.

At the same time, conflict and competition were rampant, notably the Ottoman-Habsburg wars, until the “European balance of power” in the eighteenth century. But even in times of war, a code of honour existed between the warring parties, in a sign of recognition and legitimization of one another.

In terms of its importance for the EU, Turkey stands on par with Russia in the neighbourhood, and a step down after the United States and China on the global scene.  Moreover; the EU is significant to Turkey. According to Foreign Direct Investment; Turkish economy heavily relies on European investment with almost 60 per cent.

Much of Turkey’s foreign trade ties with European Union countries. For instance; Holland is the 10th biggest buyer of Turkish exports, while Dutch direct investments in Turkey are some of the largest, totalling $22 billion

Having applied for European Community membership in 1987, Turkey has been in the accession process for three decades. Many Turkish people feel that Turkey would probably never become a member of the Union owing to prejudices of some its members

This loss of enthusiasm was partly driven by a growing conviction in Turkey that the country faced double standards with respect to the accession criteria.

Stages in the EU Accession Process – Turkey in Comparative Perspective

  Poland Turkey Croatia
Application submitted 1997 1987 2003
Commission Opinion 1997 1989 2004
Candidate status 1997 1999 2004
Accession talks start 1998 2005 2005
Accession talks end 2003 2013
Accession 2004 2013


As can be seen that Turkey has been a victim of this scaling down of European attention. EU-Turkey relationships reveals its profound uncertainty. The EU needs to corporate with Turkey with regard to refuge crisis. The EU has to rely on Turkey’s co-operation as it struggles to cope with the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The Syrian conflict and humanitarian crisis, entering its seventh year, has driven a large influx of refugees into Turkey. The official number has already reached almost 3 million, making the country the largest host of Syrian refugees. In political, social and economic terms, Turkey is the most affected country of the Syrian crisis.

A Turkish-EU refuge deal reached last March is achievement despite certain setbacks. The EU and Turkey agreed to speed up membership talks after Ankara promised to cut the number of refugees fleeing to Greece in return for financial aid and visa-free travel for its citizens across the bloc.

The deal has had a great effect on movement in the eastern Mediterranean. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just over 171,000 have crossed to Greece in 2016, much lower than the comparable figure for 2015 of almost 740,000. However, there are some points where the agreement has not been fully implemented. It lack of political, economic commitment has caused some problems. For instance, like direct settlements to EU countries.

According to Erkut Emcioglu of the European Stability Initiative, a think tank based in Berlin, under the deal, we have a one-to-one scheme; for each person readmitted to Turkey, one person would be readmitted to EU member countries. Until now, the number of returns from Greece to Turkey is 915 as of March 2015.

The number of people resettled from Turkey to the EU is 3,800.  Some countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden did not implement the voluntary resettlement scheme, most probably because of their electoral campaigns.

If a Turkey-European deal collapse as a result, many refugees will have many difficulties and they will suffer serious mental illnesses, according to a number of charities. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Oxfam has said recently that the deal exposed refugees to risk and abuse, and accused Europe of setting a dangerous precedent.

“The EU-Turkey deal is playing roulette with the futures of some of the world’s most vulnerable. It has become mission impossible for those who need it most to seek refuge in Europe,” Panos Navrozidis, the IRC’s country director in Greece, said.

Gunther Verheugen, the former European Commissioner, has urged that; Turkey and EU to make fresh start “We must not forget that geography, history and the global situation push us closer. The European Union must unconditionally guarantee that Turkey will be permanently part of the European family with equal rights. Turkey in return, should reassure that it will address major domestic problems within the limits of democracy and the rule of law. The main question is how we can build our joint future as equals.”

Turkey and the European Union must boost mutual understanding by searching the possibilities of further inclusion, rather than by playing on xenophobia and exclusion. In the short term, a renewed partnership between Turkey and EU could help Europe to manage better the consequences of the refuge crisis. However; Turkey must reassure that; a stable, democratic and prosperous Turkey will help to strength deep economic, cultural, security, and societal exchanges between the EU and Turkey.

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All writers' views in articles are their own and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Asfar team.

Published by Asfar in London, UK - ISSN 2055-7957 (Online)