Turkey and the EU: a case for closure

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Turkey’s relations with the EU are dead. This is a reality that only needs an official seal.
Meanwhile, it is a strange feeling to watch the various diplomatic meetings between Turkish and European officials. No matter what they talk about behind closed doors, they tell different stories. Mostly, for Turkish politicians, such diplomatic meetings are important opportunities for sending the message to Turkish citizens that no serious problems exist with the EU. The pro-government media in Turkey are happy to portray Turkish politicians’ visits to Brussels as important events.

There are many who try to convince us that Turkish-EU relations are ongoing, albeit with some problems. No that is not true. What we have between Turkey and the EU is “clinical death.” Thus even if a new chapter of negotiations were to open, this will not change. We all know that both sides are continuing with various technical procedures, just to avoid the responsibility of making a historic decision. In other words, the ongoing contacts between Turkey and the EU look like a play without a plot.

The picture is very clear: Many European leaders no longer believe that Turkey has a pro-EU orientation. Many Turkish leaders no longer believe that Turkey needs the EU. But none of them want to be the “bad guy” who ended the dream, or let’s say, the game. Thus it is very likely that we shall continue to watch endless meetings without substance between Turks and Europeans.

In this vein, it is becoming ever more difficult to mention EU leverage on Turkey. Many, including some ministers, condemn those who call for EU pressure on the Turkish government as perpetrators of treason. Today, there are serious problems of democracy in Turkey. But it is risky to call for EU help. Despite the Turkish constitutional system’s recognition of EU organs as legal and legitimate, it is no longer easy for citizens to give expression to this. Some argue insistently that calling for EU support is treason. It is sad for the whole of Turkey that as of 2014, the political lexicon is again full of words like “treason” and “betrayal.”

Since the EU is fading from the scene, NATO is now Turkey’s most important institutional connection with the West. Thus, our major question is: What will happen to Turkey’s position within NATO?

The future of Turkey’s relations with NATO can be assessed on how Turkey is acting in the Crimean crisis. In other words, Turkey’s role in the ongoing Ukrainian crisis can give some clues about the future of Turkey’s relations with NATO. For example: What is the level of Turkish criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s role in Ukraine? One may compare it, for example, with how the Turkish government criticized the regime of army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt. Many in Turkey, to explain the difference, would say that this is realpolitik. Sure, realpolitik matters, even in Turkey. But it is clear that Turkey’s position on Russia is somehow more “tolerant.” There must be something in this that is beyond realpolitik.

Going back to the EU issue: It is meaningless to talk about whether the EU will suspend Turkey’s candidacy for membership. That is now a bureaucratic detail. Yet what if the EU does it? Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan will quickly bring that into domestic politics as another political issue. Thus, as a humble columnist, my aice to Turkey and the EU is to minimize diplomatic visits for the sake of protecting citizens’ taxes. At least EU funds can then be used for the betterment of areas such as science and research, instead of being frittered away on useless talks among Turkish and EU politicians.

GÖKHAN BACIK (CihanToday’s Zaman) C