New presidency of the EU Council, will accelerate Turkish accession?
The European Council welcomed new The Presidency of The Council of The European Union from January 01 2019 to June’2020. Romania, Finland and Croatia consecutively hold the honor for six-month presidency each. This threesome presidency also was known as “Presidency Trios”. The role of the Presidency of the Council of the EU is defined by the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (Union, 2015). In association with European Parliament & European Commission; the council of the European Union assigns and implements EU laws, harmonizes member countries policies, develop the EU’s security & foreign related issues and policies, concludes agreements and treaties between the member countries and non-member countries, prepare & approve annual EU budget along with the European Parliament (Union, Council of the European Union, 2018).
Valedictory presidency of the council led by Austria took a motto that, ‘A Europe that Protects’ (EU2018). In 2018 the EU will keep priority to fight against illegal migration and they keep their commitment finally except some countries for example Germany. Another priority was expanding EU towards Western Balkans / South Eastern Europe. But in Turkish accession as an EU member, presidency Trios strongly avoided as much as they can. During the last rotating presidency, as the first presidency country, Estonia slightly passed away the issue and imposed it on Bulgaria. Angela Merkel’s television debate on September also causes for Estonia’s decision (Gotev, 2017). In spite of having a close ally with Turkey, Bulgaria also didn’t develop the issue and helplessly surrendered on the EU’s authoritarian nature. Finally nailed finally by stating “EU must stop Turkey accession talks ‘immediately’” by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (NEDOS, 2018).
From January 01, 2019 the new presidency of the council has taken the charge and Romania is leading as the first rotating country. Romanian presidency sets four basic issues as their priority. First of all, a united Europe, second; European safety & security, third; play a global acting role and finally a centralization of common European values (Union, General Affairs Council, 2019). Having those priorities Turkey is also expecting that Romania will faster the long waiting EU accession process. But can Turkey be confident in Romania or think about the repetition of history?
Form the very beginning of the Turkish Republic, Turkey structured itself as good as to possible which was quite similar to the European standard. By signing “Ankara Agreement” in 1963; as the first financial protocol with the EU, Turkey started EU path which was formally submitted in 1959. By signing that treaty Turkey and the EU entered a cooperation era which was divided into three phases. Firstly, a preparatory phase where Turkey will strength own economy by community support by five years, the second phase; where a customs union will be made by a 12-year time scale and finally with a satisfactory situation on above-mentioned issues, The European Economic Community (EEC) will consider Turkish accession. In 1970, Ankara signed an additional protocol for implementing the Customs Union.
After a critical time in Turkish internal politics, Turgut Özal elected in 1983’s election and accelerated accession process once again. By accomplishing all the necessary conditions, Turkey officially applied for the EEC membership in 1987. Unfortunately, after two years later the European Commission denied Turkish application with some recommendations related to financial cooperation, customs union, technical & industrial cooperation and strong political & cultural relations. Ankara successfully implemented the Customs union decision in 1996 (Arcuri, 2013). This act eliminated custom rules and regulations related to bilateral export & import and familiarized a new formation of trade relations. According to this agreement bilateral relation returned in a new formation form agricultural production, intellectual, and different properties. Thus increased bilateral trade between the EU and Turkey. Unfortunately in spite of completing each and everything according to the wishes of the European Council; put one's nose into Turkish internal political situations.
While Turkey strengthening its own national security issues relating to Kurdish issues, the European Council interfere this issues and picked it as a cause of Turkish accession and pick up Turkey on several conditions. At that time, Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit launched necessary economic and political structural reforms to meet with essential requirements of the European Council. As a result, Helsinki European Council valued the reforms in 1999 and recognized Turkey as a candidate state like other candidate states (Arcuri, 2013). After that four consecutive presidency trios have been passed but nothing is developed as it should be. Eleven member countries respectively rotated presidency position but no once stepped ahead in Turkish accession issues. But surprisingly in December 2014, the European Union paved the way of accession negations. The council stated that Turkey meets the Copenhagen Political Criteria (Arcuri, 2013). In order to get accession as an EU member state, every candidate country should abide by some specific conditions which predefined at the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and which was again revised at the Madrid European Council in 1995. Major conditions are related to developing democratic institutionalization; develop minority’s related rules and laws, functioning bilateral market economy with the European Union. To accept Turkey as a member of the European Union, ‘Accession Partnership’ implemented by the Union. In the meantime, anti-Turkish propaganda being started in different EU member states. During the EU parliamentary election in 2009, far-right parties have campaigned against the membership of any Muslim country (Hurriyet, 2009)! Being a developed country they have portrayed a religious face of Turkey and showed a strong opposition against Turkish accession in the European Union. Also known as a strong country among the member states, France and Germany also opposed Turkish accession in the European Union. It is stated that in the time of the election the political decision maker created this anti-Turkish campaign to distract public attention from the worst domestic situation such as economic and institutional instability among the EU member states which comes from the global economic crisis in 2009 (Arcuri, 2013). On the other hand, at that third economic quarter, Turkey just passing away the economic crisis. Most of the newspaper and media was criticizing AK Parties decision to refusing IMF assistance offer (Öztürk, 2011). But in spite of the massive economic crisis, Turkey made a gradual development at the end of 2011. The unemployment was stabilized at 9.5%, attracted private investment at 25% and both GDP & private consumption was raised by 13% (Öztürk, 2011).
In October 2011, The annual report on Turkey issued by the European Commission which reflects total progress of Turkish progress towards the EU accession. During this time, Turkey also took remarkable steps to reshuffle the Turkish administrative structure. Turkey introduced Ombudsman’s office, improved criminal evaluation system, emphasised over counterterrorism issues. Form the economic perspective, this report mentioned Turkish economy is moving towards a ‘Soft Landing’ economic structure (Arcuri, 2013). Moreover, Turkey developed as it required according to the demand of the EU. In 2012, the European Commission published “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2012-2013” report. The report covers the pros and cons of the EU enlargement process with the Western Balkans, Iceland and Turkey. According to the report, Turkish dynamic development in energy security, geopolitical role and youth representation represent Turkey in an advanced position for accession as an EU member. This report also declares that Turkey has shown its active support and rearranged everything that the European Commission required in the new positive agenda which announced in May 2012. For further proceedings, the council invited the commission for a border dialogue between the EU and Turkey and also invited for taking necessary steps for visa liberalisation as gradual and long term perspective (Commission, 2012).
But in 2012 a light crisis was seen when Cyprus has led the presidency of the EU Council. Turkey boycotted Cyprus presidency of the council of the EU in the second half of 2012. Turkey intended to mean pressure on the Republic of Cyprus and the EU to show more willingness to reach the agreement which will be in favour of Turkey (Ananicz, 2012).
Now, why I have introduced this long history? Because the new generation readers should know the history that how Turkey long-sufferingly stepped for the accession as an EU member but every time Turkey returning back with new but silly causes. In the long run, it is too easy to understand that the European Union is still trying to find some other options to lengthen the process. Though Turkey is expecting some advancements form Romanian lead presidency but I afraid either history turns back again which happened during Bulgarian Presidency of the EU council. At the beginning of Bulgarian presidency, it was thought as Bulgaria is a good ally of Turkey; it could work to accelerate Turkish EU accession. But at the end of the day, the presidency showed human rights and fundamental freedom issue as a hindrance to get EU membership for Turkey. Another EU official also reported that Turkey should start accession process once again and rearrange according to the European principles (İzvestiya, 2018).
But as a human being, let's live with hope once again that the European Union will consider Turkish migration management system by which the EU countries are still not facing refugee influx where everyday Turkey suffering refugee events from dawn to dusk. Even sometimes without having European cooperation, Turkey struggling alone with the refugee crisis (Gotev, Official: EU will not fund a Turkish plan to settle refugees in Afrin, 2018). So we hope the EU will not happy to see a new wave of refugee influx with tomorrows sunrise.
**References & Works Cited -
Ananicz, S. (2012, June 26). Cyprus presidency and Turkey's relations with the European Union. Retrieved from Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW): https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/osw-commentary/2012-06-26/cyprus-presidency-and-turkeys-relations-european-union
Arcuri, A. (2013). The Rise of a New Superpower Turkey’s Key Role in the World Economy and Energy Market. London: Springer.
Bachev, D. (2018, January 04). Bulgaria's EU Presidency is good news for Turkey. Retrieved from Ahval News: https://ahvalnews.com/bulgaria-turkey/bulgarias-eu-presidency-good-news-turkey
Commission, E. (2012). Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2012-2013. Brussels: EUROPEAN COMMISSION .
EU2018. (n.d.). ‘A Europe that protects’ – Priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Retrieved from EU2018: https://www.eu2018.at/agenda-priorities/priorities.html
Gotev, G. (2017, September 08). Estonian Presidency passes Turkey decision to Bulgaria. Retrieved from EURACTIV: https://www.euractiv.com/section/enlargement/news/estonian-presidency-passes-the-turkey-decision-to-bulgaria/
Gotev, G. (2018, April 20). Official: EU will not fund Turkish plan to settle refugees in Afrin. Retrieved from Euractive: https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/official-eu-will-not-fund-turkish-plan-to-settle-refugees-in-afrin/
Hurriyet. (2009, June 05). Ankara slams anti-Turkish campaigns in in EU Parliament vote. Retrieved from Hurriyet: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/ankara-slams-anti-turkish-campaigns-in-in-eu-parliament-vote-11804248
İzvestiya. (2018, July 16). Bulgaristan Başbakanı: Türkiye'nin AB'ye girmesi imkansız. Retrieved from Sputnik News: https://tr.sputniknews.com/rus_medyasi/201807191034365082-bulgaristan-basbakan-turkiye-ab-girmesi-imkansiz/?utm_source=short_direct&utm_medium=short_url&utm_content=jdwD&utm_campaign=URL_shortening
NEDOS, V. (2018, July 17). Kurz: EU must stop Turkey accession talks ‘immediately’. Retrieved from Ekathimerini: http://www.ekathimerini.com/230745/article/ekathimerini/news/kurz-eu-must-stop-turkey-accession-talks-immediately
Öztürk, İ. (2011). Political economy of Erdoğan’s success story in Turkey. Qatar: Al Jazeera Centre for Studies.
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**Sabbir HASAN**, Post-Graduate Researcher, Department of International Security, Turkish National Police Academy. [email protected]