Turkey’s journey toward EU membership began with an official association application to the EEC (European Economic Community), the precursor organization of the Union, on July 31, 1959. The temporary association agreement signed in Ankara on September 12, 1963 was followed by the Customs Union, which took effect on January 1, 1996, and the formal approval of the candidacy at the Helsinki Summit on December 11, 1999.
The process, which went through many different stages, still hasn’t concluded as of today, which is almost unprecedented. Waiting for full membership for approximately 60 years since its first application, Turkey has been subjected to the longest waiting period by the EU after being officially considered as a candidate country.
There have been various problems arising from both sides that have complicated Turkey’s uphill journey. However, even in the post-2006 period, when Turkey made its greatest and most serious leaps, despite the fact that Turkey successfully fulfilled its responsibilities, the challenges posed by the EU continued to come. Above and beyond the challenges posed, the anti-Turkish attitude of various EU countries in recent years has brought relations to a point of decline. The major milestones that dragged relations into this unwanted state include:
Especially in the last few years, the EU’s and some EU member countries’ attempts to interfere with Turkey’s internal affairs and legitimate state policies. The messages sent to elected governments and leaders containing threats as a means for political pressure. The fact that these threats and accusations are, in fact, aimed at the free will and democratic rights of Turkish society.
A large degree of indifference by the EU and some EU countries to the unsuccessful coup attempts on July 15, 2016.
The repeated exposition of the fact that some EU member countries provide money, weapons, ammunition, intelligence and personnel support for the terrorist organizations which have been a threat to Turkey for years. The emergence of those from European mainstream media ,who share propaganda for these organizations , assume the role of spokesperson for them. The fact that legal operations and investigations, judicial and executive processes against these terrorist organizations are portrayed as human rights violations.
The fact that intimidation and slander campaigns are carried out by various EU channels such as press, publication, politics, etc., against those who voted YES during the Constitutional referendum of April 16.
-The decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to put Turkey “under observation” again after 13 years, following the OSCE’s referendum report. The fact that OSCE observers, who are supposed to be independent and objective, are found to be openly biased when they are examined individually. At least ten identified observers such as Andrej Hunko (Germany), Lorena Lz de Lacalle (Spain) and Zerife Yatkin (Austria) were sympathizers of the PKK terrorist organization and actively participated in the referendum campaign to encourage a vote of NO. And the fact that these names only include the ones that can be identified through social media.
It is obvious that this negative attitude, which the EU seems determined to maintain, will not contribute positively to relations. In the same vein, EU officials have started to speak more openly than before. In early May, one of Reuters’ articles entitled “Turkey’s EU dream is over, for now, top official says” included the following statement from Johannes Hahn, the senior member of the European Commission who is responsible for the Commission’s expansion:
“Everybody’s clear that, currently at least, Turkey is moving away from a European perspective… The focus of our relationship has to be something else… We have to see what could be done in the future, to see if we can restart some kind of cooperation.”
Similar statements are included more and more frequently in EU media almost every day.
All of these developments give the impression that the EU never had any intention to admit Turkey into the Union since the very beginning. For decades, a stalling operation has been carried out, aiming to keep Turkey out of the Union without outright denying it using complicated bureaucratic obstacles and careful strategies. Economic and strategic calculations have become the obstacles put forth by the EU to prevent them from assuming a clear stance towards Turkey. Being aware of these calculations, Turkey has not abandoned its determined endeavor towards full membership within its own policy to turn the process into an advantage.
It is clear from the statements made by officials that the EU will develop new discourses to shift the blame to Turkey such as “the Union does not exclude Turkey,” but instead “Turkey has voluntarily distanced itself” after the stalling period is over.
Whether Turkey joins the EU or not, this process, which has been going on for decades, has been a major drive for Turkey to improve itself on vital issues such as democracy, human rights, freedom of thought, modernism, and economic and cultural development. Above all else, this motivation will undoubtedly be in favor of Turkey, a democratic Muslim country. On the other hand, it is clear that EU policies have also revealed the importance of developing closer and stronger relations with neighboring and friendly countries, like Iran and Russia.
It seems that aside from the financial burden of the poorer countries that struggle with economic crises and bankruptcy, the rapidly emerging right-wing, nationalist movements are starting to pose a serious threat to the EU’s existence. Undoubtedly, the EU is a valuable Union that needs to be preserved. The collapse of this important union is in no one’s favor, and we do not approve it. It is clear, however, that both the preservation of the EU’s own existence and the course of its relations with Turkey will follow, and will be determined by its own attitude.
—The author is a prominent Turkish writer who blogs at: www.harunyahya.com