A crunch 12 months for EU-Turkey relations – EURACTIV.com


2023 might be a key 12 months for Turkey. In addition to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic, voters will select a brand new President and a brand new Parliament, however, with or with out Erdoğan, is the EU prone to alter its stance on Turkey, asks Seda Gürkan.

Seda Gürkan is a Lecturer in Political Science and European Research on the School of Philosophy and Social Sciences and researcher on the European Research Institute of Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium. 

Subsequent 12 months’s elections might be important for Turkey and should redefine its relations with the EU. Amid Turkey’s speedy democratisation, the EU’s Common Affairs Council in June 2018 successfully paused accession talks and any strikes in the direction of modernising the EU-Turkey Customs Union. The Turkish authorities, in the meantime, has turn into much less fascinated by a real relationship with the EU, which might require complete home reform. This deadlock has lowered relations to being largely transactional. 

At current, the 2023 electoral final result is up within the air. Latest opinion polls point out that The Cumhur or Folks’s Alliance — made up of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s occasion AKP (Justice and Improvement Occasion) and its ultranationalist ally MHP (Nationalist Motion Occasion) — may lose the upcoming race for Presidential elections. Nevertheless it stays to be seen whether or not opposition events, realigned to type The Millet (or Nation) Alliance, will be capable of agree on a candidate to problem Erdoğan or current an electoral program that may encourage Turkish voters.

Deepening autocratic tendencies

Underneath the 20 years of rule of the AKP, Turkey has shifted from being a faulty democracy to an autocracy. The ruling elite has more and more relied on a nationalist, conservative and majoritarian discourse. The nationalist tide grew to become extra pronounced following the June 2018 elections, when ultranationalist MHP and AKP established an electoral alliance. The ruling elite’s majoritarian understanding of governance has aggravated ethnic, non secular, and political fault traces resulting in political and social polarisation. 

For the reason that failed coup in 2016, repressive measures adopted below the state of emergency have turn into everlasting options of Turkish home politics, forging an authoritarian nation in a short interval. That is mirrored within the 2022 Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) for Turkey, which highlighted three vital challenges dealing with the nation: “the consolidation of authoritarianism, financial vulnerability and an more and more conflictual overseas coverage.” BTI’s Political Transformation score for Turkey stands at 4.80 out of 10 factors, making it a “average autocracy”. This determine has sunk sharply from 7.25 factors out of 10 in BTI’s 2016 report.

Home adjustments have additionally had detrimental foreign-policy repercussions, with Turkey rising as a extra assertive regional actor and following an more and more unilateral overseas coverage line. Examples are Turkey’s current operations in Northern Syria, its drilling actions within the Jap Mediterranean since 2019 and its involvement in Libya, which has all been carried out with restricted or no session with Turkey’s Western Allies. In some circumstances, Turkey’s overseas coverage preferences have clashed with the EU’s pursuits, for instance, its nonalignment with restrictive measures adopted by the EU towards Russia.

On the opposite hand, Turkey’s rising armaments trade and rising nationalist tide supplied a fertile floor for these unilateral overseas coverage actions and the ruling elite’s largely anti-Western, anti-European overseas coverage discourse. Moreover, with Turkey’s transition to a Presidential system in 2018, Turkish overseas coverage has turn into much less institutionalised, with the president’s palace monopolising decision-making. This has rendered Turkish positions weak to conjectural adjustments and short-term pursuits, making the nation an unpredictable and unreliable actor in worldwide relations.

Two eventualities for EU-Turkey relations in 2023

Whereas Turkey has turn into extra autocratic, the EU’s leverage energy over the nation has vaporised. Though 2023 is tough to foretell, it’s doable to stipulate two potential outcomes for Turkish politics and EU-Turkey relations. 

Within the first state of affairs, if the Erdoğan-led Folks’s Alliance wins the elections, it’s going to probably proceed present home and overseas insurance policies. In return, the EU would prolong its pragmatic method in the direction of Turkey, emphasising Turkey as a companion and prioritising a relationship based mostly on pursuits slightly than values. Nonetheless, whereas Turkey consolidates authoritarian tendencies on this state of affairs, the EU and member states would stay reluctant to have interaction with Turkey. A relationship based mostly on pursuits and the EU’s priorities may, in flip, additional consolidate Turkey’s autocratic energy, rendering the nation much more unpredictable and assertive in its area. 

Within the second state of affairs, if the opposition block can break Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 20-year-long reign, it will be practical to count on a normalisation course of in Turkish politics. Such reform would probably take a very long time, as the brand new authorities will inherit a dysfunctional governance system and financial woes from the AKP.

Moreover, ideological variations among the many six opposition events may hinder a functioning authorities. These variations may be significantly pronounced in overseas coverage on the way forward for Syria, relations with Russia or Greece, or Turkey’s involvement within the Jap Mediterranean. Nonetheless, it’s extremely probably {that a} new reform course of, albeit gradual and symbolic, may change the EU’s notion of Turkey. This might assist EU member states agree on a extra optimistic agenda, setting in movement concrete incentives for sustaining Turkey’s reform course of, corresponding to visa liberalisation or customs union modernisation. On this state of affairs, the EU’s capability to lock Turkey in a reform course of would add pace and sustainability.

This requires, on the one hand, establishing the EU’s credibility inside Turkish society, persuading common opinion that reforms will result in Turkey’s shut integration with the EU. Then again, it will additionally imply restoring a framework of conditionality involving shut monitoring, clear circumstances, and credible incentives. Solely then can the EU interact Turkey in dialogue, construct mutual belief, deepen interconnectedness, and finally re-establish its light leverage over Turkey in a post-Erdoğan period.

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