EU keeps Turkey’s accession bid in limbo amid splits over political values

The European Commission’s annual report regarding Turkey’s accession to the EU said the process has come to a “standstill” as Ankara was “seriously backsliding” on many criteria regarding human rights, the rule of law and economic policy.

Experts believe the EU just keeps Turkey’s full membership bid in limbo since the European bloc does not want to break ties with Ankara considering other topics of mutual interest, such as migration flows, trade and geopolitics.

Turkey’s accession process has been suspended for a long time, said Ozden Zeynep Oktav, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Medeniyet University.

Turkey’s ties with the EU have two faces and they are such a couple that “do not break up, but never get married either,” he noted.

Turkey has been involved in membership talks with the EU since 2005 but the progress has been extremely slow despite Turkey’s attempts to iron out what the EU sees as discrepancies between its own political values and Ankara’s.

No new chapters, however, have opened since after a failed coup in Turkey in 2016, as the EU sharpened its criticism of the Turkish government over what it called Ankara’s drift away from democracy and the European values in the wake of the coup.

The difficulties that the EU has been through and the rise of extreme right movements in the bloc have slowed Brussel’s enlargement process, said Ayhan Zeytinoglu, chair of Economic Development Foundation.

In an environment where membership talks with Turkey came to a halt, the country’s EU accession bid lost his influence on its reform process, he noted.

“The most effective tool to make progress in Turkey in line with EU values is accession negotiations. However, the EU, by not running this mechanism, reverses the will it displayed when it opened negotiations with Turkey,” Zeytinoglu said.

Despite deadlock in its accession to the EU, Turkey has to take steps in favor of structural reforms, said Mithat Baydur, an academician at International Relations Department of Okan University.

“Necessary steps must be taken to create a climate where all norms of law are met. This is an issue that Turkey is in need of both in political and economic terms,” he explained.

The foreign investors have been withdrawing from Turkey and these reforms will “reassure all,” Baydur said.