September 05, 2017
On the Turkish question
One notable sequence of the Merkel-Schulz duel was Schulz' categorial statement that the SPD no longer supports Turkish EU membership, and Merkel's tacit agreement with that remark. The question is now whether the Merkel administration will go beyond the decision to suspend talks on the extension of the customs union, to advocating a formal end to Turkey's EU accession talks. We noted a good analysis on this issue in Macropolis, which looks at the implications for Greece. The country has based its foreign policy on the assumption that Turkey would eventually become an EU member.
"Should Turkey’s accession process be frozen, the biggest concern for Athens would be the uncertainty that this would cause, as such a development would take relations between the two countries into uncharted territory. If democratic concerns continue across the Aegean and Erdogan continues to implement a more hardline agenda, the EU’s relationship with Turkey could turn into an ideological clash."
We also noted a comment by Kemal Kirisci and Onur Bülbül at Brookings, who argue that the customs union had a positive impact on Turkey, and therefore it would be mistake to freeze talks on its development. The authors argue that the customs union helped Turkey to modernise its economy, and also to become more democratic.
The authors argue against the increasing tendency in Germany and elsewhere to freeze relations with Turkey, while supporting Jean-Claude Juncker's more constructive approach. Breaking off relations with Turkey now would strengthen Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The authors call on the US to put pressure on the EU to shift its stance.