International / Let's talk about Europe

The Erdogan’s ultimatum

2023. This is the year Turkey will be an EU member… or not, as Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed, during his latest official visit in Berlin, the 31st of October.

The Turkish Prime minister did not choose this date at random. 2023 will mark the centennial of the foundation of the Modern Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This is very symbolic year for the Turkish people and for which the head of government wants to celebrate the event with or without the European Union.

Started in October 2005, the negotiations keep slowing, some EU Members – as France and Germany – blocking some strategic chapters as the free movement of goods and workers, the economic and monetary policy and the foreign, security and defence policy. On its side, EU did not officially reacted to the Erdogan’s ultimatum, expressing a real embarrassment as clearly highlights Joost Lagendijk, former Dutch MEP and Turkey expert in a column published in Today’s Zaman, a English speaking daily, yesterday. For the former ecologist representative, the absence of reaction of the EU authorities proves a real uneasiness but also certain carefulness, some people reminding the botched adhesion process of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.

With an ultimatum, Ankara wants to call EU’s bluff and show its exasperation both. Indeed, Turkey has the impression to have been taken in for several years and EU seems not to be ready to be clear with it. Optimistic and enthusiastic for a while, Turkish people have now the felling to be had by a Europe who does not want her but has not the courage to tell her clearly. Since 2005, all the excuses are used to slow the Turkey adhesion process, some countries evocating the Cyprus issue, Human Rights and the still borders issue… the Turkish authorities seemed to be convinced by the lack of the EU and its members’ will to continue the process and some people in the EU even hope an end of the negotiations in the next years, Ankara slamming the door finally.

Nonetheless, with a deadline, Turkey hopes to re-launch the adhesion process to EU all the more so as the international context is favourable to the country because the Syria issue. A way to put the EU and its member-States in the front of their responsibilities and get concrete results at last. What is more, a probable retake with a predefined agenda would have a major effect on Turkey which seems to pause in its reforms and the public opinion seems less and less Europhile as soon as the prospect of adhesion is going away and the negotiations are slower and slower.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish PM with Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, during the Erdogan State visit, the 31st of October

All is going to depend on the EU and its member-States and their capacity to reply to the Erdogan’s ultimatum. According to Joost Lagendjik, this is a genuine occasion (missed for the moment nonetheless) to continue the negotiations on new bases and targeting new realistic objectives. For Turkey, the challenge is to prove its will to join EU leading important reforms and still extending pressure on Europe both. As, the ex-MEP explained, the 2023 objective deserves to focus on a deadline and put an end with the ambiguous position of the EU which exasperates Turkey and might unlock a still dragged on situation, that nobody enjoys.