European Stability Initiative - ESI - 17 August 2019, 12:47

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Do Turks still care?

Modern Istanbul. Photo: flickr/Mizrak
Modern Istanbul. Photo: flickr/Mizrak

The growing impression that European leaders are no longer willing to champion the cause of Turkish accession is mirrored by the equally popular notion that Turkey itself has lost interest in joining the Union. In this view the AKP government's diplomatic overtures to countries like Syria and Iran, combined with its recently virulent criticism of Israel, are signs that Turkey is turning away from the West in general and the EU in particular. "Erdogan understands that he doesn't stand a chance in Europe for the time being, and he is instead redirecting his energy toward the East," wrote Bernhard Zand in a recent edition of Der Spiegel.

During the last two years, a number of "turning points" were said to have delivered proof of Turkey's shift away from the West. One was the January 2009 incident in Davos, when Prime Minister Erdogan, furious with Israel for its invasion of Gaza, accused Israeli President Shimos Peres of "knowing well how to kill people". Another came at the end of May 2010, when Turkey responded with even greater rhetorical outrage after Israeli commandos killed nine Turks aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara. Yet another followed on 9 June 2010, when Turkey refused to back UN sanctions against Iran, voting against them instead of at least abstaining.

There is also a corresponding assumption in some quarters that a newly confident Turkey with a booming economy is getting ready to part ways with the EU accession process. In February 2010, Asia Times reported that "frustrated with perceived European insincerity, a minority in the AKP is arguing Turkey no longer needs the EU." Several months later, Suat Kiniklioglu, a leading AKP deputy, told Joost Lagendijk that Turkey no longer needed the EU anchor. "Its economy is strong enough to do without a union that is struggling with its own financial problems," wrote Lagendijk, paraphrasing Kiniklioglu, "and the reforms will continue because there are strong domestic forces behind them." Ali Bulac, an influential conservative thinker, went a step further when he argued in his column for Today's Zaman: "We don't need the EU to implement needed reforms. Let us decide what we need

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A very special relationship. Why Turkey's EU Accession Process Will Continue

  1. Conventional wisdoms about Turkish accession to the EU
  2. The first scenario: a train wreck
  3. Why both Turkey and the EU want to avoid a train crash
  4. The second scenario: a natural death
  5. Why Turkey is implementing the acquis
  6. European prejudice and Islamophobia
  7. Has Turkey's Europeanisation come to a halt?
  8. Do Turks still care?
  9. Viagra for the accession process
  10. An agenda for the long haul – Towards 2023
  11. ANNEX I: About the ESI Schengen White List Project
  12. ANNEX II: ESI Turkey Research since 2005

© European Stability Initiative - ESI 2019
17 August 2019, 12:47