Blog AnalysisEU diplomacyMediterranean sea

Has Turkey (already) lost Europe?

(B2) By dint of childish quarrels, warlike attitudes, insults towards European leaders or peoples, Ankara has angered and worn out Europeans. Foolishly...

During the last summit by videoconference between the Turkish RTErdogan and the Europeans Ch. Michel (European Council) and A. Merkel (German EU Presidency). We are far from the happy atmosphere of the summits of the 2000s... (credit: Council of the EU)

Helsinki, Turkish enthusiasm

How far off the time of the Helsinki Summit in 1999, when, with a certain enthusiasm, we decided to open the door to accession negotiations with Turkey (1). This European summit marked a turning point in the annals of relations with Turkey. In the conclusions, it read: The European Council welcomes the positive developments which have recently marked the development of the situation in Turkey [...] as well as Turkey's intention to pursue its reforms in order to meet the Copenhagen criteria.

The Turkish provocations ended up tiring

Exactly 21 years later, we could almost reverse all the sentences. Europe deplores Turkey's lack of progress, its provocations, " his unilateral and provocative activities ", etc. If a few months ago, several countries had doubts about the attitude to have with Turkey, about the need to engage in dialogue, about gestures (political statements, withdrawals of ships, etc.) sometimes perceived as pledges of goodwill from Ankara... Today, " no one is fooled anymore ". A word repeated several times, in several European chancelleries. There is no longer any leader who seriously believes that a single movement of ships or a Turkish call will change the situation.

A broken magic alliance

By its attitude, in a few months, hitting all directions (Northern Syria, Libya, Armenia, Mediterranean, ...), the Erdogan regime convinced everyone that there was something broken in this magical alliance between a Union economically strong and a great country at the confluence of Europe and the Middle East. The Europeans do not want to destroy everything. It is not the European alpha and omega of typing with short arms. This evening we should take sanctions, fairly graduated, faithful to the European spirit (and what Berlin wanted in particular) to always keep the door open (read: Turkey. The Europeans do not want to cut ties. Towards an expanded sanctions system?).

Graduated Sanctions Does Not Mean Weakness

However, this gesture should not be underestimated, nor should it be underestimated. Such a process vis-à-vis a country theoretically still a candidate for the European Union is equivalent to closing the door to it, to recognizing that it no longer meets the Copenhagen criteria ". Between member countries of the Atlantic Alliance, this is a singular fact and rather unequaled up to now. And we also know that if the sanctions can sometimes be slow to come, they are even slower to undo. Once the movement has taken place, the machine is inescapable.

Watch out for the sleeping marshmallow

Like the marshmallow candy, Europe seems weak, a little soft, indecisive. But make no mistake about it. Once unity is acquired, it is very difficult to break the line. Ankara should therefore be wary. Russia, which has tried on several occasions to bend the sanctions decisions that hit it, has been at its expense. Despite some pitching, Europe remained upright. And again this evening, the economic sanctions which hit Moscow for its attitude in Ukraine have just been renewed. Ditto on the side of the United Kingdom in the Brexit affair. For four years, British leaders have tried almost everything to bend the European bench. They broke their teeth each time. And yet they had far more arguments than the Turks.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. The oldest will remember that in the middle of the summit, France made a plane available for the European negotiators (Javier Solana for the Council and Günther Verheugen for the European Commission and a representative of the Finnish presidency) to go to Ankara to explain the European position and convince the Turkish Prime Minister (Bülent Ecevit) to come and pose for the final photo with the other member countries. The statement of the then Prime Minister is still on the website from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).