News / Europe

EU-Turkey Accession Talks Continue to Face Big Obstacles

FILE - Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis.
FILE - Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis.
Dorian Jones
European Union foreign ministers have green-lighted the resumption of membership talks with Turkey. Negotiations have been stalled for three years by political tensions and, more recently, the Turkish government's violent crackdown on protesters this past summer.  Still, despite efforts to restart the accession process, questions remain over how much influence Brussels has over Ankara.

The EU meant to restart membership talks with Ankara in June. But the decision was delayed due to the Turkish government’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protests led by what became known as the “Gezi Park Movement.”

According to Kadri Gursel, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet and website Al-Monitor, those protests played a key role in Brussels deciding to reactivate the talks.

“The Gezi Park agenda is simply the EU agenda; liberties, rights, civil society, having a say in the future of the country. It was a European type of protest, and this encouraged the EU to keep the accession process alive," said Gursel.

The EU’s annual membership report on Turkey strongly condemned the government's crackdown on the protests.

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed Brussels’ decision to reopen talks, he dismissed EU criticism of his government's crackdown on the opposition, saying no one other than the Turkish nation has a right to issue what he called “school reports” on Turkey.

Semih Idiz, a diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf and Al-Monitor website says the prime minister's tough stance towards Brussels is a sign he is concerned about possible future unrest.

“Turkey is under the projector as far as human rights is concerned. No doubt the EU will continue to try to apply what pressure it has. And perhaps this is why Erdogan is angry," said Idiz.

Even though the EU's membership talks with Turkey have reopened, observers say Brussels' influence on Ankara will be limited.

Out of 35 membership chapters Ankara has to complete to join the EU, after eight years, just 14 have been opened and only one has been completed.

And, according to opinion polls, public support for the EU membership bid has plummeted over the past three years, falling from over 70 percent to less than half.

Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist and columnist for Taraf, says deep skepticism now exists both among Turkey's people and politicians about whether the bid will ever succeed. Aktar argues that unless this changes, there is little hope Brussels can persuade the government to address human rights concerns in the coming years.

“Without a clear pronunciation by the EU member states of a clear date for Turkey to join the EU, I don’t think we will move forward and it's highly improbable that this government led by Prime Minister Erdogan will take more reformist action between now and the election cycle which will end in 2015," said Aktar.

Erdogan is courting nationalist voters, who, observers say, are the most skeptical about EU membership and human rights reforms. Until recently, Ankara had argued that Turkey’s interests extend far beyond Europe, a policy buoyed by the Arab Spring.

But growing turmoil in the region has resulted in Ankara becoming increasingly isolated, says political scientist Aktar. And that means continuing the EU membership talks is becoming increasingly important to the Turkish government.
 
“The government’s foreign policy has no correspondent anymore in the world and I think at the end of the day what remains in terms of foreign policy bonds is the EU relationship and the NATO relationship, full stop," he said.

Observers say with a general election due in 2015,  Erdogan is likely to face the balancing act of keeping the EU talks on track in the face of increasing pressure from Brussels over human rights, along with possible further civic unrest.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More