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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs