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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid