1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament election

Interest in Turkey-EU relations and worries about negative developments in the EU

Turkey’s inter­est in the 2014 Euro­pean elec­tions was most­ly focused on Turkey-EU rela­tions, Turkey’s
mem­ber­ship bid and the future of acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions. Debates in the Turk­ish news­pa­pers and
com­ments on euroscep­ti­cism empha­sised the role of the eco­nom­ic and finan­cial cri­sis that the EU
mem­ber states have been going through. In the news­pa­pers, there have been com­men­ta­tors stress­ing
the need for a trans­for­ma­tion of the mar­ket-ori­ent­ed cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem into a more indi­vid­ual-ori­ent­ed
sys­tem in Europe. It is also argued that the cri­sis cre­at­ed a seri­ous threat to the foun­da­tions of the EU,
name­ly the four free­doms. From an EU per­spec­tive, this has been per­ceived as a neg­a­tive
devel­op­ment due to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an increase in the deci­sion-mak­ing role of the mem­ber states
rather than a more EU-ori­ent­ed Com­mis­sion and Par­lia­ment role. One also encoun­ters wor­ries about
the mul­ti-cul­tur­al Europe and the EU as a peace project in the Turk­ish media.

Rise of extreme right in the EU could lead to abandonment of accession negotiations

The elec­tion results’ pos­si­ble effects on Turkey-EU rela­tions have been dis­cussed in the media and it
has been observed that Euro­peans are inclined to be more recep­tive to xeno­pho­bic poli­cies and
atti­tudes. Giv­en the Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty government’s loss of enthu­si­asm towards the EU
since the mid-2000s and its increas­ing­ly crit­i­cal rhetoric, the elec­tion results could pro­vide the
gov­ern­ment with fur­ther impe­tus for the blame game for the lack of progress in the acces­sion
nego­ti­a­tions. It has been sug­gest­ed by anti-gov­ern­ment com­men­ta­tors that the EU’s xeno­pho­bic
elec­tion results would make it eas­i­er for the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to crit­i­cise the EU and aban­don
Turkey’s mem­ber­ship bid. This is cou­pled with the belief that a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic and
extreme right major­i­ty may hin­der Turkey’s acces­sion prospects. This is large­ly based on the fact that
Turkey and its eli­gi­bil­i­ty for EU mem­ber­ship were part of the debate and the cam­paign in the run-up to
the elec­tions. How­ev­er, there are some com­men­ta­tors who also stressed the low turnout in the
elec­tions and there­fore, the rise of the extreme-right wing par­ties in EP elec­tions would not con­sti­tute
a threat to Turkey’s acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions. Anoth­er debat­ed issue has been the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a twoti­er
struc­ture for the Union in the future and in the long-run prospect of Turkey find­ing a place to itself
togeth­er with the UK in the 2nd tier.


2. The EU’s Neighbourhood

Strong interest in the European Neighbourhood Policy

Turkey has been inter­est­ed in EU Neigh­bour­hood pol­i­cy since the mid-1990s, and in 2004, when the
ENP was cre­at­ed and both the Mediter­ranean and the Black Sea regions were includ­ed in the pol­i­cy,
Turk­ish inter­est in the pol­i­cy increased. Turkey has wel­comed the EU’s strat­e­gy paper, Black Sea
Syn­er­gy (BSS), due to its inclu­sive­ness regard­ing the poli­cies and the geo­graph­ic ori­en­ta­tion.
How­ev­er, the East­ern Part­ner­ship (EaP) was not wel­comed as much as BSS, since it exclud­ed most
of the region­al coun­tries and empha­sised only few coun­tries and pol­i­cy themes. In the south,
Sarkozy’s Mediter­ranean Union offer was reject­ed by the Turk­ish offi­cials, since it was per­ceived as an
attempt to sub­sti­tute Turkey’s EU full mem­ber­ship. Nev­er­the­less, after it was includ­ed as a part of the
ENP under the Barcelona Process, Turkey stat­ed its will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate in the region­al
coop­er­a­tion efforts. This has been a dif­fi­cult pol­i­cy choice for Turkey, since it is both a Mediter­ranean
coun­try as well as an EU can­di­date. It has been evi­dent that, espe­cial­ly after the inclu­sion of the Black
Sea as a neigh­bour­ing region by the EU in its poli­cies, Turk­ish and EU neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, as well
as issues raised in these regions start­ed to over­lap. There­fore, Turkey empha­sised the impor­tance of
coop­er­a­tion between Turkey and the EU, to tack­le not only region­al con­flicts but also eco­nom­ic, social
and polit­i­cal issues. Davu­toğlu argues that Turkey is unique­ly posi­tioned to play a con­struc­tive role in
inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics, strad­dling the geopo­lit­i­cal lines that unite Euro-Asia and hav­ing a cul­tur­al affin­i­ty
with the EU’s east­ern and south­ern neigh­bours as well as with the EU itself.

EU not perceived as an effective foreign policy actor

In the last years, the EU’s neigh­bour­hood wit­nessed sev­er­al social move­ments, changes of
gov­ern­ments, changes of bor­ders and civ­il and armed con­flicts. Regard­ing Turk­ish per­spec­tive on the
Union’s neigh­bour­hood poli­cies; con­flicts in Ukraine, Egypt and Syr­ia were the hot top­ics that were
debat­ed in the aca­d­e­m­ic cir­cles as well as the media. Regard­ing the con­flict in Ukraine, debates
gen­er­al­ly focused on the country’s role as a tran­sit for ener­gy resources and its strate­gic impor­tance
for the EU and Rus­sia. In this region, the Union is per­ceived as a wannabe actor lack­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty due
to its inabil­i­ty to be a sin­gle voiced polit­i­cal actor. The EU’s offer for Ukraine, although it was a very
attrac­tive offer regard­ing eco­nom­ic and trade rela­tions, does not include a mem­ber­ship car­rot. This is
seen as a short­fall of the EU’s pol­i­cy. The Union’s rhetoric in this cri­sis has been a prod­uct of the
low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor of the indi­vid­ual mem­ber states’ inter­ests. The main issue can be
sum­marised as the gap between the EU’s inter­ests and val­ues when assess­ing the Union’s poli­cies in
the Black Sea region in gen­er­al. The ener­gy needs of the EU pre­vent the Union from strength­en­ing its
val­ue-based exter­nal rela­tions, which in return decreas­es the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the Union as a strong
region­al pol­i­cy mak­er. On the oth­er hand, the Turk­ish posi­tion on, and reac­tion to, the role of Rus­sia in
the Ukrain­ian cri­sis has been decid­ed­ly qui­et, despite the annex­a­tion of Crimea. This is large­ly
because Rus­sia is an impor­tant part­ner for Turkey in trade, ener­gy and tourism and an impor­tant
des­ti­na­tion for invest­ments by Turk­ish busi­ness­men.

In recent years, con­flicts in the Mid­dle East were to be found on the top of the EU’s for­eign pol­i­cy
agen­da. In dis­cus­sions on the so-called “Arab Spring”, it has been argued that the social move­ments
in the region were a sur­prise for the EU, which it could not react to as a uni­fied orga­ni­za­tion. Instead,
poli­cies of indi­vid­ual mem­ber states stood out more. It has been realised that the EU via its
neigh­bour­hood pol­i­cy could be an impor­tant actor in pro­mo­tion of demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions in the region,
only if the Union poli­cies could be freed from the pri­or­i­ties of the indi­vid­ual mem­ber states and could
be estab­lished on the prin­ci­ples of demo­c­ra­t­ic tran­si­tion togeth­er with eco­nom­ic and social tran­si­tion.
How­ev­er, the Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty gov­ern­ment per­ceives the EU as fail­ing to take up this
chal­lenge. Ashton’s, Barosso’s and Füle’s vis­its in the region (i.e. Libya and Egypt) were seen as
pos­i­tive steps to cre­ate a cred­i­ble and EU based pol­i­cy in the region, yet it was realised that these
steps were too small. The Syr­i­an case has been per­ceived as a test for the Union to act as a for­eign
pol­i­cy actor at a glob­al lev­el. Yet, the com­men­ta­tors focused on the mem­ber states’ per­spec­tives (i.e.
France, the UK and Ger­many) rather than the Union’s one. Thus, it has been argued that the con­flict
in Syr­ia opened up a crit­i­cal dis­cus­sion on the Union’s effec­tive­ness as a civil­ian and nor­ma­tive pow­er.

How is Turkey’s EU membership perspective currently evaluated in your country?

Turkey-EU rela­tions were at a stage of stale­mate in the last 10 years and this sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues to be
the case. After the dis­pute over the exten­sion of Ankara Agree­ment to the new mem­bers of the EU
fol­low­ing the 2004 enlarge­ment, the EU sus­pend­ed nego­ti­a­tions on 8 of the chap­ters in Decem­ber
2006 until the exten­sion of the Addi­tion­al Pro­to­col and in 2007 France had declared that it will not
allow the open­ing of nego­ti­a­tions on 5 more chap­ters. Since 13 out of 35 chap­ters could not be
opened, Turkey’s enthu­si­asm in con­tin­u­ing the nego­ti­a­tions dimin­ished. The pub­lic opin­ion on the
mem­ber­ship demon­strat­ed this lack of enthu­si­asm. Accord­ing to Euro­barom­e­ter sur­veys, pub­lic
sup­port for the EU mem­ber­ship was 62 per cent in 2004 where­as in 2010 it was down to 42 per cent
and in 2013 and 2014 the sup­port fur­ther decreased to 38 per cent. The recent­ly released find­ings of
the Transat­lantic Trends which present a 53 per cent sup­port for Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship, “an eight
per­cent­age point increase from 2013 and the first major­i­ty in five years”, could be point­ing out to a
change in pub­lic opin­ion giv­en the rel­a­tive sta­bil­i­ty the EU rep­re­sents vis-à-vis the tur­bu­lent
neigh­bour­hood around Turkey.

One of the recent main hot top­ics in the rela­tions between Turkey and the EU has been the issue of
visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and visa free trav­el to the EU coun­tries. In this regard, the Read­mis­sion Agree­ment
that was signed in Decem­ber 2013 has been wide­ly debat­ed in the media, among the politi­cians and
the aca­d­e­mics. The agree­ment, on the one hand, has been per­ceived as a step for­ward for the visafree
trav­el for the Turk­ish cit­i­zens in EU coun­tries, but on the oth­er, it was crit­i­cised for reflect­ing EU
prob­lems of ille­gal migra­tion upon Turkey, that may prove to be too cost­ly, and for not fore­see­ing visa
free trav­el but visa lib­er­al­iza­tion. After the agree­ment was signed, Prime Min­is­ter Erdoğan, now the
Pres­i­dent, defined the era as a “new start in Turk­ish-EU ties”. In Jan­u­ary 2014, Erdoğan vis­it­ed
Brus­sels and this vis­it has been per­ceived as a step towards revi­tal­iza­tion of the stag­nat­ing acces­sion

In 2014, how­ev­er, Turk­ish pol­i­tics went through a rocky road and in the run up to the local elec­tions in
March and Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in August polit­i­cal debates were main­ly focused on domes­tic issues
rather than exter­nal affairs. There­fore, it has been almost impos­si­ble to see any detailed dis­cus­sions
on Turkey-EU rela­tions.

Also, the devel­op­ments in the neigh­bour­hood, i.e. the Mid­dle East, stood out in rela­tion to Turk­ish
for­eign pol­i­cy. Start­ing with the Arab upris­ings and con­tin­u­ing with the Syr­i­an civ­il war and the
blood­shed in the Mid­dle East, the EU has been seen as a very inef­fec­tive actor. EU’s inef­fec­tive­ness
once again decreased the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the Union in the region. Rela­tions with Rus­sia and the USA
have become more vis­i­ble while the EU’s neigh­bour­hood poli­cies were not per­ceived as effec­tive tools
deal­ing with the issues at hand in the region.

Dur­ing the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in August 2014, the EU was not con­sid­ered as a main top­ic in
pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates’ cam­paigns. Sela­hat­tin Demir­taş, pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and co-chair of the
Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HDP — Halk­ların Demokratik Par­tisi) in sev­er­al of his speech­es did
empha­size that their ideas about the rule of law, human rights, and val­ues were in line with the EU’s
val­ues and demo­c­ra­t­ic rules. How­ev­er, in the speech­es of Prime Min­is­ter and Jus­tice and
Devel­op­ment Party’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date R.Tayyip Erdoğan and joint Repub­li­can People’s Par­ty
and Nation­al­ist Move­ment Par­ty pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ekmeled­din İhsanoğlu ref­er­ences to the EU
and the mem­ber­ship process were very gen­er­al indeed.

How­ev­er, it can be argued that the EU con­tin­ues to be a sub­ject in Turk­ish pol­i­tics, although not at the
top of the pri­or­i­ty list. After the estab­lish­ment of the new gov­ern­ment in August 2014, just after the
elec­tion of R.Tayyip Erdoğan as the pres­i­dent, the new Min­is­ter for EU Affairs and Chief Nego­tia­tor,
Volkan Bozkır, an expe­ri­enced diplo­mat who has been work­ing on EU-Turkey rela­tions for over a
decade gave a state­ment empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of EU mem­ber­ship for Turkey, since it has
been seen as Turkey’s biggest mod­erni­sa­tion process, and defin­ing EU mem­ber­ship process as a
strate­gic tar­get.


3. Power relations in the EU

No interest in the EU’s institutional and domestic affairs, but in its foreign policies

Turkey is pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed in the EU’s and its mem­ber states’ for­eign poli­cies and rela­tions.
Espe­cial­ly regard­ing the neigh­bour­hood poli­cies the inter­ests of the indi­vid­ual mem­ber states,
embar­goes on Syr­i­an and Russ­ian politi­cians and bureau­crats, mem­ber states’ visions (i.e.
supra­na­tion­al vs. inter­gov­ern­men­tal) of the EU focus­ing on the UK, France and Ger­many have been
dis­cussed in aca­d­e­m­ic cir­cles. How­ev­er, pow­er rela­tions among the EU insti­tu­tions or on domes­tic
pol­i­cy mat­ters have not been part of the debates in Turkey.


This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2014. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2014. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 10 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.