Future EU-Turkey relations

Briefing 23-10-2018

In June 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected as president of Turkey, this time with extended powers under the revised Turkish Constitution. Over the previous couple of years, his country's relationship with the EU had been challenged by issues such as the ongoing management of the migration crisis and the EU-Turkey Agreement, the attempted military coup in Istanbul and Ankara, and the ensuing purge, which the EU and international organisations criticised for its disproportionate severity. With the constitutional referendum and the subsequent parliamentary and presidential elections, President Erdogan further reinforced his position at the helm of the institutional system and raised concerns among the EU and NATO about his commitment to Western institutions. Turkey deepened its relations with Russia, buying military equipment and coordinating with it on Syrian policies on the ground. At the same time, US-Turkish relations worsened due to the Syrian conflict and the imprisonment of a US pastor by Turkey, although he was subsequently released. Negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU have nevertheless continued, despite an increasingly lively debate in some Member States about whether or not they should be halted. Some have proposed striking an economic agreement with Turkey as an alternative to membership. Others believe the outcome of the negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU might also provide a possible model for Turkey. Despite the numerous hurdles before it, accession not only remains the ultimate objective of EU-Turkey relations, endorsed by both the European Council and by Turkey, but it also provides potential for reform and dialogue regarding common standards, not least in the area of civil liberties.