The NATO members got together during a meeting at the headquarters of the organisation in Brussels. This meeting was a good opportunity for the European leaders to meet and talk to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish President, to clarify the relations between the European Union, its member states and Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took the opportunity to meet European leaders during his visit in Brussels the 25th May 2017. He exchanged his wishes with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, Emmanuel Macron, the French President and Angela Merkel, the German Chancelor, amongst others.

Relations between the European leaders and Turkey are tense since the unaccomplished coup d’état last July lead to a state of repression. In Turkey, journalists’ and medias’ work in the opposition is hindered, many people considered as opponents or close enough to Fetullah Gülen’s ideas have been imprisonned since then. These relations are even more strained because of the successful referendum campaign that lead to a concentration of powers in the hands of the Turkish President. The European leaders were afraid of such an outcome and remained expecially silent after the announcement of the results.

On the 2nd of May 2017, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded that the European Union resumes its membership talks with Turkey. To date, only 16 out of 35 chapters have been opened, while the negociations officially started in 2005. Its speech was particularly hard: “You have no choice but to open the [negociations of membership] chapters that are not into discussion yet. If you open them, very well. On the contrary, good bye”. He wants the European leaders to make a decision as soon as possible, suspecting them to wait for Turkey to remove its candidacy by itself.

Inside the European Union, opinions are diverge on this issue. Austria is calling for a withdrawal from membership negociations with Turkey while the European Union leaders call for the continuance of the talks. The Turkish President, facing such heterogeneity, threatened to consult its fellow citizens according to know what would be the procedure he has to follow. He also declared that he would ask the Turkish people to know if they want to reestablish death penalty. Such a reestablishment would mean the cessation of membership negotiations.

The European leaders tried to calm the situation by talking with Mr Erdoğan. First, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker proposed to revive the EU-Turkey relations thanks to a 12-months schedule. The Turkish President wants visa liberalisation to be scheduled, which was one of the counterparts of the agreement between the EU and Turkey more than one year ago. The Europeans are not against this proposition, but they have asked Turkey to modify its dispositions to fight terrorism. These disposition are, indeed, broad and give a wide margin of appreciation to the Turkish authorities. For his part, the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, mentioned the freedom of the press and the state of human rights in the country.

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, supported the release of the French journalist, Mathias Depardon who has been imprisonned in Turkey since the 8th May. The incarceration looks like “hostage-taking” according to Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of the organisation Reporters without Borders.

The interview between Angela Merkel and the Turkish President was certainly the most awaited one. Relations between these two states worsened when Germany gave right of asylum to military men who are accused by Ankara of having played a role in the coup last July. Germany also did not permit the AKP to hold a meeting in favour of the strenghtening of the Turkish President powers in its territory. More recently, the Turkish authorities forbidded some German members of parliament from entering the Incirlik’s military base, NATO and German soldiers are situated. Despite this vindictive tone towards Europe, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan explained that the German members of parliament will be allowed to enter the base if the list of the people present is sent to the Turkish authorities before the trip.

The speeches of each of the leaders in front of the cameras were generally controlled and civil. This implies that the relations between the EU, its member states and Turkey may improve in the next few months. The membership negotiations between the EU and Turkey are, however, more difficult to revive in the foreseeable future. The membership of Turkey to the EU is a matter of debate among the EU member states. To date, it seems difficult for the European Union to clearly express its feeling towards the integration of Turkey, one of the powers on the rise.

Pierre Angelloz-Pessey

Sources:

AFP, « Erdogan appelle l’UE à se décider sur l’adhésion de la Turquie », lexpress.fr, 24 may 2017. Available at : http://www.lexpress.fr/actualites/1/monde/erdogan-appelle-l-ue-a-se-decider-sur-l-adhesion-de-la-turquie_1911457.html.

AFP, « Erdogan somme l’UE de relancer les négociations, « sinon au revoir » », nouvelobs.fr, 02 may 2017. Available at: http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20170502.AFP2523/turquie-l- akp-se-reunit-pour-reintegrer-le-president-erdogan.html.

AFP, « UE-Turquie : Juncker et Tusk recevront Trump et Erdogan jeudi à Bruxelles », nouvelsobs.fr, 19 may 2017. Available at: http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20170519.AFP3612/ue-turquie-juncker-et-tusk- recevront-erdogan-jeudi-a-bruxelles.html.

Ph. R., « Rencontres avec le président turc Erdogan », ladepeche.fr, 26 may 2017. Available at : http://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2017/05/26/2582031-rencontres-avec-le-president-turc-erdogan.html.

Tuvan Gumrucku and Pierre Sérisier, « L’UE propose un cadre pour relancer les relations avec la Turquie », challenges.fr, 27 may 2017. Available at: https://www.challenges.fr/monde/l-ue-propose-un-cadre-pour-relancer-les-relations-avec-la-turquie_476297.