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30 - Bilateral relations with Turkey

Grade: C+
Unity 3/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 4/10
Total 10/20
Scorecard 2012: D+ (5/20)
Scorecard 2013: C- (7/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (9/20)

Relations have gained momentum with the readmission agreement coming into force and the visa liberalisation process getting under way.

Turkey’s accession process remains on standby because of blocks put on certain chapters of the EU’s acquis communautaire for the country by Cyprus, France, and the EU Foreign Affairs Council. With the viability of membership in question, not least because of deteriorating human rights, the EU has little leverage over Ankara. The Italian Presidency significantly moved discussions forward on opening chapter 17. There is also talk in the EU about unblocking chapters 23 and 24, with France’s President François Hollande restating his support for this move. Cyprus, however, is keeping its blocks in place. In the meantime, Paris has not indicated whether it will continue to block negotiation on the other four blocked chapters.

On 1 October 2014, the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement entered into force and, simultaneously, a visa liberalisation process was launched. The border management benchmarks that Turkey will need to meet are particularly important for Turkey’s EU neighbours and also for EU countries concerned about asylum seekers reaching their country or about their nationals traveling to Syria to join jihadist groups. Turkish cooperation with EU agencies such as Frontex intensified this year. While a visa-free regime could be within reach for Turkey in two or three years, the Turkish side remains sceptical that EU states will actually agree to let this happen.

Ankara’s rhetoric about rejuvenating the EU accession track increased following the presidential election in August, but it was undermined by political crackdowns. Traditional supporters of Turkey’s EU membership aspirations, including Italy and Sweden, have become disillusioned by Turkey’s democratic backsliding. In the first seven months of 2014, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited a number of European cities, holding rallies to reach out to ex-patriot Turks, expressing frustration with European leaders, and warning the Turks against cultural assimilation. These occasions increased tensions between the Turkish leadership and European countries with ethnic Turkish populations.