BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
The European Union (EU) held its much-awaited summit and announced its decision on Turkey with a declaration published at the end of the meeting. No doubt the declaration relieved the current government in Ankara because it didn’t report a decision on additional sanctions on Turkey. However, this relief is applies just ‘for now’. The EU decided to continue its policy of pressuring Turkey with the threat of sanctions.
Unsurprisingly, they didn’t forget to include fancy words in the declaration to explain its position, expressions like ‘phased’, proportionate’ and ‘reversible’. The term ‘phased’ refers ‘carrot’ or ‘stick’ policies to be implemented by the EU in depending on Turkey’s attitudes; ‘proportionate’ indicates responses by the EU to Turkish actions that are equal; and ‘reversible’ points to the EU’s reactionary approach, meaning it may ‘tweak’ and move forward or backward in accordance with Turkey’s policies.
The explanation of all these diplomatic statements is here: the EU has placed – so to say – a Sword of Damocles above Turkey. As soon as the AK Party government starts to make a move – mostly in its Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean policies – that sword will fall it as sanctions.
WHAT IS IN THE EU’S DECLARATION?
Journalism is writing historical rough drafts and leaving notes for historians. In this respect, it’s useful to list one by one the outstanding elements in the declaration. First of all, here are the differences in the Turkey section of the declaration from this Summit compared to the declaration of the December 2020 Summit:
►The task of preparing a report containing possible areas of cooperation and issues of contention was given to the EU Commission stating that “a positive agenda is possible with Turkey” and no particular attitude was adopted in the declaration of the December 2020 Summit. There are some concrete positive initiatives in the declaration of the March Summit due to the fact that Turkey withdrew all survey vessels, including the •ruc Reis, and began exploratory talks with Greece.
►•ne of concrete initiatives, which was not brought in the December Summit but in the March Summit, is that EU decided to kick off high-level talks with Turkey on issues such as climate change, refugees, and counterterrorism (apparently, the EU preferred a ‘phased’ course in these high-level talks, because there was a more comprehensive high-level mechanism called the political and economic dialogue previously. Now topics have narrowed).
►Another concrete initiative the EU brought forward is the plan to set up a new transfer of funds for the continuation of the existing EU program for refugees in Turkey. A report has been requested from the EU Commission on this issue. Sources in Brussels state that this financial assistance to be provided for the period of a few years can reach again EUR 4-5bn. Of course, this amount again will not be distributed through Turkish government bodies but through international institutions.
►EU Leaders have requested the Commission carry out a study for the extension of the Customs Union (CU) at this Summit. It will be decided whether to kick off negotiations with Turkey on the extension and modernization of the CU at the EU Summit to be held in June.
There are also some quite negative elements in the Summit’s final declaration against this positive agenda:
►Above all, the declaration doesn’t mention Turkey’s full membership process at all. Turkey is handled, so-to-speak as a ‘neighboring country’.
►The backsliding in human rights and democracy in Turkey has been ‘touched’ upon in the declaration but in the same way as any other third country, such as Russia or Georgia, which are in no way connected to EU membership, has been mentioned.
►There are also ‘traps’ in the declaration. The ‘review’ of the existing CU between Turkey and EU ‘in an operational sense’ has also been recorded. Turkey-Cyprus relations are hidden under the diplomatic terminology. Cyprus has always been a problem during the CU negotiations with the EU. However, it didn’t become a direct problem as the CU became operative before Cyprus became an EU member.
After Greek Cypriots became EU members, they attempted to use the CU in order to achieve official recognition from Turkey. They emphasized that Turkish ports and airports should be opened to Greek Cypriot flagged vessels and aircrafts and that the Turkish market should be opened to Greek Cypriot-labelled goods. However, these requests didn’t find support within the EU. Apparently, Greek Cypriots have started to receive this support from their European partners as this item has been included in the final declaration of the Summit.
Ankara has withdrawn its survey vessels when it heard the ‘sanction’ word; it has grounded them in the Gulf of Antalya or the Black Sea, where disputes don’t exist. Supposedly this has led to a situation where concession lead to concessions on the EU side. This is what is interpreted by the the declaration.
Meanwhile, there remains this crucial question: Where are those Blue Homeland defenders? The AK Party government barely mentions the Blue Homeland, which had been the most important agenda item in Turkish public opinion for some time? Why don’t they make a noise?