Mar 26 2018

No big changes expected at EU – Turkey summit

There are unlikely to be significant results from the European Union (EU) – Turkey summit in the Bulgarian city of Varna on Monday, said Kemal Kirişci of the Brooking’s Institution, a Washington think-tank.

Kirişci said the many differences between Turkey and the EU make it unlikely that much impetus will be provided to Turkey’s stalled EU accession process. Among the factors that prevent substantial progress being made are the state of Turkey’s democracy and growing public resentment in the EU towards the idea of Turkey joining the group.

On the Turkish side there is also anger that EU members were not more supportive following 2016’s failed coup attempt and, in particular, the failure of EU states to provide Turkey with more support in its struggle against what it calls terrorism.

But despite many seemingly irreconcilable differences, Turkey and the EU both need each other, said Kirişci. Turkey is extremely dependent on Europe economically. Half its exports go to Europe and nearly two-thirds of the foreign direct investment on which the Turkish economy is dependent comes from Europe. The EU is also the only group that provides Turkey with substantial financial assistance with relation to the millions of Syria refugees it hosts.    

On the other side of the coin, Turkey is the EU’s fifth largest trading partner and has played a critical role in stemming the flow of refugees into Europe. It is also important for EU counterterrorism efforts.

Given that, Kirişci said revitalising the EU accession process would have benefits for both sides, “However”, he said, “it would be unrealistic to expect a major breakthrough at the approaching Varna summit.”