Jan 22 2018

Syrian op set to shelve Turkey’s stuttering EU initiative - analyst

Turkey’s military operation in Syria likely means that efforts to rekindle relations with the European Union will be put on the backburner, according to Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and a former EU ambassador to Turkey.

Turkey had suddenly embarked on a new strategy of rapprochement with the EU after months of “trading barbs” with its leaders, but the initiative, focused on France, Germany and current EU president Bulgaria, had met with a lukewarm reception because of Turkey’s record on human rights, Pierini said in an analysis for Carnegie on Monday.

“Apart from military motivations, the current Turkish operation in Syria -- dubbed “Olive Branch" -- has an overwhelming goal: to ramp up nationalist sentiments and project the Turkish president as the only politician who can steer the country through a dangerous situation,” he said. “In these circumstances, agreeing with the EU won’t matter much.”

From a European perspective, the question of Turkey’s EU membership doesn’t even arise anymore, because EU leaders, to a large extent, no longer view Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a trusted political ally, Pierini

“As long as Turkey’s political leadership undermines the rule of law, brings its domestic political fights to Europe, and routinely uses anti-EU narratives, there can be no political alliance -- despite Turkey’s NATO membership.” he said.

Some EU countries -- Bulgaria among them -- want to satisfy Erdoğan’s longing for summit meetings, such as those that took place in December 2004 and October 2015, but the gatherings have “left sour memories for those politicians present,” he said.