Turkey's membership will show whether EU is just a "Christian club"- analyst

The fate of Turkey's European Union (EU) accession bid will show whether the union will become the far-right's "Christian club" or a more inclusive one that includes a Muslim-majority country, Faisal Al Yafai, an investigative journalist who focuses on Middle East issues, said in an article for Syndication Bureau.

The EU declared Turkey as a candidate country in 1999 and accession negotiations started in 2005, however the process has been stalled particularly after 2016, due to what the EU says Turkey’s drift away from the European values. 

However, since early 1960’s, some in Turkey has repeatedly said that Turkey will never be a member of the EU, as it is in essence a Christian club. The recent European Parliament elections, which showed the raising support for far-right parties that portray the EU as a product of the Christian civilisation meant a confirmation of this tendency for such groups.

Turkey’s sporadic progress toward EU membership is to one extent is related to Ankara’s political decisions, while it is also related to a gap in the philosophy of the EU, said Yafai. 

There is a lack of clarity on the EU side about whether it will ever approve Turkey as a full member, according to the analyst. “It sometimes seems as if neither the EU nor Turkey really wants to deepen their relationship, but neither can find an easy way out,” he said. 

“For its part, the EU cultivates the impression that it is desperately cheerleading Ankara’s accession, only to be disappointed,” Yafai said. According to the analyst the EU, as in ts latest report, repeatedly underlines the backsliding in Turkey’s democracy, but repeated criticism, even in the face of a failed coup attempt in the country in 2016, point to a different motivation. 

Because nobody in EU is ready to make a final decision on Turkey’s accession bid according to Yafai, as accepting Turkey into the EU is not an easy decision, not only because of its high population and anti-Western opinions of some Turks, but also because it is a Muslim majority country. 

"Whichever direction the EU takes on Turkey will define the character of the EU project. One way or another, the future of the European Union is intimately tied to Turkey," Yafai said.