Ayhan Zeytinoglu, the chairman of Economic Development Foundation (IKV) which specializes in EU – Turkey relations, commented on the European Parliament report calling to suspend negotiations regarding Turkey’s EU membership bid, highlighting the EP’s “erratic approach” to Turkey. He also discussed the continued difficulties in Brexit negotiations in the House of Commons.
According to Zeytinoglu, on March 13, the attention of the entirety of Europe was focused on the votes in these two parliaments. He added that, unlike the decision in the House of Commons which voted against the UK’s exit without EU agreement, the European Parliament’s decision on Turkey was a decidedly negative outcome.
“This week is of key importance both for the future of relations between Turkey and the EU, as well as for the EU as a whole. For three consecutive days, the United Kingdom voted on Brexit in the House of Commons. In parallel, a vote was taken in the European Parliament regarding Turkey, the first draft of which was submitted in November last year. The report was supported by the votes of 370 deputies, with 109 parliamentarians opposed. In addition, on March 15 in Brussels, after a four-year break, a meeting of the Partnership Council will be held, which is the key decision-making body on the partnership between Turkey and the EU.
The refusal of the agreement, which the Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May is now discussing with the EU within the framework of the Brexit process, has increased the likelihood of the British leaving the EU without an agreement. However, this decision caused increased pressure on the government to find a solution to the problem. Despite the fact that this initiative is only a recommendation, the very fact that it was put to a vote with the support of deputies of various parties and influential parliamentarians is important. Taking into account the results of the upcoming vote, we can assume that the UK will not be released from the EU on March 29, as it was planned earlier, and this process will be delayed. The main task at the moment is to formulate a government plan that will satisfy the EU. There is a possibility of delaying the Brexit process until May 22. During this period, an agreement based on the model of the Customs Union or the European Economic Zone, proposed by the Labor Party, as well as the scenario for conducting early elections or the second referendum, can be put on the agenda for discussion, ” said Zeytinoglu.
“We should not put trump cards in the hands of Turkey’s opponents”
Zeytinoglu stressed that the current decision leaves a “sad legacy” to the European parliamentarians who will replace them following the upcoming elections in May.
“I consider the proposal to suspend negotiations with Turkey, contained in the EP report, to be completely unjustified and highly erroneous. The negotiation process, in fact, and so is in a frozen state. Since 2016, new chapters of the negotiation dossier have not opened, and, starting in 2006, no chapter has been closed, even temporarily. In addition, discussions on chapters related to the Cyprus issue are regularly blocked. Under these conditions, the call for the official suspension of negotiations, in my opinion, is an unconstructive and illogical step. Despite the positive recommendations contained in the report regarding the renewal of the provisions of the Customs Union and visa liberalization, the proposal to suspend the negotiation process demonstrates the EP’s erroneous approach to Turkey, ” Zeytinoglu said.
In conclusion, he said that the adoption of the EP report does not mean that the negotiation process with Turkey will actually be suspended:
“The EP report is a recommendation for the decision makers on the negotiation process of the Council and the EU member states. A decision to suspend negotiations with Turkey requires a qualified majority of votes from EU member states, which is not currently possible. But this situation should not lead us to discourage us. The European Parliament is changing and the position of far-right populists is likely to strengthen. In addition, the composition of the European Commission will change and a new chairman will be elected who will take the place of the current one who is friendly to Turkey. One of the most likely candidates for this position – the representative of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, has already promised to suspend the negotiation process on Turkey’s membership. This suggests that the situation will become much more complicated for us. For our part, we must continue our policy towards the EU and vigorously pursue reforms that are in the interests of the Turkish state.”