Turkey’s Troubled EU Accession: In Limbo Either Way

by Elbay Alibayov | Global Politics Illustrated

Most recent: the official plot

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu attended the informal meeting of Foreign Ministers of European Union members and candidate countries held in Valetta, Malta, on 28 April 2017. He met with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, among others. Turkey-EU relations (especially the prospects of the former’s EU membership aspiration) were discussed, according to released information. It was announced afterwards that, despite the recent (Turkish referendum related) rhetoric of politicians, the EU kept the door to the European Union for Turkey ajar and “the accession process continues, it is not suspended, nor ended .”

A snapshot


MC: “Are you serious?”

FM: “I’m telling you. Door is still open.”

MC: “After all you in the EU have said?”

FM: “Even after all you in Turkey have done.”

Scratching beneath the surface

Neither believed the other side. Both knew that the “open door” was merely mirage: Europeans had no appetite for bringing seventy-nine-million-strong Muslim Turkey in, while the Turks had no intention of submitting on issues they valued as critical. But it served both well to pretend that everything was for real: For Europe, the mirage had to stay on the horizon, in order to use it as bargaining chip and (as they thought) to contain its otherwise edgy and ambitious neighbour through the accession’s conditionality; Turks, in turn, played the game in order to get more concessions from the EU on various issues (from trade to migration and security) of common interest. Moreover, both were aware that the other side knew their game, but still kept playing.

Limbo it is

There are two meanings of limbo. One stands for “an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.” It is exactly what Turkey’s EU accession story is about (just compare: both Croatia and Turkey opened the accession talks with the EU in October, 2005; Croatia joined in 2013, while Turkey is nowhere near).

Interestingly, this intriguing story qualifies for another, original in fact (from some Christian beliefs), meaning of limbo—that is “the supposed abode of the souls of unbaptized infants, and of the just who died before Christ’s coming.”

So, whichever way you look at it, Turkey is in limbo… special kind of it, where neither/nor situation may last forever and keep everyone satisfied (contrary to original meaning where those in limbo are supposed to suffer). So are the circumstances. And it seems that both sides have adjusted to them and try to smartly make the best of it: Europe won’t let Turkey in as a member state, although cannot afford losing it as a partner; Turkey realises that full-blown membership (in supposedly “heaven” of the European Union) is not going to materialise, but it is better to stay at least in the candidate status endlessly (with some access to the table) rather than to go solo (or through “hell” if you wish) all along . Happy limbo it is.


The Significance of the Turkish Referendum



The campaign slogan in Istanbul reads: “YES: Both the Word & the Decision Belong to the Nation” Image credit: CNN

On Sunday, 16 April Turkish voters will decide in a national referendum on the type of their country’s government—whether to retain the (hard fought for) parliamentary system or to opt for an executive presidency. The new constitution (incorporating 18 proposed amendments) abolishes the prime minister’s office and divides power between parliament, as legislative, and the president, as both the head of the state and the chief executive. But that is not all. Technically, the decision making and especially oversight functions of the parliament will be diminished. On the top of it, the new system will give the president an authority to keep control over his/her political party and dominate the legislative branch, politically.

In its opinion published last month, the Venice Commission (a body of constitutional experts of the Council of Europe) concluded that “the substance of the proposed constitutional amendments represents a dangerous step backwards in the constitutional democratic tradition of Turkey.” Moreover, the Commission stressed “the dangers of degeneration of the proposed system towards an authoritarian and personal regime” and warned that the “the timing is most unfortunate and is itself cause of concern” due to the state of emergency in Turkey (a concern shared by many analysts that the current situation gives the new constitution’s main proponents–that is, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP)–a high hand in promoting their stand).

These and other arguments expressed by various international organisations and independent think tanks mostly concern the implications of the proposed constitutional amendments on the state of democracy and human rights in Turkey. What about its foreign policy and the role Turkey has traditionally played in regional affairs? In his analysis published through Reality Check series of the Geopolitical Futures, Jacob L. Shapiro claims that the referendum outcome does not matter in this respect, for regardless of the result, Turkey will continue rising as a regional power.

“Regardless of whether Erdoğan stays in power or another leader takes over, Turkey will continue maturing as a nation and becoming a regional power surrounded on almost all sides by unenviable threats. If the referendum passes … [nothing] will be as determinative as the geopolitical constraints forcing Turkey back into the pantheon of the world’s major powers. On that, Turkey doesn’t get a vote – and its increase in power will define the country’s future more than any referendum can.”

Read more via Geopolitical Futures

The roles of the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel in Syria: moving towards the end of the war

The war in Syria is at its critical junction point, where decisions taken by various state and non-state actors upon the choices available to them at this point of time have a capacity of deciding the fate of the conflict, this way or another. An excellent break down of interests, perceptions and choices presented by a seasoned political risk analyst Elijah J Magnier: “Syria looks both close to and far from the end of the war. There are still both military (against ISIS and al-Qaeda) and political battles (constitution, cease-fire, reconstruction) to be fought. Nevertheless, despite the US and Turkish occupation of Syrian territory which Damascus will have to face one day, there are clear signs that the war in Syria is on track towards its ending.”

Elijah J. Magnier | ايليا ج مغناير

The two superpowers have agreed to finish off ISIS in Syria

Al-Qaeda in Syria has lost the support of the people and the countries of the region

Hezbollah fears an Israeli-US-Saudi Arabia war but the facts speak otherwise

Published here:  v

Elijah J. Magnier – @EjmAlrai

The US and Russia have agreed to put an end to the “Islamic State” (ISIS/Daesh) as a priority in Syria, unifying the goal without necessarily agreeing on uniting efforts and coordinating the ground attack. Nevertheless, this beginning will lead the way towards the end of the war in Syria and pave the way to removing essential obstacles (that means all jihadists) on the peace process road.

The US in Syria and the difficult choices:

The United States has pushed hundreds of its special forces and elite troops into the north – east of Syria to maintain a military presence…

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