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Monday, January 31, 2011

Ways out of the Turkey-EU deadlock has a good and balanced analysis of the current deadlock in the accession negotiations written by Amanda Paul, an analyst at the European Policy Centre (and columnist for Today's Zaman).

Amanda Paul
Amanda Paul
picture from
 Unlike too much of current mainstream media commentary on Turkey-EU relations, Paul does not lay the blame for the current impasse squarely at Turkey's feet. Instead, she points to the mutual failure to reach an agreement on Cyprus as the main stumbling block, noting that:
No doubt some member states will be hoping that Turkey's patience will snap and Ankara will draw a line under its own membership process, but this is unlikely. Contrary to the AKP's recent rhetoric, it needs the EU badly.
And she is less pessimistic than some, pointing out (as I did in my last post) that a lot can still happen:
While the opposition of key member states France and Germany, the economic crisis and the fact that it has almost become socially acceptable to be anti-Muslim are serious problems, they are longer term issues.

Leaders and circumstances change, and with Turkey's possible membership at least 10 years away, nobody can predict the future today. Therefore, these issues should not be extravagantly blown up and used as an excuse to hide behind.
The onus is, according to Paul, on Turkey, Greece, and the EU as a whole to work together to break the deadlock. And she believes that there are reasons to think that Turkey may want to push the agenda forward:
With possibly only 12 months left as prime minister, given it looks likely Erdoğan has a good chance of being Turkey's next president, he may decide to tackle Cyprus head on, to keep relations with the EU moving. Big business in Turkey has apparently been silently pushing the government to meet its commitments vis-à-vis the Additional Protocol, opening airports and harbours, so he should have support for this.

This would unblock the impasse and breathe fresh air into the negotiations. Whether it would result in the EU finally delivering then Direct Trade Regulation to the Turkish Cypriots is still highly questionable.

[...] it should not be ruled out that Ankara may also take steps regarding the solution of the Cyprus problem. But Turkey cannot do this alone and would need the strong commitment and support from other players, particularly Greece. This could be a joint Ankara-Athens initiative, which could then be supported by others including the UN, US and EU.
I would support most of Paul's analysis but she may be underestimating popular forces in both Turkey and many EU member states that we might call nationalist, for lack of a better term. It is indeed possible to view Erdoğan's recent assertiveness and accusations against the EU as merely pre-election rhetoric, but the EU's current cold shoulder may stoke nationalist sentiments in Turkey that would make it difficult for him to make any unilateral concessions or first gestures on Cyprus.

And while Islamophobia in France and Germany (and elsewhere in the Union) are indeed "longer term issues," that does not make them any less significant or intractable. Quite the opposite, as I argue in my forthcoming book. In many EU member states, attitudes toward Turkey are quite often framed by centuries of anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish imagery. This, I would argue, poses an underlying "structural" impediment to Turkish accession to the EU.

It is not an insurmountable impediment, but it certainly is a significant one that should not be underestimated due to a focus on the more headline-grabbing Cyprus issue. Many international policy analysts quite naturally tend to focus on high-politics and international security-related matters such as the Cyprus negotiations. But here is a quick thought-experiment to put Cyprus in perspective: The Cyprus issue is unexpectedly resolved. All who believe that Turkey is therefore suddenly warmly embraced by the European Union, raise your hands...

The Turkey-EU deadlock | EurActiv

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