Wednesday 23 August 2017 Last Update: 01:58 PM

How Much More Dreadful Can Turkey's Relations With EU Become?

Published: 03-29-2017


The style is out of hand, the content and the tone also. The exchange of verbal onslaughts and nasty phrases between Turkish and EU officials has become routine.

It looks as though the eruption of all the hatred, disappointment and grief accumulated within an old couple who remained silent for years, which, once the dispute has been unleashed, are incapable of stopping their outcry.

Officially, Turkey is still at the negotiating table with the EU for membership. Since 2006, because some EU countries have had cold feet about Turkish membership, this process has been grossly sabotaged. Alexandre Adler, a very proficient researcher and historian, wrote a prophetic opinion in Le Figaro, in 2006, regarding the sabotaging of EU-Turkey accession negotiations.

"Forces hostile to Turkey, in Europe, are lighting a wick. They do not quite measure the capacity of collateral damage of their deed. For months, Turkey has been constantly harassed: Brussels wants to impose a humiliating surrender by making it accept the Cypriot flag in its ports, while the Turkish community of Cyprus massively adopted by referendum the plan of reunification of Kofi Annan that the Greek side, on its part, refused massively(...) The decision of the European Parliament to reopen the Armenian genocide at the same time, while Turkey had already given signs of acceptance of a debate between historians, prior to the resumption of an unconditional Armenian-Turkish dialogue, is finally a calculated provocation, the sole aim of which is to sicken Turkish opinion and government in their European approach," he wrote. "At the same time, the unilateral adoption of the Community acquis is already driving domestic prices and destabilizing certain professions. Nearly half of the Turks now want to withdraw from the European process (against less than 20 percent a year ago). But it is the Turkish companies that are already supporting or stabilizing the entire economy of northern Syria and the entire Iraqi Kurdish economy(...) Is it really clear what the isolation(...) of Europhile Turkey on the other, can cost in the current crisis of the Middle East?"

This was written 11 years ago, and the very petit bourgeois short-sighted pettiness of the EU has created immense disappointment, gradually disappearing all hopes of joining a club whose rules were already accepted by Turkey. The latter was pilloried at a time when incredible reforms, both in the economic and democratic fields, were being carried out.

It would be totally unfair to see this as the only reason for the turmoil Turkey is presently at the mercy of the enmity and mismanagement of the accession negotiations by the EU. However, torpedoing such vital relations while Turkey is fulfilling the conditions of the EU better than most of the member states has created a deep ethical problem within the EU.

The outright rejection of Turkey was based on cultural and reactionary reflexes. It has created a similar reaction within Turkey, whereby the EU was seen as being democratic and law-abiding only when "Christian countries" were concerned. This perception grows daily, poisoning the atmosphere of EU-Turkey relations.

The absence of democratic dialogue has created a platform of mutual mistrust, turning into disdain. Starting from 2011 and the Syrian uprising, both parties came to the understanding that a common response was badly needed.

France made extremely important efforts first to wipe off Nicholas Sarkozy's damage, then to try and prevent the dislocation of Syria jointly with Turkey. This rapprochement unfortunately didn't last long and Barack Obama's hesitations and volt-faces have destroyed the credibility of the "Western world" in Syria.

Turkish government representatives have been increasingly treated with condescension, if not plain disdain. For the last three years, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been labelled a dictator by people who should definitely use another diplomatic style. The declarations between Turkey and some EU countries have turned into a chorus of insults, while the use of taboo terms has been widespread.

We do not know the depth and extent of the damage such a polemic has created.

The terrible and hardly understandable incidents in the Netherlands have only further envenomed the atmosphere, and now the European Parliament has taken an incredible decision to "prohibit" the Daily Sabah from circulating within European Parliament premises.Only a deeply racist, violent and xenophobe publication can fall under such prohibition. Even then, some leaflets and publications are "tolerated," despite their content, because they come from oppressed minorities. But I have been working with the European Parliament for the last 35 years and this is the first time I have seen the banning of a perfectly legal, reputable newspaper.

While I was serving as the secretary-general of the Economic Development Foundation (IKV), an institution representing the Turkish private sector vis-à-vis the EU, I have had ample use of the freedom to circulate reports and leaflets within the parliament, through letter boxes and through leaflets left in the press center. Obviously, nobody minded, so long as these were perfectly legal documents produced by a representative institution. Those who did not like Turkey's presence within the parliament can just get rid of the publications or look elsewhere. "Banning" a perfectly legal, law abiding publication is making the same dreadful errors of 2006. This will take us nowhere good.

By EMRE GÖNEN -Daily Sabah