The EU and Brexit, Where does Turkey Stand?

Gabriella Twinning

With the referendum day fast approaching, the world is unsure how the British public shall vote this Thursday. With conflicting results from the polls, the only prediction I shall make is that the result shall be close, French election close. Further, this piece shall not focus on the closing arguments of the opposing camps, as CEFTUS is non-party affiliated, rather where does Turkey stand during these times of monumental change? This is of course in reference to the second important deadline that is fast approaching, that of the deal between the European Union and Turkey.

In the past few months the media news outlets have been predominantly dominated by three major topics; Brexit, the migrant crisis and Syria. These areas of media attention are also inextricably linked and have been used to fuel arguments to both the Leave and Remain camps. Turkey, on the other hand, has come into the fold and identified itself as a centre player, showcasing both its geographical and historical importance in the region. This has culminated in the EU-Turkey migrant deal, crudely put it is an exchange for Turkey receiving Syrian migrants from Greece for Visa free travel within the Schengen area. In doing so, Turkey shall be taking part in ‘burden sharing’ an EU term denoting the equal part that each Member State needs to play in such a migrant or refugee crisis (such as accepting migrants, processing etc). As such, this appears to be setting the scene for further integration into the EU, as long as Turkey applies the 72 conditions set in the agreement.  Chancellor Merkel has hailed the deal as a “sustainable, pan-European solution”, it also implies a rapprochement of Turkey to the EU and another step towards membership.

However, currently Turkey has met all but five of the 72 conditions imposed, more specifically the usual conditions for which the government of President Erdogan is naturally reticent. These involve constricting the broad terror laws that have been infringing on press freedoms, human rights along with the need for the creation of biometric passports and cracking down on corruption. This deal, which was struck in March, has been delayed not only due to the Turkish government’s qualms with applying the final 5 conditions, but also due to the EU’s somewhat unrealistic expectation to have all subjects agreed upon and visa free travel implemented in July.

Chancellor Merkel is flying out this week for further negotiations with President Erdogan, however, as with this type of legislation even should an agreement be reached between them, the ratification is dependent on unanimity of all Member States. Similar visa deals with both Georgia and Ukraine were struck down by opposition from France, Germany and Italy. This was also due to perceived instability within the countries, as with the break away regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, along with the recent troubles with Russia in Ukraine, it appears that Member States are still aware of who they open their borders to.

Thus, this coming week shall be one of monumental change whichever way the UK decides to vote, along with that, EU relations with Turkey still appear to be hitting the same obstacles to further rapprochement since it made its application for membership in 1963. The processes are long and arduous and even should the negotiations between Germany and Turkey be successful, there is still the unanimous approval needed, as such, Turkey as the UK currently, doesn’t seem to know where it stands with the EU, only time shall tell.