The Turkish EU-minister Volkan Bozkir has recently announced a new EU Strategy that aspires
to eliminate the remaining obstacles to EU membership and accelerate the pace
of socio-economic and political reforms in Turkey.
The strategy, which was announced on September 18, underlines three majors priorities: a “political reform process”, a “socio-economic transformation in the accession process” and an “EU communication strategy”. These strategies will be introduced over two periods between 2014-2015 and 2015-2019, along with more concrete proposals looking at a change in the constitution, better implementation of existing laws and a drive to drum up public support for the EU.
According to a written statement released by the EU Ministry, the strategy is about “Prioritizing Turkey’s interests and the benefits of the citizens, the new strategy will lead to a boost in the reform process and the establishment of new communication channels between Turkey and the EU”
Since opening up discussions in 2005, the negotiations between Turkey and the European Union have been a real struggle, as Turkey has consistently failed to fall in line with numerous EU standard checks. In this time 14 chapters of the EU “acquis” have been opened and one has been provisionally closed, whilst 17 other chapters were blocked by objections from the Council of the European Union and some EU member states.
The new strategy has come under fire from the EU as it intensifies its criticism of the Turkish government being led by President Erdogan of the “Justice and Development Party”. The latest EU country progress report on Turkey, which is due out in October this year, points out serious issues of government corruption as well as severe violations on several of the Union´s core values, such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly.
So what can then explain this renewed enthusiasm for EU membership?
Turkey is isolated at the moment, Turkey's overambitious and over-idealistic Middle East policy has collapsed and Russia's prominent positioning is also very worrying, as Pope points out, it relies on 70 percent of the country's gas imports from Russia.
Turkey also needs the EU to properly address international challenges such as the rise of terrorism in Syria and Iraq and the increasing amount of refugees coming over its borders from these war-torn areas. The question is whether the Erdogan government is ready to take the necessary steps in order to revitalize EU membership talks.
As Caleb Lauer from The National puts it, “Will Turkey be a EU-style liberal democracy with individual rights and institutional independence (that are) so well protected that Turkey’s major social issues, such as the Kurdish “question”, cronyism, and the relationship between politics and religion can be effectively and progressively governed by courts, legislation, and public policy debate? Or will Turkey remain a country where citizens are governed by paternalistic rulers that expect deference, muted criticism, (and) who reserve the right to discipline society according to particular interests and ideology, and “solve” social issues with social engineering?”
Ultimately the question of Turkey´s new EU strategy should not overshadow the question of Erdogan´s real intentions!