Europe should keep Turkey close

Policy brief
27 July 2018

EU-Turkey relations have deteriorated sharply in recent years, and even maintaining transactional co-operation could become increasingly difficult. The challenge for Europe is how to prevent relations from souring further. 

  • EU-Turkey relations have deteriorated sharply in recent years. Turkey’s accession process is frozen, as are the plans to reform the EU-Turkey customs union. The erosion of human rights and the rule of law in Turkey are the main culprits, but the lack of a viable positive agenda to structure relations has also been an important contributing factor. 
  • Europeans sometimes forget that Turkey has also been drifting away from the US and NATO. Ankara feels betrayed by US support for the Syrian Kurds, while Washington is upset about Ankara’s purchase of an S-400 air defence system from Russia.
  • The re-election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as president in June 2018 means that Turkey’s domestic politics and foreign policy are unlikely to change in the near future. Even maintaining transactional EU-Turkey co-operation could become increasingly difficult if trust erodes away.
  • The challenge for Europe is how to prevent its relationship with Turkey from souring further. The EU should avoid the temptation to end accession negotiations until there is a better alternative in place, and maintain high-level dialogue with Turkey to help preserve a degree of trust and facilitate co-operation. 
  • The EU should also resume negotiations for an updated customs union to re-engage Turkey and help it to develop its economy. And it should seek dialogue with Turkey to better address foreign policy challenges in the region, especially the stabilisation of Syria and Iraq.
  • In the medium term, the EU needs to think beyond accession, and consider what framework could better serve to structure its relations with Turkey as long as membership remains unlikely. The EU should develop an ambitious ‘special partnership’ model, offering participation in the single market for goods, services and capital to regain its power of attraction. The EU-UK continental partnership model, proposed by the Bruegel think-tank, could serve as a blueprint. 
  • There are good reasons for the EU to develop such a model. Accession has lost much of its power as the EU has become less keen to enlarge, and halfway houses between membership and non-membership, such as association agreements, do not offer enough to countries that do not aspire to be full-blown members of the EU, or cannot. If the EU had more attractive options between non-membership and membership, it would regain influence throughout its neighbourhood and be able to project stability better. 

View press release


Turkey has used EU as better as she could. By pretending it's willingness to enter EU family and values gained a customs union, providing tax free products from Turkey to EU member states.

Once Turkey got what she wanted (tax free trade), forgot all obligations and started walking away from EU values. Lately she blames European countries for elitism, while turning into a dictatorship.
There is no need for EU to keep Turkey close. If a country wants to enter EU it should adopt it's values, not vice versa. Turkey is not an exception and should not be treated as such.

Europe should cooperate with US and disband trade rights given to Turkey. No hostile behaving country should be treated lightly as they interpret it as weakness. EU is not a military superpower but it is an economic one. This power should be used to either sense Erdogan or stop providing him with extra money to turn into weapons against Cyprus (39% of this member state is under Turkish occupation since 1974), Greece, Syria and all neighboring countries!
Copyright is held by the Centre for European Reform. You may not copy, reproduce, republish or circulate in any way the content from this publication except for your own personal and non-commercial use. Any other use requires the prior written permission of the Centre for European Reform.