Critical era in Turkey-EU relations - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Critical era in Turkey-EU relations

One of the most critical periods in Turkey-EU relations is taking place. Many times in the past, we witnessed tensions between Turkey and the EU. The decisions and statements made by the EU against Turkey in particular caused relations to be strained.

So, the current situation is not unusual. We are faced with the usual attitude of the EU which made habit of a double-standard approach toward Turkey. However, this time it is different in that Turkey has taken up a very different position on EU countries than before.

Tensions escalated during Turkey's April 16 referendum process and ties between Turkey and the EU almost came to a breakaway point. This was mainly because of the EU's assessing Turkey with past perceptions.

Indeed, although there was no rightness in the past, no word was uttered or no reaction was made in the face of developments against the country. This is the main reason for the tension between Turkey and the EU.

Clues about where ties will head and how they will shape will emerge from the NATO summit in Brussels. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's meetings with EU representatives will determine how Turkey will carry out its relations with the EU in the next period.

The tragicomic aspect of the matter for EU representatives is that all the efforts of the EU in support of the anti-Erdoğan campaign, making serious effort before the referendum for a "no" majority, will turn to dust and they will meet with Erdoğan.

Besides, of course, there is also an economic aspect. Despite the behavioral habits of the EU against Turkey, economic relations between Turkey, an EU candidate, and the EU continued.

On the one side of these relations is Turkey. With the Customs Union Agreement signed in 1996, Turkey entered the Customs Union despite not being a member of the EU and has been in the Customs Union for 21 years. On the other side is the EU, which is unrivalled in creating barriers against Turkey's full membership since the negotiations on full membership began in 2005.

At this point, questions about the future of Turkey and EU relations are increasing.

What will become of Turkey-EU relations? How will the future attitude of the EU develop as Turkey moves toward becoming an EU member? Does Turkey have its previous motivation to join the EU in the current conditions? Will the Customs Union Agreement be updated?

New factors in relations with the EU

We are not in a period in which Turkey has no other alternative than the EU in the international arena. Although the EU's share in Turkey's exports was close to 45 percent in 2016, the direction of world trade is gradually shifting to different countries. The developing countries, including Turkey, Asia and Gulf countries, show that there are strong alternatives for Turkey in economic relations.

On the other hand, China, India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey, which are considered E7 countries (Emerging 7), are increasing their weight in the world economy every day. So much so that the position of G7 (Group of Seven) countries, the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Canada, is under pressure by E7 countries. Moreover, E7 countries' contribution to global economy is higher than that of rich countries.

In fact, according to projections, the gap between them will increasingly grow. So, economic growth, trade and dynamism are in the East, namely in developing countries. The most important factor is the dense population and, therefore, both labor force potential and consumption are in developing countries.

In addition, depending on rising income, developing countries' investments in reconstruction, urbanization and infrastructure, which are necessary for economies, will increase. The deficiency of energy, which is the weak spot of EU countries, is one of the biggest advantages of these countries. The location of countries with energy and the route to carry this energy in Turkey's region will also affect Turkey's relations with the EU.

The position of Turkey as both a transit and a central country in the energy supply security and the role it will assume in energy will determine the direction of relations between the two parties. There is, of course, the issue of Syrian migrants as well. The approach of EU countries toward Syrians is very clear and the sustainability of this approach, namely the continuity of the high barriers imposed on the Syrians, depends on Turkey.

Turkey's different behavior in its relations with the EU, compared to previous terms, may be a new situation for the EU, but the factors we have listed show why Turkey has adopted a different attitude toward the EU now.
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