Turkish-EU relations need common sense

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

German Turks protest against the PKK in Cologne. [Nabil Yücel/Flickr]

We are living in a world of vast differences and constant changes, yet there is often opportunity to be considered in our approaches in order to tackle the negatives and highlight the positives, writes Egemen Bagis.

Egemen Bagis is a former EU minister and chief negotiator of Turkey.

With this in mind, Turkey, as a multifaceted country, has been keen for the last six decades to join the European alliance and unite in the fight against terror, to deal with the influx of migrants and support those affected, and review policy and procedures that will allow for a continued democratic system whilst also aiming to enable open channels for trade and travel.

However, last week’s vote in the European Parliament in favour of the proposal to suspend accession talks between the EU and Turkey is, in fact, irresponsible and short-sighted. Not only does it undermine the past work that has been done to build foundations since the 1960s, it also shows an irreverent view on a diverse society that has been willing to make several modifications in order to adapt to a more European format.

Damage is being done to the many years of diplomatic ties/international relations, which were previously in a position of mutual recognition to improve the multinational bonds, and which are now becoming extremely strained.

The European Parliament seems to be trying to alienate Turkey further from its shores. Recent events are thwarting progress significantly.

For instance, there have been occasions when European countries have allowed terrorist organisations, such as FETÖ, DHKP-C, PKK and its affiliates, to demonstrate freely in their streets. This is despite the fact that these terrorist organisations have been an ongoing threat to safety and security to both EU member countries and Turkey for some time now. As NATO members we all have a responsibility to protect each other from threats and not to motivate the perpetrators of those threats.

Common sense is missing. The EU has the PKK listed as a terrorist organisation. How can they then be allowed to freely go among other European citizens and exhibit their terrorist ideology? Is this not how radicalism is spread? Is this not what Europe and Turkey had previously tried to work together to prevent, such insurrection?

This does not make sense in the truest of ways. As allies against terrorism, where is the solidarity?

Turkey is most definitely feeling isolated and unsupported by Europe in these current climes. This most recent vote only solidifies Turkish perceptions that Europe is not with us, but against us.

Surely on both sides there needs to be a will for progress, a will to move forward, not back. If there are disagreements between countries, then dialogue must be preferable.

However, it is imperative that those involved make the effort to fully understand the unique level of ethnic, cultural and social and security differences that make up Turkish society without making sweeping votes in a bid to further sway opinion.

Where there’s will, there’s way.  Let’s hope for our children’s futures that we don’t lose our way, but that together the EU and Turkey can find the best way to move on to a stronger, safer, brighter place. What this relationship needs urgently is, simply, common sense.

Subscribe to our newsletters


Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.