Opinion: No real hope of EU membership for Turkey anymore

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No, Turkey is not on the EU’s doorstep. The refugee deal with Ankara remains “fragile,” and the same goes for a visa-free travel deal and EU membership negotiations.

Brexit proponents will stop at nothing: Even though they feel victory is within their grasp, they’re using any far-fetched argument they can think of to further stoke anti-EU sentiment among the British people. The latest argument: 70 million Turks are on the UK’s doorstep, just waiting to enter. On the one hand, the Brits are likely overestimating the appeal of their island. And on the other, Turkey is not even close to getting EU membership.

Like a camel through the eye of a needle

Some in Europe have come to the conclusion reluctantly while others can barely contain their glee: Turkey is moving away from us. The persecution of journalists and opposition members, parliamentarians and writers – the list of antidemocratic activities is getting longer by the day. President Erdogan is retreating further into the bunker of his autocratic rule. Those who contradict him are his enemies. That now goes for the entire EU, the European Parliament, German parliamentarians – basically, everyone. The man is surrounded by imagined enemies, and that is only feeding his paranoia.

Porträt - Barbara WeselDW’s Barbara Wesel

It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it would be for Erdogan to get into the EU. Currently, the EU is trying to salvage its refugee deal with Turkey, at least on paper. If we can just get part way through the summer, then we can regretfully announce that the date for a visa-free travel deal with Turkey has been pushed back to October, because Ankara hasn’t fulfilled all the conditions. We’re really sorry. People know now already that the refugee season ends in the fall. And if the border to Macedonia remains shut, then the influx will remain manageable, despite all the threats from Turkey. There’s a lot of shadow boxing going on at the moment.

It’s well known that people have very short memories. So here’s a reminder: It was British Prime Minister Tony Blair who pushed with great force to open membership negotiations with Turkey in 2005. France was against it, Germany was skeptical, the CDU has always been opposed. Back then, the resistance was based more on resentment; today it is more well founded. Turkey is becoming increasingly unreliable, potentially more dangerous, and more undemocratic. It is a regrettable development, but we can’t stop it.

All the talks, negotiations and attempts to whitewash the truth are just diplomatic gestures. The plan has actually become clear: Wait a few more months, and the refugee deal, the visa-free travel deal and membership negotiations will all hit the wall, one after the other. The latter will once again be put on ice, where it belongs. And someday, when we are all old and grey and Erdogan is in a home for retired sultans, we can pick up the pieces.

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