Turkey needs a soft exit from the EU
The realization that Turkey’s accession is not a realistic goal should be the starting point of a redefined relationship
By SINAN ÜLGEN
Suspending European Union membership negotiations would be the wrong signal for Europe to send Turkey. The move, set to be debated in the European Parliament, would eliminate what’s left of the EU’s leverage over Ankara and further erode the credibility of Turkish liberals, whose European-friendly narrative has already made them an endangered species.
The EU’s lawmakers are, of course, forced to react to the democratic backsliding of a candidate country. But they should be considering a variety of options instead of launching an attack on the core of the EU-Turkey relationship. The EU is now paying the price of the strategic blindness that has already led to a hollowing of its relationship with Turkey.
Despite starting membership talks in 2005, the EU has not officially tackled the issue of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey. The relevant chapter in accession negotiations remains blocked due to a dispute over Cyprus. The same is true for the chapter on the rule of law. In other words, even when Turkey was going in the right direction, the EU could not address these critical issues with Turkish policymakers. There is a direct line between this gross failure of engagement and the EU’s current situation, in which its only available counter measure is the nuclear option of ending accession talks altogether.