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This, however, will not resolve long-standing problems that have plagued relations for years. Turkey's requests for visa liberalisation and upgrading of the Custom Union have not been met. The stalemate in Cyprus is set to continue and the intransigence of Greek Cypriots in negotiating a political settlement is likely to be complemented by an MHP veto on any proposals for a compromise.

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The negative trends of recent years in Turkey's human rights and democracy record is unlikely to be reversed and EU's criticism of it will not go away. Thus, there seems to be a very limited prospect for any qualitative change in Turkish-EU relations. In the Middle East, Turkey has recalibrated its foreign policy in recent years to adjust to the civil war in Syria and the failure of the Iraqi state. As a result, Turkish regional policy, particularly in its immediate neighbourhood and in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK and its offshoot the Democratic Union Party PYD , has become increasingly militarised and hard-power-driven.

This approach has yielded results: Turkey has partially achieved its goals in northern Syria through a number of military interventions.

'Why we’re paying the rent for a million Syrian refugees'

The de-escalation outposts Turkey set up in Syria's Idlib province blocked its expansion westward towards the Mediterranean Sea. And with the Operation Olive Branch , the Turkish military embarked on a process of rolling back territorial gains made by the PYD and its allies. Throughout this period, Turkey acquired a significant level of experience fighting on the ground and working with allied militias. These are new and important gains which are likely to influence Turkey's security culture and policy.

To that effect, it will strive to cut a real deal with the US, for the city of Manbij.


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Moreover, Turkey will have to invest more resources in the areas under its controls in Syria in order to put in place and maintain a functioning governance model. It needs to make sure there is no power vacuum which the PYD or other hostile forces could take advantage of. In the end, any Turkish policy in Syria will have to take into consideration US and Russian interests and navigate their unpredictable nature.

When it comes to its foreign policy towards regional heavy-weights such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, Turkey is likely to keep its compartmentalised approach.

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It will continue opposing their hegemonic aspirations, while seeking to enhance trade, tourism and energy ties with them at the same time. Turkey is wary of the Saudi-Israeli-Emirati attempt to establish a new regional order in the Middle East as well as Iran's drive to achieve hegemony in the Levant. It will continue to resist both projects. The EU should focus on resolving the existing problems as soon as possible and renew confidence in the Union rather than deepen relations.

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This critical period that the Union is going through suggests that it is moving towards a more flexible integration rather than a monolithic EU architecture. If the EU can muster the necessary political will, this existential crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To accomplish this, the EU needs to strengthen existing partnerships and create new mechanisms of cooperation and dialogue more than ever before. The EU has begun the process of reviewing its existing policies, especially its expansion and neighbor policies.

In this context, the EU has made its policy on the Western Balkans a priority agenda item. The instability emerging in the Western Balkan countries due to the increasing influence of Russia and China in the region has made it essential that the EU establish closer relations with countries in this region. In February, the EU published its Western Balkan Strategy, providing Western Balkan countries with clear prospects for membership and a tentative date even though it is non-binding. Furthermore, the EU organized a Western Balkan Summit on 17 May for the purpose of strengthening its relations with these countries.

However, it is impossible to make sense of how the Western Balkans are being given prospects for membership while Turkey remains excluded. The international system needs Turkey-EU cooperation in order to solve a number of global problems, ranging from the economy and energy to foreign policy, discrimination and terrorism within the context of our common values.

It is obvious that the international system needs Turkey-EU cooperation in order to solve a number of global problems, ranging from the economy and energy to foreign policy, as well as discrimination and terrorism within the context of our common values. Therefore, it is essential that Turkey-EU relations reach a certain level of strength and the EU develop a fair and principled approach towards Turkey. At every point in our partner relationship, which began in when Turkey applied to what was then the European Economic Community, the attitude of the EU towards Turkey has been ambivalent, even when our accession process started in Although the partnership that was initially established with the Ankara Agreement appears to be based on trade and economic considerations, its actual purpose was security in the context of the Cold War.

The preamble to the agreement refers to the objective of protecting and strengthening peace and freedom. Turkey has still not been able to achieve the progress it deserves and wants from the accession negotiations in spite of the fact that they began more than a decade ago.

History of Turkey- EU Relations

Today, it is unclear what the EU wants or what its goals are in its relations with Turkey. After all, Turkey has still not been able to achieve the progress it deserves and wants from the accession negotiations in spite of the fact that they began more than a decade ago. Even when relations were at their best, half of the chapters were blocked for purely political reasons. However, there are numerous EU leaders who recognize the key role that Turkey will play in overcoming the existential crises that the EU is facing.

The Varna Summit was beneficial in that it renewed trust in Turkey-EU relations, which is currently going through a difficult phase. At the Summit, Turkey outlined its expectations concerning counter-terrorism, visa liberalization, voluntary resettlement of migrants, the Cyprus problem, the Refugee Facility for Turkey, and updating the Customs Union, thus reminding the EU that it must fulfill its obligations within the scope of the March 18th Agreement.


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Turkey also provided the EU with a draft roadmap that outlines concrete steps for the future of the relationship. The most important thing about the Varna Summit will be turning the positive atmosphere into concrete policies and practices. In every aspect of the decisions that were made in previous summits, Turkey has acted in accordance with the principle of pacta sunt servanda and kept its end of the deal. However, the EU's failure in fulfilling its own commitments has resulted in a profound sense of mistrust in the EU among the Turkish people. For Turkey, the most important priority is opening the way to accession negotiations.

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However, the EU has not fulfilled its commitment to complete preparations for beginning negotiations on the chapters blocked by Cyprus. The accession negotiations are the backbone of Turkey-EU relations.


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It is impossible to realize the full potential of the relationship until there is progress in this area. A definitive membership plan with a timeline must be provided for our country as was outlined in the Western Balkan Strategy. The other two fundamental issues required to maintain the constructive atmosphere established at the Varna Summit is completing the visa liberalization talks, granting Turkish citizens visa exemption, and updating the Customs Union.

The basic issue regarding the Customs Union, which will serve the interests of both parties, is to remember that updating it is entirely a technical trade process and should not be hindered by political issues. Discover Thomson Reuters. Directory of sites. United States. World News.