Conditional cooperation: The EU’s ‘optimistic agenda’ and Turkey’s insurance policies within the Japanese Mediterranean

As soon as once more, relations with Turkey took heart stage on the European Union’s summit assembly. ”We’re able to put extra concrete proposals on the desk to have a extra secure, extra predictable relationship with Turkey”, mentioned Charles Michel after the assembly. The way to cope with Erdogan’s Turkey? has turn out to be a daily agenda merchandise when EU leaders convene. 

Whereas Ankara’s gradual sliding to an authoritarian order was once the main target, international and safety points associated to Turkey have turn out to be the principle challenge. In step with this, the official Council agenda didn’t point out “Turkey”, as a substitute referring to the “Japanese Mediterranean”, 

For the European Union, the conflicts in and across the Japanese Mediterranean have turn out to be a political top-priority. By a hair’s breath, Athens and Ankara got here near participating in a navy confrontation final 12 months. Cyprus additionally has stakes within the regional dispute. Turkey has deployed troops within the north of the island ever for the reason that forceful partition courting again to 1974. Of a newer date are variations over maritime claims between Ankara and Nicosia. 

Cyprus and Greece are each EU member states. The European Union has absolutely taken sides with them of their conflicts with Turkey. By so doing, Brussels has turn out to be a celebration within the dispute. From an EU- perspective, at least the integrity of the exterior borders of the Union is at stake within the battle with Ankara.     

At present, the standard of Turkey’s EU relations is dependent upon the state of affairs of Turkish-Greek relations. The Europeans have created a political connection by linking progress of their relations with Turkey to Turkish conduct – or good conduct, to be extra concrete – within the maritime problems with the Japanese Mediterranean. This conditionality runs like a standard thread via official EU statements. 

The supply to Turkey is “a optimistic agenda, however conditional” says Charles Michel. “It implies that we hope Turkey will keep a average conduct, optimistic conduct”. When the President of the European Council says “optimistic conduct”, he isn’t referring to Erdogan’s home politics. After all, he’s conscious of the human rights violations, the draconian clampdown towards the opposition, and to prime the collection of intolerant provocations, Ankara’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Conference on Stopping Violence towards Ladies. However for Brussels, these aren’t the decisive factors. An vital takeaway from the summit has been that for the EU, what Erdogan does inside Turkey’s personal borders is of secondary significance solely.

Ankara’s conduct within the Japanese Mediterranean is the important thing determinant of EU-policies vis-à-vis Erdogan. “If Turkey doesn’t transfer ahead constructively, if it returns to unilateral actions or provocations, specifically within the Japanese Mediterranean, in fact, we’d droop the cooperation”, mentioned European Fee President Ursula von der Leyen. 

The federal government in Ankara has not overheard the admonitions and reacted with what observers have termed a “appeal offensive”. In contrast with final 12 months, the scenario within the Japanese Mediterranean has calmed down. Erdogan’s choice to not dispatch Turkish analysis vessels into disputed waters is the principle cause for the détente. A moratorium of types governs Greek-Turkish relations. After the near-escalation and drama of final 12 months, the current tranquillity could also be termed a hit story of European, and foremost German diplomatic interventions. 

Following years of standstill, Athens and Ankara have resumed their bilateral talks. A gathering of international ministers is scheduled for mid-April. Hypothesis is rife {that a} Mitsotakis-Erdogan summit could possibly be the following step on the bumpy path in direction of trans-Aegean rapprochement. 

The longer term will present whether or not, or for the way lengthy, Erdogan is ready to sacrifice his well-communicated maritime aspirations in a trade-off for higher relations with the European Union.  

A Greek Air Pressure F-16 fighter throughout an air-refueling whereas collaborating in coaching workout routines off the island of Crete. EPA-EFE//STEFANOS RAPANIS

In the meantime, sticking to the carrot and stick method the summit has resolved to kick-start talks with Ankara on three principal subjects: the modernization of the Customs Union, the enlargement of high-level political talks and migration. Either side conform to the necessity to discuss in these three areas. Either side additionally agree that these talks are of their mutual curiosity. 

If there’s anybody space in EU-Turkey relations that deserves the win-win-tag, it’s the modernization of the Customs Union. Additionally: If it weren’t for the Turkish-Greek strife, cooperation on the refugee challenge would prime the listing of EU-Turkey diplomacy. It’s right here that Europe’s supply of a “optimistic agenda” is most blatant. Regardless of the European criticism thrown at Erdogan’s Turkey, EU leaders hardly miss a chance to applaud Ankara’s hospitality in direction of the practically 4 million Syrian refugees who’ve settled within the nation. Brussels is keen to channel new funds to Turkey in an effort to keep at bay a brand new migration circulate from Anatolia to Europe.

Importantly, additionally the talks on migration are dominated by a common caveat. The summit conclusions state that every one engagement with Ankara would occur “in a phased, proportionate and reversible method”. On this enumeration, the time period “reversible” is decisive. In coping with Turkey, the EU has determined to maintain a backdoor open, an possibility to maneuver away from the talks or to terminate them.  This feature would come into impact ought to Ankara transfer away from the EU’s overreaching expectations regarding peace and stability within the Japanese Mediterranean. Or put otherwise: Ought to Erdogan resume the explorations in disputed waters, Brussels would pull the plug. 

The occasions when the EU mentioned situations resulting in Turkey’s membership are historical past. In in the present day’s dealings with Turkey, normative values don’t have any place. The EU is appearing on the maxim of Realpolitik solely. Mentions of human rights and democracy have degenerated to lip service. “The EU now sees us virtually like Russia”, says retired Turkish Ambassador Oguz Demiralp: “Let Turkey do what it needs to do except it hurts me.”

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