Since the 1980s, Turkey has wished to join the EU, but had to wait all the way until 2005 to begin accession negotiations. Even after this historic accomplishment, the Anatolian state has still not been granted even perspective membership.
Turkey was once hopeful of membership, as the continental bloc set aside some €4.5 billion ($5.3 billion) in foreign aid for them for the years between 2014 and 2020. However, since that pledge was made, several incidents have occurred to cast doubt on the future of not only EU membership, but future diplomatic ties in general.
Turkish President Recep Tayyid Erdogan must have been glad when he found out the EU had prioritized most of the Balkans for membership, along with Turkey. However, 2016 was a definitive turning point.
That year saw a failed coup d’état in Turkey to overthrow President Erdogan, which he violently suppressed. Some 300 died, and a further 2,100 were injured in the chaos, with almost 40,000 people arrested in connection to the violence.
In addition, 15,000 public education staff were suspended and 21,000 teaching licenses of private school educators were also revoked in the aftermath in an attempt to stem free thought in the Islamic Republic.
This was before Erdogan began butting heads with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about detained German nationals in Turkey. For example, Mesla Tolu is currently in jail on charges of terrorism and was denied released on October 11, 2017.
In a separate case, Die Welt reporter Deniz Yucel is also in captivity after being labeled a ‘terror agent’ by President Erdogan, as is human rights activist Peter Steudner. At an October summit in Brussels, Chancellor Merkel has called on her fellow European leaders to halt financial aid to Turkey.
The EU has also historically condemned the current military occupation of the northern third of the island of Cyprus, which is home to an ethnic Turkish population.
During the Brussels summit, held October 19-20, Merkel praised Turkey for their work taking in refugees from Syria, perhaps keeping the door open for accession. This is despite holding a firm line on Turkey’s history of questionable human rights practices.
The Erdogan administration tends to play hardball, as exampled by the fact the Cypriot occupation has been in place since 1974, so there is no clear indication the government will bend to European will.
However, with public opinion both domestically and abroad staunchly opposed to several Turkish policies, accession may be a dream that will never be realized for Erdogan.
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