After the May elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed optimism regarding Türkiye’s European Union membership. On the heels of the NATO summit in Vilnius, where Türkiye gave the green light to Sweden’s membership bid, Erdoğan said: “There is a positive outlook for revitalizing the EU accession process. We will also accelerate negotiations to update the Customs Union, which will have a substantial impact on the Turkish economy. We are confident that progress will be achieved in visa liberalization as well.”
Erdoğan’s remarks did not receive much response from the EU. Sweden declared their support for Türkiye’s membership, but some European politicians expressed objections to Ankara’s accession while appealing to xenophobic sentiments among their voters.
The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) gestures toward the EU did not create enthusiasm or hope among the Turkish people, as they have lost faith in the realization of this process that has been ongoing since 1960. They have valid reasons for their skepticism. It is impossible for the unstable and weak governments in the EU, vulnerable to rising nationalist waves, to support Türkiye’s membership. It should also be noted that the unwillingness and populism of Turkish governments, especially until 1980, played a significant role in Türkiye’s membership not being realized.
There are certain segments in Türkiye who doubt the relevance of the EU, and their assessment is not entirely unfounded. They are not entirely wrong in their assessments as they observe a declining Europe that is losing its foothold in global trade and political dynamics. If the current course persists, the EU risks becoming an antiquated symbol, overshadowed by the power struggle among China, the United States and Russia.
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest problems in the EU is its aging population. The EU’s average age has reached 44.4, while Türkiye’s is only 32. According to population projections, Türkiye is projected to reach the EU average only by the year 2080.
To overcome this issue, some EU countries have adopted a “selective” method of accepting citizens from Syrian, Afghan and African refugees. However, serious integration problems arise with these individuals, as evident from recent ghetto uprisings in France and other European cities.
In fact, Türkiye presents an unparalleled opportunity to solve this vital issue for the EU. Being a country with one foot in Europe, Türkiye is not foreign to European culture and practices. It has strong historical ties with the continent and gained valuable experience through years of negotiation processes, coordinating with various EU institutions and implementing significant reforms. Türkiye’s external trade is largely dominated by EU countries.
Although full EU membership for Türkiye may not be a realistic short-term goal, many issues can be overcome through arrangements such as visa liberalization and expanding the Customs Union.
The all-or-nothing mentality should be abandoned. Turks who are already integrated into European life and working environments can bring the dynamism needed by EU countries through intermediate formulas with minimal cost.
Short-sighted European politicians have not shown the courage to include Ankara in the EU alongside Athens, succumbing to the paranoia that “Türkiye will swallow us.” Today, they deepen this historical mistake by admitting nations far from European culture into their countries. Eventually, they will realize that accepting Türkiye is the most sensible solution, but by then, it may be too late.
Source : DS