A new report from the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee has downplayed any EU commitment to endorse Turkey for EU membership despite President Erdoğan’s agreement, in principle, to greenlight Swedish membership of NATO on the explicit condition that Brussels takes the Turkish application to join the EU more seriously.
MEPs were clear that the EU could not consider moving ahead with the Turkish membership bid until fundamental reforms were made in the rule of law and human rights areas as they overwhelmingly voted 47 votes to zero to endorse the critical report.
Turkey first submitted its application to join the then European Economic Community back in 1987 but has been continuously rebuffed for numerous historical, territorial and political reasons, including its role in the ongoing partition of Cyprus and suppression of political and Kurdish dissidents. Many in the West have noted a slide towards authoritarianism in Turkey during the past decade.
Despite the country being a NATO member and cooperating with the EU to curb the flow of illegal migration, many view Turkey—an 85 million-strong majority Muslim nation—as culturally incompatible with European values and logistically impossible to integrate.
The report suggests an “alternative and realistic framework” instead of Turkish EU membership and implores Ankara to formally ratify Sweden’s NATO membership and do more to prevent sanction busting by Russia.
Turkey’s membership bid has been stalled since 2018. The European Parliament called for it to be suspended entirely in 2019 following worsening human rights abuses. The findings of this week’s report will be voted on at a later date at a plenary session of the European Parliament.
According to insider reports, many MEPs on the committee are annoyed that NATO acted out of line by offering fast-tracked EU membership to Turkey without their permission. To underscore the distinction between the EU and NATO, the committee inserted a new amendment to the report to clarify that the two organisations are unrelated.
Spanish socialist MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor, who sits on the foreign affairs committee, voiced his anger publicly that NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg acted outside his brief by seemingly making deals on the EU’s behalf, stating that the EU was independent of NATO.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, many in EU policy making circles feel that the bloc has been sidestepped by NATO with many disparaging Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her supposed willingness to concede to Washington’s demands on the war.
Until this month’s NATO meeting, Turkey had frustrated the Swedish NATO membership bid, claiming as its reasons that Stockholm harbours Kurdish separatists and allows Quran burnings that have sparked outrage in the Islamic world.
Despite the improbability of an EU membership actually occurring, Cypriot officials this week signalled that they could potentially back a Turkish membership on the strict condition that they get concessions on the Turkish-occupied northern half of the island.
Immediately after the NATO deal over Sweden, EU Commission officials spoke candidly off the record saying that EU membership was next to impossible for Turkey and that it merely served as a rhetorical device to advance Turkish foreign policy.