Turkey will be on the menu as European leaders meet for dinner in Brussels on October 19, but it won’t be a happy meal. Relations between the EU and Turkey have deteriorated sharply over the past few months and are likely to decline further. Europe has few good options in this deteriorating relationship, but it should not allow the increasingly loud voices to force its hand on an issue of long-term strategic concern.
No one is delusional about Turkey’s current state. President Erdogan’s consolidation of power continues, as do widespread purges following the failed coup attempt in July 2016. His repeated anti-European rhetoric is not just red meat for Turkey’s foes, but has also alienated Turkey’s friends in Europe. The arrest of Europeans and dual nationals has further made Turkey a toxic domestic issue in several European countries. In Germany, polls now show that only 3 percent of the population considers Turkey a reliable partner – Russia gets 21 per cent.
Meanwhile in Turkey, Europe is seen as a hypocrite that lies about wanting Turkey as a member and whines about human rights but then enters into a transactional deal to keep refugees out. Few believe that the EU will ever let Turkey become a member. They point to the rise of anti-Islamic and anti-Turkish sentiments in Europe as well as skeptical voices in leading capitals. Even the liberal opposition in Turkey is deeply disappointed by the EU who they see as having given up on its principles and values by being too soft on Ankara.
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