What to do about Turkey?

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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Fredrik Wesslau of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Fredrik Wesslau is Director of the Wider Europe Programme and senior policy fellow at ECFR. He has spent the past decade working for the EU, OSCE, and UN on conflicts and crisis management in the Balkans, South Caucasus, and Africa. He served as political adviser to the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus with a particular focus on the Russia-Georgia conflict between 2008 and 2011. Prior to that he spent several years in Kosovo where he worked for the OSCE and UN, including as Special Adviser to the UN SRSG.Most recently, Fredrik worked on Africa as Country Representative for an EU counter-piracy mission operating off the Horn of Africa and as political adviser to the EUSR for Sudan and South Sudan. Fredrik is the author of The Political Adviser's Handbook and has previously worked as a journalist, writing mainly for the International Herald Tribune. He has masters degrees from Columbia University (SIPA) and Sciences Po Paris and an Bachelor's degree in international relations from the London School of Economics.