Turkey has been trying to join the European Union since the 1960s– a dream that may be crushed if the vote in the European Parliament to end membership talks goes as expected this Thursday, November 24. The European Union began formal accession talks with Turkey in 2005 and over the last decade, frustration over the delay has clearly grown, especially in regards to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The hesitation of the E.U. was not helped by Turkey’s attempted coup in July and Erdogan’s affinity for restoring the death penalty. Of course, the use of the death penalty in Turkey would end any talks of the country becoming a member of the EU, as the ban of capital punishment is a requirement of all member states.
Although this vote is purely advisory and not binding, many worry that it will cause Turkey to crack down on human rights issues and endanger their cooperation in limiting refugee flows to Europe. This refugee deal has been very beneficial for both sides, which is why continued cooperation is crucial whether Turkey enters the EU or not. This deal was created last March with the EU and member states agreeing to pay Turkey 3 billion euros for refugee assistance in 2016 and 2017 and Turkey agreeing to stop the flow of refugees across its borders and to take back those denied asylum in Europe. At a time when Turkey needs the money and Europe needs the help, this deal has been essential.
Many within the EU have opposed the idea of suspension, as they see engaging with Turkey as the only way to strengthen democracy there. As the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini said, voting to end accession talks would be a “lose-lose scenario” for both sides. On the other hand, many see this vote as an opportunity to make a statement about Erdogan’s recent antidemocratic actions. A leader in the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber, addressed this viewpoint, saying “We can’t simply stand aside and observe, we cannot simply have business as usual…we need to appeal to Turkey to change its course in the interest of its own citizens.”
Despite what those within the EU want to do, Erdogan has been making his intentions pretty clear as well, with actions that show a deep frustration with the EU’s delay. Recently, he has talked of his willingness to reinstate the death penalty, saying that if it passes in Parliament, he will approve it. He has also threatened to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization along with Russia and China, which would dismiss any talk of joining the EU. Therefore, it seems that if the European Union cannot make up its mind on admitting Turkey to the Union, Erdogan may make that decision for them.