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How is the EU doing post-Brexit?
Last week, Brussels started an unprecedented process to suspend the voting rights of Poland within the EU mechanism. “The Commission has today concluded that there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law in Poland,” said the official statement. The Commission, which is the executive branch of the EU, considered Poland’s judicial reforms as a serious breach of Polish courts’ independence. “Not good for European values” says the EU. What does this mean? Let me elaborate.
I was at the High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) meeting between Turkey and the EU this November. As all the usual channels of communication on economic dialogue between Turkey and the EU are now effectively blocked or have become totally politicized, the Commission invented with the HLED to have at least a weak supplementary mechanism. First, the accession process stalled, then we found the customs union modernization dialogue as an open channel. The first HLED still started with high hopes in April last year. Then Turkey had the failed coup in June, together with the state of emergency a la Turca, complicating the relationship more.
In the November meeting this year, the highlight was the results of an İKV (Economic Development Foundation) survey on Turkey’s accession process. The survey was conducted this November. When asked whether they support EU membership of Turkey, around 79 percent of Turks said “Yes”. However, when asked whether they are expecting Turkey to become a member of the EU anytime soon, around 69 percent of survey participants said that they didn’t. Survey participants do have a realistic view of how things are moving forward between Turkey and the EU. When asked why they are pessimistic about actually becoming Turkey a member, 44 percent cite the double standards of the EU against Turkey as the major reason.
Normally Turks are accustomed to hear things like the following from the EU: “The country’s judiciary is now under the political control of the ruling majority. In the absence of judicial independence, serious questions are raised about the effective application of EU law.” We tend to consider these as part of the EU double standards against us, mind you. This time however, it is not Turks, but Poles who were judged.
What does this mean? Three things, if you ask me. First, it is good to hear that Europe is based on values, and not religious heritage. Does this mean that the EU is still well and kicking after the Brexit debacle? Beats me.
This brings me to my second point, which is that we still do not know whether this is another manifestation of the divide between elites and the people in Europe. In other words, is this another stone paving the way for further disintegration over there? We will see.
Third, now that it has become more evident that Europe is divided “between those who have experienced disintegration firsthand and those who know it only from textbooks,” as pointed out by Ivan Krastev. No wonder that as a country in flux, Turkey had excellent relations with all those who experienced disintegration before, like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the others. Perhaps shared anxieties tied us together.
With rising US unilateralism, the western alliance and the world definitely need a stronger, not a weaker EU. A stronger EU is an EU that can effectively manage the migration challenge of today, and the myriad of challenges to surface tomorrow, without succumbing to petty fears. Our region needs the active transformative diplomacy of the EU once again, if you ask me. Looking for a reason for stronger EU-Turkey collaboration? Look for these last two.