On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a discussion about the future of EU and U.S. relations with Turkey. The discussants were Simon Mordue, director for Strategy and Turkey, DG NEAR, European Commission; Ambassador Marc Pierini of Carnegie Europe; and Ian Lesser, GMF’s senior director of Foreign Policy and executive director of the Transatlantic Center in Brussels. The event was moderated by Michael Leigh, a GMF senior fellow.
Mordue’s comments focused mainly on the EU-Turkey accession talks. He said that although the U.K. has been an important supporter for Turkey, he does not think Brexit will affect the accession process. Although Turkey’s accession process has been drawn out, neither side has stepped away from the table because, “accession for the liberal Turkish middle class stands for reform, modernization, and change, and challenges like the migration crisis remind the EU and Turkey that they have mutual interests in working together.” Mordue finished with commentary on the EU-Turkey Statement, which he said was “unequivocally working” and had drastically reduced deaths and migration across Europe.
Pierini followed with a discussion of Turkey’s regional situation and how that will affect its accession prospects. He challenged Mordue’s perspective on the effectiveness of the EU-Turkey Statement, instead focusing on the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees kept in Syria by Turkey’s boarder control who are now exposed to bombing by Assad. He said there are two detrimental factors preventing change in Turkey and Syria’s situation.
“First, Russia has to be willing to come back to the negotiation table. There could be lower levels of conflict if NATO accepts the Assad regime,” said Pierini.
“Second, Turkey has to be willing to accept Syrian Kurds who they currently refuse because of connections they see between the PKK and the KDP.”
— Charlotte Brandsma (@cbrandsma) July 12, 2016
Lesser was the last discussant, and he focused on the United States’ place in the ongoing discussions. He touched on how the EU-Turkey relationship has shifted to look very similar to the U.S.-Turkey relationship that centred on geo-politics and crisis management, and concluded that the United States is still looking to promote EU accession for Turkey as a means of promoting the EU’s democratic values in Turkey. When asked about the American elections, he declined to speculate on who the next president would be but said, “Trump doesn’t support NATO the way Americans traditionally have, and that could leave Turkey exposed.”
The discussion was followed by a question and answer session with the audience consisting of 40 participants from EU institutions, think tanks, foundations, and academia. The questions focused on what the EU-Turkey relationship will look like in the future and what a plan for their accession could look like. The speakers concluded that Turkey’s accession would continue to be a slow but steady process as Turkey worked to implement the necessary reforms.