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In-Depth Research & Reports March 15, 2021

Europe’s geostrategic sovereignty and Turkey

By Bahadır Kaleağası

A more positive relationship between the European Union and Turkey is a decade-long project of advocates from all over Europe and across the Atlantic. Drawing on history, witnesses see how this relationship can be an excellent win-win algorithm, as much as it can rapidly turn out to be a lose-lose situation or even a triple win-or-lose equation—with political, economic, and social resonance reaching far beyond the Continent.

The challenge is to upload this historically well-tested algorithm into the twenty-first century: rebooting a version 5.0 of Turkey’s European integration with updates on democratic conditionality, foreign policy cooperation, and an economic framework, as well as on the digital, green, and social dimensions.

The Turkey debate’s focal point is “Europe’s geostrategic sovereignty.” Turkey should evolve to be a net contributor to Europe’s security and global competitiveness. No matter how significant today’s drawbacks, such as freedom of expression and tensions like the life-consuming Cyprus imbroglio, the guiding question for the EU ought to be: “how can Turkey, in the near future, become a country that is progressively in convergence with the values and interests of European citizens?” This includes citizens of the Turkey as well.

EU capitals, including Athens and Nicosia, can either be idealistic or realistic. However, both ways of thinking point toward more benefits from reengaging Turkey in the integration process, including conditionalities on concluding, not initiating, different phases such as a modernized customs union. Maybe there also is a third way: short-sighted populism. There is enough historical evidence to argue that the more Turkey is excluded from the EU’s sphere of influence, the more it becomes part of the problems which in turn nourish populistic demagogy and threats to Western democracy. In the end, the main purpose of all these recommendations is the search for a better twenty-first century democracy.

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The Atlantic Council in Turkey, which is in charge of the Turkey program, aims to promote and strengthen transatlantic engagement with the region by providing a high-level forum and pursuing programming to address the most important issues on energy, economics, security, and defense.