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21st May 2022

Former Turkish ambassador: 'EU dream is dead'

  • Signature of Treaty of Paris in 1951, setting up the proto-EU Coal and Steel Community. Bagis: 'The EU was never seen as economic project by us, but as a peace project' (Photo: diplomatie.gouv.fr)

Turkey's former ambassador to the EU, Volkan Bozkir, has described it as a spent force in world affairs amid general acceptance EU-Turkey accession talks are going nowhere.

Bozkir told delegates at a business congress in Istanbul on Friday (18 November): "The EU dream has come to an end for the world. There is a paradigm shift. The EU is no longer the same Union that provided comfort, prosperity and wealth to its citizens as in the past. It no longer generates visionary ideas such as Schengen [the EU's passport free zone], or the Common Agricultural Policy."

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"Greece, Portugal, Spain - the EU has a hard time supporting these countries in the economic crisis. It is not able any more to help its members recover from a crisis."

Bozkir, who was Turkey's ambassador to the EU between 2005 and 2009 and is now chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Turkish parliament, blamed the situation on the EU architecture - fiscal union between unequal economies and consensus-based decision making.

Using an automotive image for eurozone economies, he said: "You took cars that can only speed up to 60 kilometres per hour and put them on the road with cars driving 100 kilometres per hour. So of course, these cars crash and are pulled off the road. But when one breaks down, all the others are affected."

He added: "In normal democracies, you have a majority-based decision mechanism, but never a unanimous mechanism ... In order to fix the crisis, you need the vote of countries that caused the crisis. But of course, they say 'No'."

He also blamed unanimity for letting Turkey's historical antagonist, Cyprus block the opening of negotiating chapters in accession talks. "That is what is causing the political deadlock, so the negotiations are not going anywhere," he said.

The negotiations have been on hold since 2009.

Bozkir noted that EU membership is still Turkey's "strategic objective", but only in the sense adoption of EU standards and values is good for Turkey whether it joins or not.

'Positive agenda'

For their part, two EU commissioners, Stefan Fuele (enlargement) and Karl de Gucht (trade), came to the Istanbul event to promote what the EU is calling a "positive agenda" - a plan to keep going with reform talks outside the formal accession process.

Fuele told Turkish TV the "agenda" is "in no way" an alternative to enlargement. But he acknowledged accession talks are at a "standstill."

The commissioner said the Turkish economy is tied to the EU: 46 percent of Turkish trade is with the Union and 80 percent of foreign investment in Turkey comes from EU companies.

Turkey to fill Arab Spring 'gap'

Turkish delegates at the meeting, organised by business association Tuskon, indicated they no longer see themselves as a junior partner seeking favours.

Bozkir said the Arab Spring is transforming Turkey into a regional power: "We don't see the US [dominant] in the Middle East anymore. No one has confidence in the UN. So who is going to fill this gap? Turkey. When our prime minister visits these regions, people really welcome him. They wave Turkish flags in the streets."

Turkish EU affairs minister Egemen Bagis said the question is not what the EU can do for Turkey but vice versa: "The EU was never seen as economic project by us, but as a peace project and we are working to turn it into a global project."

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