Former European Union ambassador to Ankara Marc Pierini spoke with Ahval’s Yavuz Baydar about Turkey’s bid for EU accession and the watershed moment for the country’s relations with its Western allies.
Pierini addressed a number of issues in Turkey hindering the country’s decades-long EU bid and alienating Ankara from its Western allies.
Turkey’s Court of Appeals could not have chosen a worse time to overturn the acquittal verdict in the Gezi Trial for businessman Osman Kavala and several other civil society figures, according to Pierini.
Turkey unsubscribed to “certain defence architecture” in NATO “years and years ago,” Pierini said, instead turning to the Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems.
Moreover, Turkey has “hampered the architecture for the defence of Europe, and is perceived as very unlikely to go back to a purely NATO position,” the ambassador said. “So, Europeans have to worry about that.”
According to Pierini, Turkey’s bid for EU membership is over, and a new transactional relationship is taking shape.
Citing Josep Borrell’s statement in the European Parliament on the need for action from Ankara, Pierini said the EP “won’t allow major progress with Turkey without some change on human rights and the rule of law. Because this is the nature of a democratic society.”
According to the former ambassador 2020 was a watershed moment in EU-Turkey relations with the pile up of several issues.
The arguments of 2020, like the questioning of the “mental health’’ of French President Emmanuel Macron by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is “not something you would expect from a neighbour, less so if the neighbour suddenly tells you that Europe and NATO are central to its policy.”
Pierini pointed to the next polls, scheduled for 2023, as a glimmer of hope.
“The fate of the next elections – if they take place – is in the hands of the citizens of Turkey,” he said.
“The problem is that you have a perfectly autocratic system of government in Turkey,” Pierini said, adding that EU leaders would have to make “a massive leap of faith” to believe the recent U-turn in Turkey’s discourse.
Investors from Europe, who want to genuinely invest in Turkey, see a politicised judiciary when they look at Turkey, he said.
“Imagine the impact of the Court of Appeals’ decision on Osman Kavala,” Pierini said, “you have an acquittal, the prosecutor who is the deputy justice minister says we will appeal, and now it’s overturned.”
Such rulings would be “devastating” for “those who want to have a decent economic relationship with Turkey,” Pierini added.
Turkey implemented “quite a few” reforms for its bid for EU membership, but “once it became clear that with the political support of the EU, the army had no more political power, then the usefulness of the accession process began to fade,” Pierini said.
But under current circumstances, he added, “who can believe that the political norms of the EU would be compatible with the current political architecture in Turkey? Nobody believes that!”
Turkey’s drone technology is a political and military game changer, but the country is still dependent on Western allies like Germany and the United States for several key parts, Pierini said.
Meanwhile, Ankara’s policies often directly or indirectly coincide with Russian interests, he added.