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Shanghai Blues, the European Union and John Kerry’s Turkey Visit

By: Kemal Kirisci / Brookings Institution

Secretary of State John Kerry is visiting Europe and Turkey at a time when EU-Turkish relations are at a stalemate and in desperate need of revival. U.S. efforts will be critical to breaking the stalemate at a time when Turkey out of frustration is actively looking for alternatives including the idea of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The U.S. could highlight the strategic value of Turkey to the West especially in economic terms and introduce the idea of including Turkey in an eventual Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 

The current picture is in some contrast to Bill Clinton’s visit to Turkey in 1999, where the U.S. played a critical role in contributing to the political process that announced Turkey as a candidate country for EU membership later that year. Subsequently, the engagement of Turkey by the EU culminated in unimaginable political reforms but also economic growth and transformation in Turkey’s foreign policy. However, soon after actual accession negotiations for membership started in 2005, relations began

to turn sour between the two sides. Technically, for Turkish accession to be completed, 33 chapters representing the EU acquis, the corpus of EU laws and policies, have to be negotiated and closed. Croatia, which started accession negotiations at the same time as Turkey, completed them in late 2011 and will become a fully-fledged member of the EU in July this year.

In Turkey’s case, so far only 13 chapters have been opened while eight chapters were suspended in December 2006 by the European Council. Another nine chapters are being blocked largely by France and Cyprus but also by Germany and Austria. No new chapters from among the three left have been opened since 2010, leaving Turkey’s EU accession process in a complete state of suspension. The causes behind this state of affairs are numerous, ranging from a deadlock over the failure to unite the island of Cyprus under the Annan Plan in 2004, to outright objections in Austria, France and Germany to the very notion of Turkish membership on the grounds that “Turkey is not in Europe”.

 

* Read the full post at Brookings Institution here.