Iran concedes that Europe is a lost cause
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told his countrymen to “give up hope” on Europe preserving the JCPOA (the 2015 Iran nuclear deal). Known as a critic of the deal even at the time of its inception, Khamenei is clearly aware of the reality that while European leaders like to offer tough rhetoric on standing up to Washington over the JCPOA, the reality that Air France and British Airways have ceased flights to Iran while French energy giant Total has already withdrawn from the Islamic Republic is indicative of the fact that the EU has already folded in the face of US threats of more tariffs and sanctions against European private and public entities who continue to transact with Iran.
Around the same time that Khamenei issued his “give up hope” admonition, Turkish officials confirmed reinvigorated efforts to clear a path towards long stalled membership of the European Union. Unlike post-Revolutionary Iran, Turkey and the EU have a decades long history of working to harmonise trade. Turkey and the EU have had a free trading agreement of sorts ever since 1995 although crucially services and agriculture are still subject to customs restrictions, while full members of the EU have total access to a single market covering, industrial and agricultural goods, all services and the free movement of labour.
While the EU remains an important market for Turkish goods, far more so than in respect of Iran, Turkish officials should not jump the gun when it comes to re-starting an EU ascension process. There are several reasons for this.
Trade independence/foreign policy independence
Under Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has returned to the geopolitically non-aligned status that the country achieved under its Republican founder Ataturk. As such, Turkey is able to expand its external economic horizons with with its Chinese and Russian partners while also working on an array of new and renewed partnerships in the fields of security and diplomatic cooperation including with Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Sudan and South Africa.
Not only does the European Union frown on such a multilateral approach in terms of its parochial mentality regarding global trade and security initiatives, but EU membership in fact prohibits the kind of trading deals, credit line agreements and investment deals that Turkey is currently working on with its Asian and African partners.
In terms of foreign policy, as Brussels power brokers look to harmonise and effectively ‘unilateralise’ a single EU foreign policy, much of the hard work that President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Cavusoglu have exerted over past years could be undone if Turkey decides to submit itself to the German dominated and generally inward looking European Union. At a time when Turkey is becoming a key multipolar player in the wider world, fortress Europe looks like a grim and limiting place by comparison.
Trickle up racism and assaults on Turkishness
Throughout Europe but in Germany in particular, the government in Berlin has not only turned a blind eye to violence against Turkish people, Turkish owned shops and mosques frequented by Turks, but Germany has also adopted a foreign policy stance where it aligned itself with the YPG/PKK during Turkeys’ recent anti-terror Operation Olive Branch in northern Syria. German intelligence officials further admitted that they have open lines of communication with the Fethullah Terror Organisation that led an unsuccessful military coup against Turkey’s democratically elected government in 2016. Furthermore, when the EU’s second most prominent figure after Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron met with prominent YPG/PKK terror leaders in Paris, it should make all Turks question how sincere the European Union is in all of its discussions with Turkey.
It is doubtful that George W. Bush’s United States would have conducted trade deals with nations whose leaders met with and lavished praise on the comrades of Osama bin Laden, so why should Turkey do anything other than refuse further talks with the EU until and unless they fully dissociate themselves with FETO, the PKK and mobs of anti-Turkish racists running wild on the streets of Europe? The fact that an artistic statue of Turkey’s President was vandalised and later removed from a public square in Germany this week demonstrates that while Turkey has no European problem, Europe does have a Turkey problem.
With many prominent European politicians openly vowing to veto Turkish ascension to the EU under any circumstances, the writing is already on the wall in this respect. The road from Ankara to Brussels is at best an incomplete one and in many respects it is a dangerous one.
Finding a win-win solution to the European question
The most practical reality for a Turkish economy looking to expand trade deals and economic cooperation would be for Ankara to offer Brussels a realistic formula for the expansion of existing trade deals, trade deals which incidentally look to be more favourable than anything a stubborn and insular Britain might secure when and if it leaves the European Union.
The long standing reality however is that the EU does not actually want Turkey as a full member but is instead using the drawn out ascension process to gain various concessions from Ankara. Ultimately, even if Turkey became a full member of the EU, this would only damage its excellent relations with its Asian and African partners, including those in ASEAN who represent a window of new economic opportunity for Turkey.
Turkey’s existing policy of seeking expanded trading ties to the east, west and south as well as working with all partners who genuinely respect Turkey’s security concerns is not only adequate but is ideal in respect of positioning Turkey as a strong economic and military power for peace and prosperity on the win-win model of forward thinking pragmatism.
Ultimately, EU membership is not in the best interests of Turkey due to the very real and likely insurmountable structural constraints of the European Union;s institutions. When this reality is combined with the fact that many front line EU politicians are anti-Turkish in respect of both their words and deeds, it is clear that while Turkey should pursue trade and respectful neighbourly relations with the EU, membership is a bad idea and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.