The European Commission is due to publish its next progress report on Turkey in April 2018. This standard procedure is meant to outline how candidate countries have advanced in aligning with the EU’s political and technical criteria for accession and to chart their paths forward. Yet, in Turkey’s case, a massive deterioration of the rule of law makes it impossible to acknowledge any progress. Instead, the commission’s forthcoming report is bound to illustrate a substantial regression.
In the past three and a half years, through a string of political decisions, two elections and a referendum, and repressive measures, Turkey has moved from a denial of liberal democracy to autocracy. Ankara has now clearly distanced itself from the EU principles of rule of law that it had subscribed to in 2004 when it won candidate status. In addition, Turkey’s leaders blatantly interfered in European politics in 2017, inducing a defensive attitude in several EU countries while others still hope for improvements.
The European Council is tasked with deciding the next steps in the EU’s relationship with Turkey; whatever its final decision is, Turkey’s future ties with Europe will inevitably face new hurdles. Relations with Turkey will and should develop in several areas to safeguard European interests, but Turkey’s accession to the EU as a structured political alliance is not in the cards anymore.
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