Since 1999, formal negotiations did not begin for a further six years (until 2005) and in 2017, after nearly twenty years, only one negotiation chapter (out of 35, to be managed separately) has been agreed (Science and Research); sixteen are open for discussion and the remaining ones have not even started to be debated.
Negotiations for accession are currently on break for two main reasons: a) Turkey has never complied with the 1970 Protocol of the Ankara Agreement, which imposes to lift the embargo against Cyprus ships; b) the deterioration of the Turkish government will to respect the Copenhagen political criteria: democracy and rule of law.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President from 2007 to 2012, was anyhow the first to officially block talks with Turkey on the key area of economic and monetary policy, practically the first decision he made after he was elected. Sarkozy argued – referring also to the above mentioned Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union – that Turkey was geographically not part of Europe; his successor Hollande didn’t dare to change the Élysée mind-set. Angela Merkel herself, the longest serving Chancellor in the German history, also opposes Turkish membership, even if with no official pronunciation, in addition to very clear public statements.
The day after the June 2007 European summit in Brussels, where the decision to block the opening of new chapters was taken, Turkey’s chief negotiator, Ali Babacan, commented that his country would continue implementing the conditions to join the EU, even if some negotiating chapters were put on hold: “regardless of what chapters are open, regardless of what chapters are closed, we will integrate our legislation as soon as possible and we will wait until the EU is ready for Turkish membership”. Pills of wisdom, not exactly shared by the Turkish nationalists, who replicated: “no matter what we do, we will never become a member of the club”.
Sarkozy should have been alarmed about an alienated Turkey on Europe’s Eastern borders, since the failure of Turkey’s accession is probably affecting France more than any other country in Europe. France has in fact the largest Muslim population in the EU, as 10% of the country’s residents are of Muslim origin. With the eyes of the post Isis war, the
failure of the Muslim community integration in the French cities puts in evidence some responsibilities dating back to this political decision.
Since Sarkozy pronunciation, the accession process has not improved, especially after the emergency state decided by the Turkish Government after the failed coup d’État of July 2017. In 2007, President Barroso tried to rebalance Sarkozy hostility by underlining “the need to continue membership negotiations, as a matter of credibility for the Union”. In 2014, President Juncker made a completely different statement during his electoral campaign: “Turkey is clearly far away from EU membership. A Government that blocks Twitter is certainly not ready for accession”. The Turkish answer, in the harsh words of President Erdogan, witnesses the deterioration of the political relationship (March 2017): “a battle has started between the cross and the half moon”.