Donald Trump’s pick for EU ambassador, Ted Malloch, has announced the EU had already given its decision about Turkey. According to him, Turkey will never become an EU member. He has also told that everybody knew about it in Washington – since at least 20 years.
We do not yet know why someone who is supposed to represent U.S. interests in Brussels felt the urge to give his opinion on the future of EU-Turkey relations; he should have been more focused on U.S.-EU relations instead. Anyway, he did not tell when exactly the EU had decided to never let Turkey in. Perhaps he will provide more details once he takes on the job. As he said the U.S. knew about it for the last 20 years, the EU must have decided somewhere around 1997.
1997 is not ancient history and many people perfectly remember what happened that year: During a summit in Luxembourg in December 1997, the EU had decided that Turkey was eligible to become a candidate country, but it was not yet ready. However, despite the ongoing division, the Republic of Cyprus had been given the candidate status, as if its government was representing the entire island. So in 1997, the EU did not want Turkey, indeed.
This is not the end of story, however. Just two years later, in 1999, European leaders gathered in Helsinki had accepted to grant Turkey the candidate status. The point is, nothing had really changed in Turkey between 1997 and 1999. If Turkey was not ready in 1997, it probably wasn’t ready in 1999 either. The EU had changed its mind for some reason, however, and Turkey had been officially declared a candidate country.
Six years later, in 2005, the EU had decided that Turkey was ready enough to launch accession talks and the negotiation process has begun. Hence it is impossible to say that the EU did not want Turkey in 1999 or in 2005.
We know that the negotiation process has turned into an endless symphony, however. So maybe we must lend an ear to the U.S.’s next EU ambassador. Especially when he says that the EU has fooled Turkey all along.
Turkey’s accession process did not evolve as expected, indeed. Both sides are to blame over this: Turkey did not finish its homework, it did not implement all necessary reforms and, in some cases, it had even reversed a number of reforms. The EU, on the other hand, had tried to change the rules in the middle of the game. Some European politicians tried to impose to Turkey an alternative status; not full membership, but something less. As of today, the two sides are just waiting for the other to do something about it. Turkey tells the EU to put an end to the process if it wants to, while the EU wishes Turkey to abandon the process by itself.
We know that successive U.S. administrations have encouraged the EU to keep the doors open to Turkey. In 1999, for example, President Clinton worked really hard to make the EU change its 1997 decision. Maybe the EU leaders had thought, back in 1999, “let’s just give Turkey a candidate status for now, we’ll deal with it later.” Even if that is the case, the accession process had officially begun. And now, it is definitely not the Trump administration that would support Turkey’s EU bid.
Malloch is saying that the EU has lied to Turkey from day one, but this also means former U.S. administrations were not very honest with Turkey, either. They knew Turkey will never be accepted, but they did not say anything.
It appears that the EU is not very disturbed by Malloch’s declaration. Turkey, however, has many reasons to be disturbed about. One wonders what position the U.S. will take on Turkey-EU relations from now on. Will Washington encourage Turkey to burn bridges with Europe? Perhaps Donald Trump’s administration is just planning to use Turkey to put pressure on the EU, who knows?