Complex Relations between Turkey and the EU about the Covid19 Pandemic

7 min


An Understanding of the Complex Relations between Turkey and the European Union from the point of the Covid19 Pandemic and the Mediatory Role of Germany in Improvement of the Bilateral Interactions

During the Covid-19 Pandemic Being in the Same Ship: An Assessment on the Future Relations of Turkey and the European Union

The Covid-19 pandemic has been affected and even changed the directions of the relations that set before between the states and international organizations. Throughout the pandemic the European Union which is one of the most popular organization in the world has been faced various challenges with its own member states that damage its worldwide image and respectability. In this sense, the EU has been criticized due to its delay in taking common proactive measures against Covid-19 and lack of support for Italy which was the first affected country from the pandemic (Nas 2020). Accordingly, Raffaele Fitto who is an Italian ECR member in European Parliament argued that Europe was totally vulnerable in the role of coordination which was expected to play in the crisis (EU Affairs 2020). While these criticisms are added on the previous ones, there arises some questions in minds about the future of the EU that if the EU could not help its member in trouble then is there any need for the existence of this organization and also it is being tested whether the EU is truly a union or not. Therefore, the pandemic suddenly turns into a vital crisis for the European Union. It can be said that during the pandemic, Turkey which is one of the main partners of the EU in the Middle East and member of the Customs Union has been done a good job and successfully managed the process so far when it is compared to many members of the EU countries. Regarding to Turkey-EU relations after Covid-19, as Faruk Kaymakçı who is the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Ambassador and Director for EU Affairs stated that “new type of coronavirus has increased more the contacts between Turkey and EU” (Aydoğan 2020), the relations between the both parties can be expected to improve economically and politically as well.

Secondly, Turkey has been come to the forefront as a model country which many members of the EU demanded aid from due to its improving health system and managing the coronavirus crisis well, nevertheless there is a serious crisis of confidence between Turkey and the EU which is still wait to be negotiated such as the Refugee crisis that brought the relations to a standstill. However, it cannot be underestimated that after the Covid-19 pandemic, President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan published a key message due to the Europe Day on 9 that “The invisible little enemy reminded us the meaning of being ‘unity’, where we have been in danger of forgetting, and ready to sacrifice for the sake of populist politics and short-term national interests” (Gündoğmuş 2020). Furthermore, as analyzing his speech pointed out that it is essential to seize the opportunities that the crisis offer on how to revive the EU-Turkey relations and also mentioned about the determination of Turkey regarding to the full membership to the EU which will empower both of the sides.

Secondly, Turkey has been come to the forefront as a model country which many members of the EU demanded aid from due to its improving health system and managing the coronavirus crisis well, nevertheless there is a serious crisis of confidence between Turkey and the EU which is still wait to be negotiated such as the Refugee crisis that brought the relations to a standstill. However, it cannot be underestimated that after the Covid-19 pandemic, President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan published a key message due to the Europe Day on 9 that “The invisible little enemy reminded us the meaning of being ‘unity’, where we have been in danger of forgetting, and ready to sacrifice for the sake of populist politics and short-term national interests” (Gündoğmuş 2020). Furthermore, as analyzing his speech pointed out that it is essential to seize the opportunities that the crisis offer on how to revive the EU-Turkey relations and also mentioned about the determination of Turkey regarding to the full membership to the EU which will empower both of the sides.

In conclusion, while the Covid-19 pandemic has been caused the European Union to realize its weaknesses and lack of solidarity between the members and also to think out its future steps especially regarding to the areas of economic recovery, digitalization and globalwarming in more detail, it has paved a way for an essential enhancement of the relations between Turkey and the EU. In this sense, Turkey has been aid to many of the EU member countries without waiting nothing to return, but for a matter of humanity which the EU almost disregard. After the Covid-19, if the crisis is turned into an oppurtunity, both of the sides can make use of its political and economical advantages in short and long term as well. Similarly, so to say that “if you cannot change the direction of the wind, change your sails; because the world is not concerned with the storms you encounter, but whether you deliver the ship to the port or not.”

Shaping of the Future from Today: Crucial Role of Germany in improvement of the Mutual Relationship between Turkey and the European Union

When it is look at to the history of the relations between the European Union and Turkey it can be seen that Germany which is the most populous country and one of the largest contributor to the EU and also paid more than it received from funding has been played an essential role in shaping of the relations within the members of the EU and also with the candidates. In this sense, at first Germany did not directly ratified the full membership of Turkey which is supported by the parties in the Bundestag (Al 2015). While the Christian Unity Party (CDU) which is one of the ruling parties, stands out with its privileged partnership and strategic cooperation offer, the SPD and the Greens Party are also known for their moderate but endless prerequisites. However, Germany with the pioneering role of Angela Merkel who has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and was served as a key factor in de-escalating tensions in 2017 hold a mediatory position in improvement of relations between Turkey and the EU (Duran 2020). In this perspective, Germany which increases its role in assuming the presidency of the EU Council of Ministers in July has been already represents the whole organization and is also willing to set up strong bilateral relations with Turkey in terms of economical, political and cultural sense that will act as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East and be the solution to the current and future deadlocks that could not be solved within the European Union.

Firstly, the relations between Turkey and EU has been enhanced since the German leader appreciates the direct impact of Syrian refugees and the Libyan conflict on the EU’s future and the huge charge which Germany have to undertake if it cannot be solved for the sake of the EU. In consequence of Brexit, it is essential to note that the future of Europe depends on to set up strong relations with three powerful outsiders which are Russia, Turkey and Britain (Duran 2020). So, in this sense, the support of Turkey-EU relations by Germany is based on the very pragmatic understanding that basically pursues the interests of the EU. Moreover, it can be seen that Merkel, who has been in the last two years of her chancellor, now pursues a pro-Turkey policy in order to successfully complete her political mission by working with the President Erdogan. In addition, it is realized that Berlin can increase its influence by working with Ankara on many issues, from the refugee agreement to Iranian sanctions, the sharing of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean to the political process in Libya (Aydoğan 2020). Because, throughout the line every crisis has compelled Turkey’s stabilizing role that the European public perception against Turkey do not contribute to the solving of the common problem but just increase it.

Secondly, Turkey undertook the biggest cost through engaging in combat with terrorism and refugee problems which is arising due to the Syrian civil war made the burden sharing necessary for the EU. However, the promise of Merkel which contitutes a new fon for Syrians living in Turkey and supporting the housing of Syrian refugees living in Idlib is a significant step to strengthen the bilateral relations. Also, the current Covid-19 pandemic triggers Germany to cooperate with other countries rather than China in the sectors of supply of energy and economy. Accordingly, Turkey and Germany can strengthen their economic relations and if the appropriate conditions occur shifting of some production of Germany to Turkey may seem as possible (Aydın 2020). Neverthless, according to one of the latest reports that presents three scenarios for the future of EU–Turkey relations which are cooperation, conflict and convergence, the continuation of some kind of fragile, conflicting and uneasy cooperation during the next five years is at stake (Eriş 2020, 7). In this sense, Germany can took advantage of wisely using the European External Action Service (EEAS) which has a large team dedicated to Turkey and works for reinforcing the strategic dimensions of Turkey-EU relations and implementing the decisions on Turkey whom is a vital element for the EU interests in the Middle East, the Balkans, North Africa region and NATO as well.

In conclusion, Germany which has a respectable and day by day increasing role inside of the European Union as assuming the presidency of the EU Council of Ministers in July has been a crucial factor in shaping of the relations positively between Turkey and the EU. Even if, there are pragmatic reasons and national interests behind the meadiating role of Germany, it still serves for the future welfare of the all sides; Turkey, Germany and the European Union. So, it is possible to say that what is seen as a self-interest just turn into a common interest and mutual relationship. In this sense, it is not surprising that due to the intense political, cultural and economic relations between Germany and Turkey, it is of particular benefit in Germany that keeping Turkey closer to the European Union. Furthermore, Turkey has a central importance for providing the stability in the neighboring regions of Europe and ensuring the economical and energy supply policies to the EU. It also plays an essential role in building the intercultural dialogue between Europe’s neighboring countries in the Near and Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa. So, in the short and long term, both of the sides are aware of the vital need for cooperating with each other in order to survive and thrive of themselves and the region in general. Bear in mind that, as Malcolm X said that “The future belongs to those who prepared for it today”, if the EU under the presidency of Germany wants to pursue a goal of a more comprehensive and influential Europe in the future, it should be ready from today to cooperate with Turkey which is one of key stones of the Middle East and North Africa region.

References
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Al, Muhammed. 2015. “AB ile Türkiye Arasındaki Anlaşmada Almanya´nın Rolü.” Fikir Coğrafyası. December 5. Accessed June 7, July. https://www.fikircografyasi.com/makale/ab-ile-turkiye-arasindaki-anlasmada-almanyanin-rolu.
Aydın, Yaşar. 2020. Fikir Turu: Almanya uluslararası politikada hangi rolün peşinde? . May 13.
Aydoğan, Bekir. 2020. “Dışişleri Bakan Yardımcısı Kaymakcı: Korona krizi, Türkiye ve AB’yi daha da yakınlaştırdı.” Anadolu Ajansı. May 23. Accessed June 6, 2020. https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/-disisleri-bakan-yardimcisi-kaymakci-korona-krizi-turkiye-ve-abyi-daha-da-yakinlastirdi/1851132.
Duran, Burhanettin. 2020. “Germany knows road to protecting EU interests relies on Turkey.” SETA. January 28. Accessed June 7, 2020. https://www.setav.org/en/germany-knows-road-to-protecting-eu-interests-relies-on-turkey/.

Eriş, Özgür Ünal. 2020. 2005-2020 and Future. Accessed June 7, 2020.
Gündoğmuş, Yıldız Nevin. 2020. “Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan’dan ‘9 Mayıs Avrupa Günü’ mesajı.” Anadolu Ajansı. May 9. Accessed June 6, 2020. https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/politika/cumhurbaskani-erdogandan-9-mayis-avrupa-gunu-mesaji/1834809.
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Yazar: Müleyke Nurefşan İkbal Yılmaz

Bu yazı ilk defa  04.09.2020 tarihinde https://www.kureselsiyaset.org/uluslararasi-iliskiler/an-understanding-of-the-complex-relations-between-turkey-and-the-european-union-from-the-point-of-the-covid19-pandemic-and-the-mediatory-role-of-germany-in-improvement-of-the-bilateral-interactions/ adresinde yayımlanmıştır.


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