The Positive Agenda and Beyond: A New Beginning for the EU-Turkey Relations?
It is no exaggeration to say that European Union (EU)-Turkey relations are going through one of its darkest times. Membership negotiations and political cooperation alike are stuck and neither side seems willing to unblock them. EU politicians are more than pleased with a Turkey that is sailing away and the Government of Turkey is proudly and pretentiously becoming a self-declared regional power with no need of EU norms. In a European continent entangled in an existential crisis, there are fewer and fewer decision makers interested in the enlargement policy and in its key participant, Turkey. Nowadays Turkey’s prospective membership has become such a remote possibility that even former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who used and abused Turkey’s future membership in every election, hardly made a reference to it during the recent presidential campaign. For better or worse, in Europe, Turkey’s membership is no more a “headache”. As for Turkey, EU affairs have lost their past lure, failing even to be seen as news in media. It is within this gloomy environment that the European Commission has launched the Positive Agenda initiative. Even though it is not proper to compare the initiative to the significant role played by the EU in Turkey’s agenda between 2002 and 2005, it might become a tool that restores the mutual confidence and help maintain the momentum for cooperation, if properly
and duly managed by both parties.
So why and how has the Positive Agenda been developed and what does it imply? There are several reasons behind the initiative. Despite the lonely efforts of Turkey’s EU Ministry, neither the negotiation process, nor the so-called political dialogue between the EU and Turkey on a variety of issues from Syria or Eastern Balkans to NATO-EU cooperation, is proceeding. The primary reason for this state of affairs is the lack of a clear European perspective for Turkey. It is not enough to say that “harmonization with the EU is in Turkey’s interest.” It is not likely that Turkey will pay attention to EU harmonization if the country is systematically during Sarkozy’s presidency. Such disincentives work against harmonization which is already hard to achieve and costly. Not to mention the government’s lack of enthusiasm towards a cumbersome legislative and practical framework that is not necessarily compatible with its short-term agenda designed for unchecked and free-riding economic growth as well as far-reaching social engineering. Besides, the fact that the Republic of Cyprus assumes the six-monthly term presidency on July 1, 2012 has added a new dimension to the already cooled relations between the EU and Turkey.