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    Turkey to remain ‘strategic partner’ to EU

    Both the EU and Turkey appear content with the latter remaining a “highly important strategic partner” as occasional sharp rhetoric from both sides marks Ankara’s decades-long bid to join the bloc, wrote journalist Andrei Isaev in Modern Diplomacy news and analysis platform.

    An official EU candidate country since 1999, Turkey has had a customs union deal with the bloc in place since January 1996. Accession negotiations started in October 2005, but have stalled in the last few years.

    Turkey’s drift toward authoritarianism under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) have led to increasing objections from the EU on Turkey’s membership, however, economic and strategic interests continue to bring the two parties together, the article underlined.

    The country’s EU bid has become the subject of debate yet again as Ankara has rolled up its sleeves for exploration for oil in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus, the article said.

    European Union member states and the U.S. officials have objected to Turkey’s increasing drilling efforts amid the struggle for rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara’s relations with Brussels have been tumultuous over the years.

    Turkey’s Erdoğan, during the 2013 Gezi Park protests, declared that the country was no longer concerned about joining the EU. The statement came as a response to the harsh criticism from European countries of Ankara’s brutal quelling of protests against the ruling regime, Isaev underlined.

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    The Turkish president has since done a u-turn, as he pedals the idea that entering the EU is a strategic goal of the country; however, Ankara’s ambitions were met with a call from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in February, calling for a suspension of negotiations with the country.

    EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn also weighed in, saying “the most honest decision” would be to agree with Ankara to stop the EU membership process.
    And then in the Expansion Package 2019 prepared by the European Commission, it was concluded that in the present situation it made no sense to continue negotiations on the country’s membership in the EU, the article recalled.

    Yet, despite the occasionally sharp rhetoric that has practically become the norm over the years, Isaev wrote, Brussels and Ankara continue to pursue a dialogue.

    For Brussels, the best option would be for Turkey to stay an EU-friendly state outside the bloc, a status which European politicians openly speak on, the article stressed. Turkey is an important partner for the bloc and plays a key role in the settlement of the refugee problem, among others.

    As for Ankara, the article said, it cannot afford to “break relations with Europe,‘’ with the EU accounting for about half of Turkish exports and for about a third of its imports.

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