Turkey rebuffs Economist for saying EU membership is fiction


Turkey’s government rebuffed claims last week by the Economist that its accession to the European Union had turned into a fiction.

Many European voters do not want a big Muslim nation in their club, even if it becomes more democratic, the Economist said on Aug. 28.

“Turkey’s EU membership is not a fiction. Instead, it is a difficult and at the same time strategic and invaluable vision that neither side can give up, despite ups and downs,” Faruk Kaymakcı, Turkish deputy foreign minister and head of EU affairs, said in a letter of response published by the magazine at the weekend.

Turkey opened accession talks with the EU in 2005, pledging to strengthen its democracy, guarantee rule of law and match regulations governing the economy with those of the 27-member bloc. The EU froze talks on the chapters of Turkey’s accession following a military coup attempt in 2016, when it strayed further from Europe’s democratic standards.

“For years, policy wonks used to reach for a variation of an old Soviet joke to describe the membership talks between Turkey and the EU: we pretend to negotiate, and they pretend to reform. Today, there is no use pretending. The accession process is dead,” the Economist said.

Turkey’s accession process was replaced by a 2016 deal to stem the flow of migrants into Europe from Syria, the Economist said. Keeping refugees off the continent has now taken central stage, it said.

“The 18th March Agreement in 2016 between Turkey and the EU is not limited to migrant cooperation, but also includes re-energising the accession process, (which is not “dead”), updating a customs union, regular high-level dialogues, visa liberalisation and counter-terrorism,” Kaymakcı said.

“Turkey’s accession will be the most useful of all since no other candidate can contribute to the EU more than a secular and vibrant Turkey in various areas, from the economy to security,” he said.  

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