The tense relationship between Turkey and Brussels is expected to continue even after the presidential elections. Turkey’s bid to join the EU is increasingly unlikely, with the EU Commission criticizing President Erdogan’s government for its authoritarian tendencies and disregard for human rights and the rule of law. Despite this, Turkey remains an important strategic partner for the EU on issues such as migration, energy security and climate protection. However, the EU has repeatedly called on Turkey to respect the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and release imprisoned human rights activists.
Turkey admits that relations with the EU deteriorated greatly after the alleged coup attempt against Erdogan in July 2016. The country remains a NATO member and plays a crucial role as a mediator in the grain trade agreement between Russia and Ukraine. The importance of the 2015 refugee agreement is highlighted as well, in which Turkey undertakes to host millions of Syrian refugees. However, the deal is fragile, with President Erdogan using refugees to put pressure on the EU by briefly opening the country’s border with Greece in 2020.
Brussels effectively suspended accession negotiations with Turkey in 2018, but negotiations could be revived after the presidential elections. A prerequisite would be indirect recognition of the Republic of Cyprus as a member of the EU, as Turkish troops have occupied Northern Cyprus for almost 50 years. Turkey remains hopeful of joining the EU someday, but Turkey expert Amanda Paul believes this is unlikely as long as President Erdogan remains in power.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s criticism of Turkey was clear during her meeting with her counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu in July 2022. However, she also stressed the importance of the West sticking together in the face of Russian aggression. The EU and NATO hope that Turkey will finally allow Sweden’s admission into the military alliance after the elections.