In the early hours of 4 October, 2005, Jack Straw, the then British foreign secretary, and Abdullah Gül, his Turkish counterpart, walked, tired-eyed and hand-in-hand, into a packed press conference in Luxembourg.
The EU had just opened membership talks with Ankara, in what seemed like an answer to the centuries old-question of whether the west should open its arms to Turkey. “Now we are part of Europe!” Gül proclaimed.
Years - World - Today - Britain - Way
That was 14 years ago and a world away. Today, Britain is on its way out of the EU and Turkey looks very much as if it will not find a way in.
The UK’s departure from the EU can be seen as part of a wider phenomenon in which member states question the founding principles of the union, such as people’s freedom of movement and of an inclusive vision of Europe in the world. But Brexit also risks making things worse for other parts of the world in very direct and concrete terms – this is certainly the case for Turkey.
Trip - Istanbul - Ankara - Refrain - Time
On a recent trip back to Istanbul and Ankara, I heard the same refrain time and again over cups of Turkish coffee: “We thought the Brits were sensible. Why are they doing this to themselves? And why are they doing this to us?”
I was in the Luxembourg press conference when Straw and Gül announced the start of the EU talks, and reported from Istanbul when the euphoria of that day was replaced by despair in the years afterwards. As western European politicians such as Angela Merkel diluted the EU’s commitment to Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has ruled the country since 2003, undermined Turkey’s commitment to EU standards such as the rule of law, a free press and fundamental rights.
Discourse - Europe - Hands - Erdoğan
The anti-Turkey discourse in Europe has played into the hands of Erdoğan, who has...
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