Turkey 'indispensable', but further progress unlikely during Greek presidency

Maria Eleni Koppa says the period of Greece's EU council presidency is unlikely to see significant progress on the Turkey situation.

By Maria Eleni Koppa MEP

25 Feb 2014

Europe is anchored to Turkey for reasons that will not change during the Greek presidency. [pullquote]Turkey represents a big market and has doubled its GDP in less than a decade, while its population remains young[/pullquote]. Although the country is reaching a 'middle income' situation and there is still emerging market volatility, Turkey has consolidated its position as an energy hub and is a bridge between emerging and mature markets. Turkey remains indispensable, but, without a vision for partnership, there is no drive for progress.

As far as illegal migration is concerned, partnership is unlikely. Europe's focus is on borders rather than migration regime management and Turkey will not voluntarily become 'a buffer zone'. To reframe policy objectives, the Greek presidency could try to make a difference, but it will not - nor will there be progress in the pending enlargement agenda. Greek presidencies have traditionally held an advocacy accelerator role for newcomers in Europe; but regarding Turkey there are three reasons Athens cannot play this role.

First, on Cyprus, the position is clear: Nicosia drafts the agenda and Athens follows. We are moving on this, but not at a pace where the presidency can make a real difference. Second, the European elections are widely expected to benefit Eurosceptics, lowering the bar of expectations on enlargement policy. Finally, domestic developments in Turkey are dictating a 'wait and see' position.

Events in Turkey are breath-taking, but Europe is currently self-absorbed in its crisis. The Greek presidency's priority over its six months at the helm of the EU is crisis management, not conflict resolution.