Turkey’s bid to join EU: will there be a referendum?

Turkey’s bid to join EU: will there be a referendum?

By  Rufiz Havizoglu

Turkey and Germany are locomotives of economic development and have important political weight – each of these countries holds a leading position in its region.

It should be noted that trade turnover between Turkey and Germany amounted to 36.8 billion euros in 2016. However, despite that most of the countries establish ties mainly on the basis of their economic interests, everything is very different in relations between Turkey and Germany.

After the last year’s military coup attempt in Turkey, tensions are growing every day in the two countries’ relations.

Turkey was previously indirectly accusing Germany of supporting the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) after the attempted military coup, whereas now Ankara openly accuses Berlin of assisting the Hizmet movement which is directly involved in the July coup attempt. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in one of his latest statements, said he personally presented to the German chancellor the documents confirming that criminals wanted in Turkey are hiding in Germany.

There are a number of problems between Turkey and Germany – the main one of them, according to the Turkish side, is Germany’s support for PKK and the Hizmet movement, although the authorities of Germany have repeatedly stated that PKK in Germany is also recognized as a terrorist organization.

Another important problem in the relations between the two countries is related to the withdrawal of the German Air Force from the Incirlik Air Base.

In Turkey it is believed that Germany, using its reputation in the European Union, is exerting political pressure on the union to end Ankara’s talks on joining the EU.

Ankara is well aware that despite having implemented 67 of the 72 commitments undertaken before the EU, Turkey, as a Muslim country, simply cannot become a full-fledged EU member. Actually, the Turkish authorities have repeatedly hinted at this fact: for example, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that delaying the process of Turkey’s joining the EU once again proves that the EU is a “Christian club.”

The case is that the EU requires Turkey to relieve its fight against terrorism, or rather against the PKK, and accuses the country of violating the rights of its citizens.

Commenting on this, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country will not go against its interests for the EU membership, and the fight against terrorism in Turkey will not be weakened even if the EU refuses to cancel visa regime with Ankara.

Holding a referendum on EU accession was put on agenda in Turkey back in June 2016.

There is no doubt that in case a referendum is held the majority of population will vote for termination of the EU accession negotiations.

But why doesn’t Turkey want to be the first to abandon these talks? Because the Turkish authorities know well that if the country refuses to continue negotiations on the EU accession, Western countries will significantly increase political pressure on Ankara.

This is the reason that compels Ankara not to hold a referendum that can decide to stop the EU membership talks.


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