Presidents of France and Turkey expressed divergent views on Turkey’s EU membership bid, with hosting French President Emmanuel Macron saying that “EU could offer partnership to Turkey, instead of membership,” pointing to an emerging new schism in perspectives that could spell a sea change in Brussels’ approach to the prospect of Turkish accession to the union.
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan went to Paris to jump-start a sloppy EU negotiation process and boost ties with France. But his visit and the press conference instead revealed a widening gap between Turkey and EU, with the two leaders airing irreconcilable views on Ankara’s decades-long aspiration for EU membership.
“Waiting for EU membership exhausted Turks,” the Turkish president said in an expression of dismay and exasperation.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of EU accession talks and blamed Brussels.
His French counterpart was very blunt in his pessimist assessment of the situation. “No progress is possible” in Turkey’s bid to join the EU after the post-coup crackdown, he said.
“For relations with the European Union, it is clear that recent developments and choices allow no progress in the process,” Macron said at the joint press conference.
The “strategic partnership” between EU and Turkey, instead of a full membership, had been a favorite theme long nursed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Turkey had long objected to any alternative option other than a full-fledged membership.
“We cannot continuously ask the EU, ‘please take us, too’ now,” the Turkish president said in disbelief. He accused the EU shutting down the door for Turkey, leaving it in a state of waiting for decades.
But the French leader was candid while speaking about the odds that dogged the relationship between Turkey and EU.
“We should … see if we cannot rethink this relationship, no in the framework of the 9EU) integration process but perhaps a cooperation, a partnership,” he said, according to Associated Press.
Recent development and choices, the French president said, do not allow any progress in EU process.
He still projected a path for Turkey to remain fully engaged with the West. The main goal, Mr. Macron emphasized, must be to keep Turkey a NATO member anchored in Europe and its future lies with Europe.
While most of the European leaders shied away from touching on human rights violations at joint conferences with the thin-skinned Turkish president, the French leader urged Turkey to respect rule of law and address human rights violations.
During the press conference, the Turkish president had a tense exchange with a French reporter who asked about weapons shipment to warring sides in Syria from Turkey. The president fumed in indignation and said the episode was a plot against Turkey, “engineered by FETO prosecutors who are now in jail.”
Erdogan’s government refers to Gulen Movement as a terrorist organization and blames a failed coup in 2016 on the group. Both U.S.-based cleric and his followers deny any link to the abortive putsch.