Two decades ago, the big question in Brussels and Ankara was, "Will Turkey one day become a full member of the EU?" A decade ago, it was, "How soon can Turkey become a full member?" Today, the question is simpler: "Will it be Turkey or the EU that puts an official end to this opera buffa?"
In March, the European Parliament forcefully reminded the West's Turkey hopefuls that they are wrong. In a non-binding vote, the assembly recommended to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey (370 votes in favor, 109 against with 143 abstentions.) An EU press release after high-level talks with Turkey in Brussels confirmed that accession talks were at a standstill and said that the "Turkish government's stated commitment to EU accession needs to be matched by corresponding reforms."
The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in March to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey.
There are plenty of reasons – all open secrets – why Turkey does not qualify to become a member, according to the assembly: ongoing human, civil, and due process rights violations; concern over Ankara's lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights; the state's "shrinking space for civil society," its arrests and suppression of journalists; its dismissal of dissident academics, as well as its treatment of Middle Eastern migrants within its borders; the government's abuse of due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of terrorism suspicions; its intimidation of its own citizens; and Turkey's fractious relationships with neighboring states such as Cyprus and Greece, as well as (the lack of) normalization of diplomatic relations with neighboring Armenia.
The European Parliament said:
[R]espect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, including the separation of powers, democracy, freedom of expression and the media, human rights, the rights of minorities and religious freedom, freedom of association and the right to peaceful protest, the fight against corruption and the fight against racism and discrimination against vulnerable groups are at the core of the negotiation process.
Alparslan Kavaklıoğlu a member of Erdoğan's AKP and head of the parliament's Security and Intelligence Commission, said in 2018: "Europe will be Muslim. We will be effective there, Allah willing. I am sure of that."
The EU and Turkey each have their own interest in endlessly prolonging this opera buffa. But the audience is growing increasingly bored.
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, is a fellow at the Middle East Forum.