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EU-Turkey summit: Historic?

Seda SerdarNovember 30, 2015

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu considers the summit a historic one. EU leaders call it a success. For whom is the outcome really good, asks DW’s Seda Serdar.

EU Turkey summit meeting press conference
Image: Reuters/E. Vidal

At a first glance the EU-Turkey Summit seems like a huge success for both parties. Progress. The EU agreed to financially help Turkey which has been coping with the refugee crises on her own for years.

At the same time, both sides decided to act together in tackling the refugee issue and also agreed to increase dialog in the fields of economy, energy and political matters.

On top of that, both sides agreed to go ahead and open a new chapter for negotiations in mid-December. If all goes as planned then by October 2016 visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting the Schengen area would be relaxed. Too good to be true? It probably is.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey PM Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkey PM Ahmet Davutoglu with Chancellor Angela MerkelImage: Reuters/E. Vidal

The European leaders are clear about their message. The visa issue is tightly connected to the readmission agreement.

Promises promises

To make the refugee deal attractive to the Turkish public, a wonderful solution is being presented: to travel to Europe without a visa and the re-vitalization of prospects for EU membership. Every Turk who has travelled to Europe or has relatives in a European country will certainly cherish this development.

However, this is only a perspective, not a guarantee. First, Europe needs to be certain that the plan of keeping the Syrian refugees in Turkey will actually work. French President Francois Hollande's remarks on how terrorists infiltrated refugees in order to travel to Europe explains the urgency for Europeans.

The positive outcome of this agreement is that Turkey will finally be dealing with the refugee crisis in a more systematic way. Currently, from the 2,2 million refugees, only about 14 percent live in camps. The rest are scattered around the country and even though the majority of them are registered, they are far from being integrated.

By signing this agreement,Turkey is in a way accepting that the Syrian refugees will become a part of Turkish society and are here to stay. Europe on the other hand is trying everything in its power to make sure that this stays as a Turkish reality rather than an increasingly European one.

EU membership not in sight

Sixteen years ago when Turkey's candidate status for the EU was announced, it was made clear that the negotiations would start but this would be an “open-ended” process. This means that even after all the chapters are successfully opened and closed, there is absolutely no guarantee that Turkey will be accepted as a member.

Ahead of this “historic” summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated these words, maybe not as loudly as before. Also, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker stated at the press conference following the summit that the two sides have different views on freedom of the press. These quiet statements are subtle indicators of EU intentions.

By not openly pointing at the democratic deficit in Turkey, the EU is losing its credibility and also saying that it really has no serious intention of integrating Turkey into the EU. If the intention is there, then why is the EU trying to load the heaviest part of the burden on Turkey's shoulders and why isn't it being loud and clear about the values it was built upon?

EU leaders at the Brussels meeting with Turkey
Turkey PM Ahmet Davutoglu with EU leadersImage: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Hoslet

So the victory dance of the success of this “historic” summit is an illusion, if the ultimate goal is membership. However, if the ultimate goal is to minimize the influx of refugees to Europe and for Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to sell the European dream to its voters, then yes, this has been a huge success.