Concerns are being voiced around Europe regarding Turkey’s future course in the wake of Sunday’s referendum which gave President Erdogan sweeping new powers. The country’s membership in NATO and crucial role in stemming the flow of migrants to Europe leaves many questions unanswered. I spoke to Radko Hokovský, head of the Prague-based European Values Think Tank, and began by asking him how the vote would affect Turkey’s relations with the EU.
“We should not reduce relations between the EU and Turkey only to the accession process, the relations are much broader and I believe it would be much healthier for the EU to establish a new relationship with Turkey, to respect its system, although we do not agree with and are not happy with the internal political changes. I think we should respect the choices that the Turkish people made and try to maintain a partnership with Turkey, to cooperate in the areas of migration, security, defence and business even though Turkey does not fulfil the accession criteria and under the current government is very unlikely to proceed on its way towards the EU.”
Turkey is a member of NATO. How may it affect cooperation on that level?
“I hope it will not affect cooperation with NATO, because the alliance and partnership with Turkey in defence matters is really vital. And in fact, there were cases in the past of NATO member states which were not fully liberal democracies, for example Portugal or Greece in the 1960s. So the change of the political system is not so vital for NATO, what is vital is the foreign and security policy. So the turning point in relations between NATO and Turkey would be a significant change in Turkey’s policy towards Russia. This is worrying because Mr. Erdogan is trying to improve and strengthen relations with Russia maybe more than the other allies would like to see. But for the time being it does not seem that Mr. Erdogan wants to significantly change the country’s foreign policy.”
Turkey has been an ally in the migration crisis- has the EU now lost that ally?
“Well, that remains to be seen. I hope that the EU will be able to maintain the partnership when it comes to regulating the migratory flows, but of course the deal is not very balanced and the EU feels that it is on the weaker side of the relationship. But I think that the EU should be more assertive in this respect, because it has something to offer to Turkey within the agreement on controlling migration, mainly financial resources and Turkey is actually profiting a lot from those funds. So the EU should be able to create some pressure on Turkey, economic pressure as regards the deal on the migrant crisis and not act as someone who is only asking and hoping that Erdogan will fulfil his promises.”