The Role of Turkey in EU Policies in the 2000s: An Examination of Foreign Policy Partnership

The Role of Turkey in EU Policies in the 2000s:
An Examination of Foreign Policy Partnership


Negotiation process which constitutes the institutional and legal basis for EU-Turkey relations cannot progress smoothly. Weakening of EU conditionality and the regional crises play a crucial role in this result. It has been observed that the soft power policy that Turkey has adopted at both international and regional level from the beginning of the 2000s to 2007 has been complemented by the hard power policy again particularly in internal security issues after 2007. In addition, since 2010 the reflections on the national security concerns have reinforced the adaptation of the hard power policy choice. This paper attempts to point out that how the following process in the future periods should balance between the ideal policies based on the norms and values that Turkey and the EU follow and the real politics regarding the enlargement of operational capacity.


European Union (EU) representing the soft power in the international arena and the regional integration has started to realise that its international strength could not be assured by using solely soft power after the Arab Spring Process.[1] The soft power of EU, which has been constructed and developed after the war experiences in the 20th century, has aimed to eliminate the conflicts and wars in Europe, to limit the national sovereignties in case of need for the sake of peace, and to deepen and widen its international organisation and integration and tried to sustain its progress in the early 21st century. It has been tried to remove the possibility of recurrence of the human tragedies in the last century by emphasizing the respect to human rights at both European and global levels. After the Cold War, EU made an endeavour to deepen its integration in an environment that gives opportunity to form new political and economic actors. Indeed, the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 is the most concrete indicator of this attempt. After that, the EU has become an international actor that attempts to bring its political and economic criteria bear on the candidate countries. The principles such as the respect to the human rights, supremacy of law, the commitment to democracy and to the democratic institutions, and the peaceful resolution of disagreements and conflicts led EU to become the soft power as an international actor.[2] Hence, the EU has gained the ability to shape the requests of other countries or country groups and the international organizations without use of force and pressure and in a consensual manner.[3] Moreover, EU’s this ability to shape has paved the way for interpreting it as a normative power in the international platform.[4]

The Arab Spring process brought both Euro-Mediterranean Partnership[5] that points EU’s normative character and the Neighbourhood Policy[6] to a standstill demonstrating that international effectiveness of EU cannot be carried out by solely using soft power elements. EU has been trying to construct a security area around its near neighbourhood, and to protect it from any threats. EU’s biggest concern about Syrian Civil War has been the possibility that instabilities and conflicts might spread to its neighbourhood. It is considered as inevitable that the negative effects of such leap in terms of politics, economy and society and the results of non-execution of the joint policies will affect EU. In fact, its fears came true. In the 2013 report on the evaluation of European Neighbourhood Policy, it was mentioned that changeable and unstable conditions in which Mediterranean partners took part, had negative effects on the implementation of the bilateral agreements and multi-lateral road maps. It was stated that the chaos, arising from the social and religious polarisation in the Middle East, posed a threat for the fulfilment of the requirements with respect to Neighbourhood Policy. The limited development in the relationship with Egypt and the failure to assembly the sub-committees due to the government change in the country have been presented as the prominent example for it.[7]

In order to encourage the democratisation of the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa, EU points out the importance of strengthening civil society as a precondition for financial aids and free-trade zone. However, different attitudes of parties obstructed its happening. For instance, political currents, political parties and organisations in the Middle Eastern and North African countries that are referring to the religion, might not have been recognised by EU. Thereby, aid mechanisms within common policies such as Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and Neighbourhood Policy might not have been managed successfully. It has been observed that authoritarian regimes of Mediterranean countries have been able to refuse the implementation of policies and principles that EU tries to promote on the grounds of the interference in their internal affairs. Under these circumstances, the applications of Neighbourhood Policy have had to be restricted. Due to the negative impacts of the Arab Spring, the negotiation process regarding free-trade that EU started with Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt have been disrupted; because Arab countries aimed to change political and economic relations with the EU during the Arab Spring in order to decrease the influence of EU over them.[8]

Apart from the potential regional dynamics for bringing common policies to a halt, domestic dynamics of EU have also such potential. It is known that the EU countries can make decisions easily in usual times when they are in no hurry to take concerted action and they have no conflict of interest. However, they are hesitant to take concerted action during international crisis which occurs all at once or unexpectedly; or which leads to political dissidence due to difference of opinions of the members. Ethnic conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s and the Iraq War in 2003 have been the primary examples in the history. This has been seen mostly in candidate countries particularly in Turkey. The negotiation process with Turkey has not been progressed successfully due to the weakening of conditionality in regard to EU relations and the disruption of reliability of negotiation process. Moreover, the regional crises even worsen the relations by affecting political balance of Turkey and EU and of their own choices. In the future, the following process should focus on the balance between the ideal policies –based on the norms and the values that Turkey and EU will follow– and the real politics regarding to enlargement of operational capacity.

Turkey had maintained a foreign policy in accordance with EU until 2007 especially, under the impact of starting the negotiation process and EU conditionality.  However, the national concerns such as counter-terrorism efforts gained priority due to the impact of both security policies and regional crises. As a consequence of the deadlock of negotiations with EU, the accession process and thus, the EU conditionality have disrupted. On the junction point of these two situations, accordance in the foreign policy matters did not conflict with the national interests of Turkey, whereas there was a separation in such matters when they might have conflicted with them. A de facto ‘a la carte cooperation’ started to process for Turkey. An evaluation of the common foreign policy between Turkey and EU from the point of actual indicators and the perspective of conditionality will shed light on this situation.

The Weakening of Foreign Policy Partnership Following a Weak EU Conditionality

Conditionality can be interpreted as a relation between a country and an international organisation in condition to the fulfilment of certain conditions or a criterion on the expectations of other countries for their benefits. EU has made a significant move to make conditionality be maintained and be considered as important by partner countries in the 1990s. Indeed, the issue of war crimes trials that arose from the war in Balkans in the 1990s was one of the determinants of the relations between EU and Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. EU conditioned the Eastern Europe countries to adopt the institutional transformations to convert their Cold War communist regimes to democracy and free-market economy from the 1990s onwards. The conditions have been defined as stability of democratic institutions, rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms in accordance with the Copenhagen Criteria that is accepted in 1993. In the framework of the Copenhagen Criteria, EU conditionality has focused on strengthening of state capacity, ensuring judicial independence and stability of economic-social-cultural rights as well as making provision against corruption and human rights violations.  As a matter of course, political, economic and social conditions of the countries have also been determinative in regard to the conditionality.[9] In other words, internal factors have an important role to implement the conditionality. The reform capacity of states, the potential of compromise of political parties and the provision of social adaptation and reconciliation are some of the internal factors.[10]

Furthermore, internal factors have had costs for the target country. If the political cost of harmonisation with EU criteria or of the political partnership is low for the target country, the conditionality is effective to that degree. Effectiveness of conditionality depends on the extent that the target country defines itself as its EU identity. International and regional dynamics affect the impacts of conditionality. If the political, economic and social relations between EU and target country are developed enough, if the cost of not joining in integration of Europe is high for target country and if the interdependence is crucial, the impact of conditionality is higher.[11]

EU conditionality had its first significant impacts on Turkey after it gained candidate status in 1999. Hence, EU-Turkey relations have accelerated up until the mid-2000s through the legal reforms that were planned to protect national integrity, to concentrate on security issues such as counter-terrorism, to democratise and to develop fundamental rights and freedoms. However, from the mid-2000s, Turkey’s national and regional security concerns have disrupted the progress in EU path, which is the basic dynamic of reforms, not technically; but in the sense of security policy partnership. It has caused loss of EU encouragement concerning conditionality on foreign and security policy partnership for Turkey. EU has no power to pressure and affect candidate and member countries to change their foreign policies. Hence, it can only expect them to voluntarily shape their foreign policies in accordance with the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP).[12] In other words, CFSP is the principal source to test the foreign policy partnership. This voluntariness of the countries is closely related to the perspective of EU membership and the desire to obtain it. The main reason of this willingness and thus of voluntariness is the perception of member and candidate countries on EU as a prestigious union while positioning themselves in international area and the idea –that the inclusion in union has several benefits in political, economic and social areas. Meanwhile, a contrary point of view would point the cost of participation in CFSP. It should not be ignored that foreign policy and cost calculations of a country depend on both internal factors such as national reform processes, political party policies, political affairs, pressure groups and external factors such as global policies, crises, global institutions, changes in the global system and regional policies and crises.[13]

Turkey has faced three ‘conditions’ with respect to foreign policy of EU conditionality. The first one is to accept and enforce the CFSP instruments such as ‘joint action’, ‘common attitude’, ‘declaration’. The second is to adopt the political criteria of conditionality. Thirdly, Turkey must meet EU’s demand to solve disagreements with its neighbours in peaceful ways. Moreover, EU demanded a new criterion to improve civilian nature of Turkey’s foreign policy providing the change of balance of power in Milli Güvenlik Kurulu (National Security Council) (MGK) for the benefit of civilian members.[14]

European integration or accession process to the EU forced foreign policy makers of member and candidate countries to adopt the norms and practices of EU foreign policy. The pragmatic accounts related to foreign policy, the security issues focused on realistic politics, and the dynamics of internal politics have been the principal determinants of the adoption process. Countries have adopted the norm and practices of EU foreign policy as long as they are in benefit of their own policies. In other words, the adaptation of foreign policy has had a path with respect to strategic and instrumental interests of the countries. Indeed, it was the same case for Turkey.[15]

The cooperation and partnership in foreign policy between EU and Turkey which is a candidate member in the negotiation process for membership are required to be technically and ideally at their maximum level. The candidate status necessitates the adjustment of Turkey to CFSP. However, the harmonisation has increasingly weakened from the beginning of the 2000s until today, as the goal of membership has been destructed and both parts have concentrated on process rather than the target. That is to say, Turkey started to adopt less the foreign policy decisions of EU even if it is affected from the complications in its internal politics. For instance, Turkey exhibited a supportive attitude on the EU decisions related to the elections in Albania and the decisions related to the matters in Congo due to the fact that it did not interest particularly while it was in tendency to take a ‘national’ stand, not an ‘integrated’ stand on the decisions directly related to its own interests.  Another example is that since 2004, Turkey has implemented visa liberalisation for the countries that are on the black list of EU in accordance with its visa regulations. Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia and Serbia are some of them. As the internal political atmosphere during the 2000s requires, Turkey has started to increasingly seek an independent global and regional role and has shaped its foreign policy attitude and applications with regard to this. In other words, it has started to obtain a multidimensional foreign policy instead of holding a European-based foreign policy.[16]

In fact, Turkey has defined itself with this policy as an equal partner of EU with other members, not as a candidate member. However, this definition has been understood as a problematic for EU since a country of candidate status complicates bilateral relations and cooperation, because such definition provided Turkey a large room for manoeuvre in decision to join or not policy partnership in EU. On the other hand, this definition caused Turkey to turn away from a kind of foreign policy dialogue outside the framework of accession process or the alternatives based upon privileged partnership being dragged along the cooperation. Nevertheless, because of the lack of progress within the negotiation process, the parts started to seek an alternative relationship. Turkey has valued less the EU foreign policy practices particularly, after the Euro crisis. The idea that EU has a weak power on North Africa, Caucasus, Central Asia and Middle East has affected Turkey’s position. For Turkey, it has been virtually EU’s ‘power gap’. This power gap has taken a role in Turkey’s search for an independent global and regional role as well. From the 2000s to the 2010s, “security” has again become one of the main concerns of Turkey in an environment that Arab Spring and Syrian Civil War have changed the regional dynamics.[17]

According to EU, the best and the most legitimate way to solve a problem in international area is to use diplomatic and economic instruments. In other words, soft power must be chosen over hard power. However, that is not to say that EU and its members do not use any hard power to achieve their foreign policy targets. What is important is to provide assurance to use hard power as a last resort. Even though the participation of Turkey in international affairs led by EU shows that EU norms have been considered by external policy makers, the cohesion of Turkey’s foreign policy to CFSP is shaped by taking into account Turkey’s strategic benefits. Government and military authorities have a tendency to avoid taking joint decisions with EU when they think that the partnership with EU damages Turkey’s strategic benefits and that the EU does not consider Turkey as an equal partner. Since the Cold War, EU’s security culture has focused on ‘soft governance’, ‘common security practices’, and ‘necessity of non-military actions’. However, Turkey’s security culture has been based on a realist viewpoint regarding the threats from internal and external actors. The difference between the two security cultures tends to decrease after 1999. However, the difference started to increase again with the military actions particularly after 2007.[18] The aim to remove or push-off the issues that create conflicts with neighbouring countries (it is the ‘policy of zero problem with the neighbours’) and the acceptance of mediator role in regional conflicts regarding the purpose of being regional power are in accord with the EU’s criteria of having good relations with neighbour countries and of removing the border problems. Hence, to adopt these criteria becomes necessary for Turkey’s way to  the EU harmonisation. However, the effects of security policy relied mainly on hard power have led to question the harmonisation after 2007.

Perceptions of Regional Foreign Policy of Turkey and EU

From the Middle East Example

While examining the foreign policy perceptions between EU and Turkey on Middle East, it is required to point out that the main factor, complicating the participation of Turkey into the joint position and applications of EU in foreign policy, is the security problem, arising from the terror since the middle of 2000s. This is also a significant detection of EU about Turkey. With this detection, EU virtually emphasised that the increasing security considerations of Turkey had a potential to move away from the joint policies.[19]

On the other hand, EU stated that Turkey was less likely to be harmonious with CFSP declaration in the beginning of the 2010s. It was declared that Turkey has not shared the decisions of EU about Iran, Libya and Syria, but the continuation of its dialogue with Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government was appreciated. However, it is also important to consider Turkey’s negative relations with the central government in Iraq in contrast to EU’s expectations, while approving its endeavour to normalise the relations with its neighbours as Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government.[20] Even if European External Action Service claims that Turkey’s foreign policy dialogue with EU is likely to develop particularly about the Syrian issue since 2011, it is important to emphasise that the increase in dialogues does not solve the problem of security threats and different foreign policy perceptions. Hence, it is expected to construct the policies relied on these perceptions and threats.

It would be wrong to claim that Turkey has not developed various propositions to improve its cooperation on foreign policy with EU. For instance, “Readmission Agreement” that foresees a regulation about migration issue is one of these examples.[21]  Turkey signed this agreement in December 2013 and agreed to readmission of migrants who went to Europe from Turkey by illegal means. According to the agreement, Turkey has to accept illegal migrants from now on. At the same time, it has to host these migrants until they return to their home countries. Turkey has also gained an important role to stabilise its close neighbourhood which constitutes its European Neighbourhood Policy area, and to support the reforms in its neighbourhood. Hence, EU has tried to develop political dialogue to protect the mutual benefits with Turkey.[22]

Mutual benefit of both parts depends on the resolution of regional conflicts; it requires gathering all regional powers around certain regulations. EU evaluates Turkey with its role in the regions such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Thus, the national aspects that may cause differentiation in security policies between Turkey and EU can be ignored. However, the reality of differentiation in micro level and the policy partnership in macro level still stands.  The perceptions of Turkey and EU on foreign policies might even differ for the policies that are likely to have mutual benefit for both parts.

EU has regarded Turkey’s position as a mediator to solve the problems with such actors and countries as Hamas, Iran and Syria from the 2000s onwards. Syria accepted Turkey’s involvement to support peace in its relations with Israel. However, Turkey’s capacity and role to solve the disagreement between Syria and Israel has been quite limited due to USA’s constitutive role and afterwards the disrupted relations with Israel.[23] What is important for EU is to define Turkey’s foreign policy in relation to crisis management and to place Turkey as an actor that plays a role for common benefits in its foreign policy practices instead of being a self-concerned player that acts with regards to its own purposes. Solely through this foreign policy, Turkey might seem to progress to become an important political actor for EU.

Despite EU’s claims on Turkey about having privileged relations with it, the problems about foreign policy coordination with Turkey still exist. Even though Turkey is defined as an actor that helps EU at both global and regional levels, –particularly in the Middle East for disarmament, energy security, and democratization–; revolutions in Mediterranean countries and the Arab world have been regarded as problematic developments which lay an obstacle for the common policies due to their long-term impacts. As Turkey tries to construct a cooperation mechanism via political and economic instruments, it has achieved to implement initiatives to remove visa requirements with Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia. At this point, the possible problem for Turkey is expected to be the increase in number of migrants and refugees. In fact, the Syrian refugee problem arose due to Syrian Civil war; with the number higher than 1.5 million existing refugees that is the most concrete reflection of it. Another problem is that the nature of relations with these countries defines Turkey’s scope of authority in these regions. Indeed, the disruption of Turkey and Syrian relations led to loss of Turkey’s authority and its role as a mediator in the region. Consequently, the issues to which EU attributes for defining Turkey’s regional role and importance that EU gives to Turkey, have become non-functional.[24]

However, EU, Syria and Turkey were able to find a common interest to create a stable region before the Arab Spring and civil wars happened. According to EU, Syria and EU had an important role to give new point of views regarding the Middle Eastern conflicts in international level. For Stefan Füle, then European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Syria imposed a reform process to modernize the economy and to increase the living standards of people. Syria started to open up to the world by implementing trade agreements with Arab countries and Turkey. EU promised to support Syria during the reform process. EU became the most important financier and trade partner for Syria with financial aids reached to 210 million Euros per year and its 5.3 billion Euros trade capacity by the year of 2009. While EU was seeking to strengthen its relations with Syria, its desire to develop the relations with its Mediterranean partners relied on partnership agreements were always kept in the background.[25]

There have always been common issues that link EU and Turkey, such as economic crises, energy safety, environment, the dialogue among civilizations, the acceptance of principles of democracy-human rights-rule of law, the construction of stability in neighbour countries. With the rise of Arab Spring in general and Syrian Civil War in particular, stability became high priority issue. Both parties needed to cooperate for solving the problems of stability and other issues. It was one of the main reasons of the planning of “Positive Agenda”[26] for EU-Turkey relations in 2011. By doing so, they tried to enhance the dialogue for foreign policy issues, particularly with regard to Syrian Civil War.[27]

Another reason why ‘Positive Agenda’ was launched is to eliminate the weakness resulting from the absence of progress in the negotiation process and to provide increased cooperation in foreign policy. Hence, the existence and development of ‘Positive Agenda’ have pointed out the weakness of partnership in foreign policy and of the common perception. In this framework, EU wanted to enhance the cooperation with Turkey regarding the security issues and fight against terrorism. Two meanings can be assigned to this matter. First, EU tries to approach to Turkey’s terrorism agenda and to transform its issue of terrorism as well as its fight against terrorism into common concerns, since EU heavily condemns terrorism and declares that it understands Turkey’s priorities. Secondly, EU desires to integrate Turkey’s legislative regulations, methods and instruments to its own perspective and implementations. This can be understood from its institutional statements that Turkey needs cooperation for the issue of terrorism and fight against terrorism. For instance, EU recommends Turkey to collaborate with European Police Office (EUROPOL) to protect private information. Moreover, the cooperation between law enforcement officers –particularly police and EUROJUST– is presented as judicial cooperation enhancing factors. It is emphasized that Turkey cannot provide legislative alignment with international regulations with respect to terrorism financing. Additionally, the armed struggle against terrorism is not seen as a solution-oriented action by EU.[28]

These mentioned disagreements are important as they actually show the cooperation problem between EU and Turkey, and this is a problem of both sides. According to Füle, Turkey did not make enough effort to enhance the cooperation during the negotiation process, and some EU member states tried to change the rules of the game. He disapproved Turkey’s attitude that focused on accession date acting upon the discourse as “we have deserved the membership”[29] and he thought that such attitude would fail.[30] EU has pointed out together with Turkey, the importance to define the possible common threats from its neighbours for developing a strategic dialogue and cooperation in foreign policy.[31]

Although Turkey severely condemned the act of violence of Syrian regime on the civilians and opened the borders for Syrian immigrants and provided humanitarian aid; it is remarkable that, in contrast to the previous years, it received a lower degree of compliance with the CFSP declaration in the 2012 Progress Report prepared by European Commission.[32] The same conditions also apply for the 2013 Progress Report. It was stated that there was an increasing tension on the mutual relationships with Iraq in this period and that the active dialogue of Turkey with EU about the counter-terrorism was strengthened; however there was no law to protect the personal data. It was remarked that there were differences between the norms which determine the terrorism definitions and enforcements, of Turkey and EU countries. It was pointed out that Turkish legislation was required to comply with EU legislation from the point of terrorism definitions and enforcements within the cooperation of counter terrorism. 2014 Progress Report indicated that Turkey agreed with 13 decisions out of 45 EU declaration and Council decisions and the accordance remained at 29%, comparing with the rate of 46% in the 2013 Progress Report. Turkey notified that it did not agree with the Council decisions related to the Crimea’s annexation to Russia and the incidents in eastern Ukraine, including the restrictive precautions. It was highlighted that the normalization period with Israel, starting in 2013, had not been completed and the relationship with Egypt was deteriorated significantly. It was almost complained of the lack of solution for EU-NATO cooperation, going beyond ‘Berlin Plus’ regulations and involving all EU countries. It was mentioned in the report that the agreement level of Turkey with EU declarations and Council decisions decreased in contrast to the previous years and it was necessary to increase it.[33] As understood from the large-perspective detections in the progress reports, EU stated that the support level for declarations was low although Turkey tried to comply with CFSP or made an endeavour.[34]

The dialogue and cooperation between EU and Turkey about the stability, democracy, and security in the Middle East have strategic importance. EU has presented the reform process that Turkey has maintained as a sort of motivation source to Arab countries for their shift to democracy and the implementation of socio-economic reforms. In this framework, coordination and dialogue between Turkey and EU, which have been developed by referring to the foreign and neighbourhood policy, have come to the fore by creating mutual synergy for encouraging the socio-economic reforms and democratization against the threats in Mediterranean region and Middle East. This is concurrently a requirement of interdependence between Turkey, EU and EU member countries as well. It is important to pay attention to ensure regional stability and energy security for the interdependence.[35]

In 2012, EU member states were demanded to develop cooperation with Turkey against terrorism and organised crimes regarding terrorism, while co-ordinating closely with Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator and EUROPOL in respect to human rights, basic rights and freedoms and international laws in 2012. Moreover, European Commission and member states were called for sharing information with Turkey.[36] In the same year, European Parliament (EP) demanded from the member states for help to Turkey in its fight against the issues related to humanity in Syrian Civil War. It was indicated that Turkey’s support for democratic forces in Syria has been appreciated.  Thus, Turkey has been encouraged to adopt its foreign policy to EU in respect of dialogue and coordination with EU.[37]

The integration of the EU candidate member countries’ foreign policy to EU foreign policy is an expected result. Hence, the concept of security partnership cannot be effective if the candidates are not included in the foreign policy debates. Indeed, it has positive effects for the countries during the accession negotiations. The security partnership should not be solely related to procedures and institutions. For the purpose of solving and overcoming the problems together, it is possible to develop a viewpoint by EU and its partners. The benefit should not be one-sided, i.e. EU should not help its partners without receiving support from them. Instead, there should be mutual benefit. Bringing stability to conflicted regions, particularly the Middle East is one of those mutual benefits. This is where Turkey’s role comes in. However, it can be seen that Turkey with its hard power attitude in Syria moves away from such role.[38]

By accepting that there is a possibility of disagreement between Turkey’s interests and policies and EU policies, it can be foreseen that Turkey focuses on its own region and cares about its regional interests without giving priority to the requirements concerning its relations with EU. Hence, Turkey’s regional interests can be naturally separated from EU’s interests. It can be predicted that the perceptions of threats of Turkey and Western countries can increasingly differ in the long-term. Moreover, it is possible to think that while Turkey evaluates its policies concerning its own conditions, it has sometimes the potential to create conflicts with compliance or with unity of purpose, or with the purpose as well as methods; but it has the potential to create conflicts with methods in all circumstances.[39]

There have been several actors who reminded that Turkey started to pursue independent policies by the beginning of the 2010s. For instance, then the chair of EP Commission on Foreign Affairs, Elmar Brok stated that they were not sure whether Turkey aimed to implement independent policies from the NATO or not. Moreover, Günter Seufert stated that Turkey maintained a foreign policy more likely to be dependent to USA, while he was interpreting the transformation of Turkey’s foreign policy as the axial shift. Seufert said that Turkey disrupted the balance while attempting to sustain it during the crisis in the Middle East, by maintaining Sunni-oriented policies in the region. Moreover, he claimed that Turkey has concerned mostly about increasing militarisation and armament in its relation with Syria.[40] It was claimed that Arab Spring has ended the ‘zero problem policy with neighbours’ of Turkey. It was also underlined that Turkey was forced to take a stand due to issues in Libya and Syria.

Turkey and EU have faced with the fact that they must strengthen their cooperation to enhance their foreign policy dialogue after the deterioration of regional stability in Middle East. It has become clear that the relationship between Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey and European External Action Service must develop. However, Syrian Civil War has resulted Turkey to virtually become closer with USA instead of EU.[41] Therefore, EP has been calling on Turkey to intensify the foreign policy coordination with EU particularly in the moment of crises.[42] Ria Oomen-Ruijten attracted attention to the importance of foreign policy coordination with EU referring to Turkey’s ongoing foreign policy, in the meeting of European People’s Party.[43]


Turkey faced with a dilemma due to the reasons regarding protection of its national unity and security issues such as counter-terrorism; even though it accelerated the reforms regarding basic rights and freedoms under the intense effects of EU, particularly from the beginning of the 2000s until the mid-2000s. This dilemma has reflected on Turkey’s foreign policy and practices after 2007. Immediately after 2007, the reflection on foreign policy has become the adoption of hard power elements by adding it to the soft power which has been maintained from the beginning of 2000 to 2007. In fact, the reflections of regional security also strengthened this situation after 2010. As a matter of fact, Turkey has followed a path based on its strategic and instrumental interests regarding its foreign policy adaptation with EU. In other words, the harmony or partnership in foreign policy has been shaped by Turkey’s strategic interest even if Turkey seemed to take into account the European norms for foreign policy making. It has been observed that when Turkey thought that EU partnership issues would disadvantage its strategic benefits; it had a tendency to avoid taking common decisions. Under these circumstances, while having an interpretation about the foreign and security policy partnership between Turkey and EU regional or global crises, it should be noted that the possibility of cooperation depends upon delicate balances, as EU conditionality has been less likely to affect Turkey’s policies. Consequently, the degree of compliance with foreign policies has decreased. In today’s world, it should not be ignored that Turkey’s importance for EU as well as the issue on its delivering a regional power referring to its diplomatic relations with the actors in its own region. It is important to make a new functional and operational definition between two sides and to institutionalise bilateral contributions based upon such redefinition under the foreign policy partnership –that EU has provided to its members to the full extent of its power, considering the fact that Turkey might affect the agenda through this partnership and that the partnership might affect Turkey’s foreign policy choices in its favour.

Dr. Sezgin Mercan, Başkent University, Ankara

Please cite this publication as follows:

Mercan, S. (February, 2015), “The Role of Turkey in EU Policies in the 2000s: An Examination of Foreign Policy Partnership”, Vol. IV, Issue 2, pp.106-112, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (


[1]The first signal was its search for a joint position to the US war against international terrorism after September 11 attacks. Indeed, this search was related to the question of how EU would respond to hard power of USA in international platform.

[2]Telo, Mario (2006) Europe: A Civilian Power? (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), pp.254, 256.

[3]For concept of ‘soft power’ see Joseph S. Nye, Jr. (1990) “Soft Power,” Foreign Policy, No.80, pp.53-171.

[4]See Sjursen, Helene (2006) “The EU as a ‘normative’ power: how can this be?”, Journal of European Public Policy, Vol.13, No.2, pp.235-251.

[5]The partnership, also called as the Barcelona Process is based on Euro-Mediterranean Agreement in 1995. Its aim has been to strengthen the political and security-related dialogue between Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Palestinian National Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey and create a peaceful and stable environment, to set up free-trade zone (until 2010) and to promote common welfare via economic and financial cooperation, to ensure the reconciliation among people via social and cultural relations that foster the mutual understanding between cultures and civil societies.

[6]After the biggest enlargement of EU in 2004, the ‘security issue’ started to be discussed more carefully as its borders expanding to the new regions in the East and South. One of the concrete reflections is the Neighbourhood Policy. Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine and Moldova participated in this policy. The Neighbourhood Policy aims at promoting good relations and fellowship in order to intensify the economic and social relations between the EU and the geographically close countries to it. It controls the adherence to the values such as democracy, human rights, rule of law, sustainable development, and free-market economy in those countries through ‘Action Plans’.

[7]European Commission, “Neighbourhood at the Crossroads: Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2013”, SWD(2014) 100, Brussels, 27.03.2014,, (Access: 10.12.2014), p.3.

[8]Huber, Daniela (2013) “US and EU Human Rights and Democracy Promotion since the Arab Spring. Rethinking its Content, Targets and Instruments”, The International Spectator, p.7; Tömmel, Ingeborg (2013) “The New Neighborhood Policy of the EU: An Appropriate Response to the Arab Spring?”, Democracy and Security, Vol.9, No.1-2, p.32; Asseburg, Muriel, (2013) “The Arab Spring and the European Response”, The International Spectator”, Vol.48, No.2, pp.55-57.

[9]Pridham, Geoffrey (2006) “European Union Accession Dynamics and Democratization in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Future Perspectives”, Government and Opposition, Vol.41, No.3, p.380.

[10]Pridham, p.398; Börzel, T.A., Risse, T. (2003) Conceptualising the Domestic Impact of Europe, in: K. Featherstone & C. Radaelli (Eds) The Politics of Europeanisation (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

[11]Schimmelfennig, Frank, Engert Stefan, Knobel, Heiko (2003) “Cost, Commitment and Compliance: The Impact of EU Democratic Conditionality on Latvia, Slovakia and Turkey”, Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol.41, No.3, pp.499-501.

[12] CFSP has become the principal pillar with Maastricht Treaty. The first pillar in EU’s three pillars structure is European Communities, secondly it is CFSP and thirdly Justice and Home Affairs. CFSP represents the EU political cooperation in foreign, security and defence policies. CFSP has covered all the foreign and security policies with the Treaty. Moreover, ‘common strategies’ started to be applied with Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 in order to make CFSP more consistent. Hence, ‘High Representative’ that represents EU in international level started to be assigned.

[13]Aydın, Mustafa, Açıkmeşe, Sinem A. (2007) “Europeanization Through EU Conditionality: Understanding The New Era In Turkish Foreign Policy”, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Vol.9, No.3, pp.266-268.

[14]Aydın, Açıkmeşe, pp.268-270.

[15]Oğuzlu, Tarık (2010-2011) “Turkey and Europeanization of Foreign Policy”, Political Science Quarterly, Vol.125, No.4, pp.659, 660.

[16] For further information see Öniş, Ziya (2009) “The New Wave of Foreign Policy Activism in Turkey Drifting away from Europeanization?” . DIIS Report. Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, pp.4-37.

[17]Barysch, Katinka, “Why the EU and Turkey Need to Coordinate Their Foreign Policies?”, Carnegie Endowment, 31.08.2011,, (Access: 30.11.2014).

[18] Müftüler-Baç, Meltem, Gürsoy, Yaprak (2010) “Is There a Europeanization of Turkish Foreign Policy? An Addendum to the Literature on EU Candidates”, Turkish Studies, Vol.11, No.3, pp.410-416.

[19]Commission of the European Communities, “Communication from the Commission: Enlargement Strategy Paper “, COM(2005) 561, 09.11.2005, Brussels, 2005, pp.29, 33.

[20]European Commission, “Turkey-External Relations, Common Foreign and Security Policy”, Commission Report, COM(2011) 666, 2011.

[21]Commission of the European Communities, “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges”, COM(2010) 660, 09.11.2010, Brussels, 2010, p.19.

[22] Commission of the European Communities, “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges”, COM(2011) 666, 12.10.2011, Brussels, 2011, p.18.

[23] Solana, Javier, 12 December 2003, “A Secure Europe in a Better World: European Security Strategy,”, (Erişim: 25.10.2014), pp.62-63.

[24] The Greens European Free Alliance, “EU/Turkey Relations”, Position Paper of the Greens/EFA Group, 28.09.2011, pp.7-8.

[25] Füle, Stephan, “EU-Syria: Scope for Closer Relations”, 2011, p.1.

[26]‘Positive Agenda’ that was launched in 2012 in order to complement the accession negotiations between Turkey and EU endorses the cooperation in the areas that require reforms. The main areas covered by ‘Positive Agenda’ are the endorsement of political reforms, legislative alignment with the EU acquis, and the closer cooperation in foreign policy and fight against terrorism.

Füle, Stefan, “Turkey-EU Relations: State of Play of Accession Negotiations”, 67. Meeting of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee Speech, 28 November 2011, p.2.

[27]Füle, Stefan, “Turkey and the EU: Common Challenges, Common Future”, 2012, p.1; Füle, Stefan, “Turkey and the EU: Time for a New Dynamic”, p.1.

[28]Füle, p.3.

[29]Then prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that “Turkey has deserved the accession date” in referring to EU’s necessity to give the date of Turkey’s accession in 2004. “Erdoğan: We deserved the date”. (04.03.2004),, (Access: 02.01.2015); Moreover in 2009, Enerji ve Tabii Kaynaklar Bakanı (Minister of Energy and Natural Resources) Taner Yıldız said that “We deserve European Union with NABUCCO agreement”. (23.08.2009);, (Access: 02.01.2015).

[30] “Interview with Commissioner Füle”, Milliyet, 07.11.2012.

[31] Füle, Stefan, “EU-Turkey Relations”, Speech 12/360, 15.05.2012, pp.1-4.

[32]Conclusions on Turkey (extract from the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2012-2013”, COM(2012)600, 2012, p.10.

[33]European Commission, “Türkiye 2014 Yılı İlerleme Raporu” (Turkey Progress Report 2014), SWD(2014) 307, Brussels 2014, pp.73-74.

[34] Conclusions on Turkey (extract from the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council) “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2011-2012”, COM(2011)666, 2012, p.8.

[35]European Parliament, “European Parliament resolution of 29 March 2012 on the 2011 Progress Report on Turkey”, 2012.

[36]European Parliament, “European Parliament resolution of 29 March 2012”.

[37]European Parliament, “European Parliament resolution of 29 March 2012”.

[38]House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, “Developments in the European Union”, Sixth Report of Session 2005-06, 2006, pp.25-38.

[39]House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, pp.48, 50.

[40]Avrupa Parlamentosu’nda Türk Dış Politikası Tartışıldı” (“Turkish Foreign Policy was discussed in European Parliament”), AB Haber, 07.12.2012.

[41]Vaisse, Justin, Hans Kundnani, European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012, 2012, p.78.

[42]Oomen-Ruijten, Ria, “Turkey: EP calls on Turkey to intensify reforms”, EPP Group in the European Parliament, 10.02.2011.

[43]Oomen-Ruijten, Ria, “EU-Turkey Progress Report Government and Opposition should work towards consensus on key reforms”, EPP Group in the European Parliament, 08.12.2010.



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