In 2014, we mark the 600th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Poland and Turkey. Poland, the largest and most dynamic of the post-Communist states of Central Europe, is also Turkey’s best friend in the European Union. Polish authorities has been one of the biggest proponents of the Turkey’s accession to the EU, pointing out the possible advantages of more developed bilateral partnership. They emphasize matters such as energy security and the European identity in the context of safety and defense. A pro-Turkish orientation in Poland is also visible in the Polish society. According to a survey conducted by Eurobarometer in 2008, seven out of ten Polish respondents support the further enlargement of the European Union by incorporating other countries in the coming years. Moreover, much of Polish society also feels a special bond with Turkey for historical reasons. Turkey was fertile ground for Polish people for many centuries, and many of Polish soldiers and leading luminaries used to live there.
Despite such support and good relations between the countries, the efforts made by Poland are largely ineffectual. This became evident in the 6-month term of presidency of Poland in the EU Council in the second half of 2011. Poland pointed out the need to stand on the obligations made towards Turkey. However, despite these efforts not one milestone on the roadmap of Turkish accession to the EU had been resolved. It was a direct result of, on the one hand, lack of political consensus towards future expansion of the Union to include Turkey among its member states. France, on the other hand, has been an open opponent to Turkey’s accession to the EU, and a similar stance has been taken by Germany. However, the Turkey slows down accession-oriented reforms, since it believes the EU is not serious regarding its candidacy of the EU.
It is possible to increase the momentum of international relations between Turkey and the EU by a new explicit statement reaffirming that if Turkey fulfils the agreed criteria it will be invited to join the EU. The significant political momentum in the EU that would allow such a statement to be made can be created by a group of those EU member states that support Turkish membership. Traditional promoters of EU enlargement, such as Poland, UK, Italy, and other Central and Eastern European members, should set up a political platform similar to what the Weimar Triangle was in the 1990s. The aim of the platform should be to give political backing to Turkey’s EU accession bid as well as aid Turkey in its efforts to achieve the accession criteria.
In addition to diplomatic efforts, action should also be taken at a societal level, with the aim of promoting the idea of EU enlargement, which seems to have been somewhat forgotten among the societies of the Union. The advantages of Turkey’s accession to the EU should be presented within the present context (e.g., the financial crisis in Europe and Turkey’s economic growth, European demographics and European welfare model, etc.). Societal concerns regarding cultural differences should be explained and ultimately dismissed as well.
Karol Kujawa, Analyst and columnist specialising in Turkey, European Union, Balkans and Central Europe. More information about author.