CLEER Paper 2017/4 - Ott

EU-Turkey Cooperation in Migration Matters: A Game Changer in a Multi-layered Relationship?

Andrea Ott

EU-Turkey bilateral relations are characterised by complexity, mutual ambivalence and a three-layered structure. The first layer is the 50 year-long association relationship based on a customs union. The second layer, in the form of the accession process, provides Turkey with a candidate status since 1999 which resulted in accession talks in 2005 but have since December 2006 been practically frozen. The third and more recent layer is characterised by the compartmentalisation of policy fields such as migration, aviation and energy cooperation. This latter development has two explanations: first, to serve the EU’s short-term and mid-term interests, with accession a ‘far away’ prospect for any of the current candidate countries, and, second, to streamline the approach to Turkey with the other accession candidates. Under the renewed consensus on enlargement since 2006, difficult issues such as administrative and judicial reforms and the fight against corruption will be addressed at an early stage of the negotiations and the more systematic use of benchmarks will be applied, with concrete criteria for the opening and closing of individual negotiation chapters. Since the 2015 EU refugee crisis, new dynamics in EU-Turkey relations appear to develop for all other layers in the bilateral relations. With the political events of 2016 in Turkey, the delicate balance in the multi-layered relationship is threatened and both sides are returning to old habits of mistrust and ambivalence in their relations.

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