Türkiye-EU Relations and the European Political Community in the Aftermath of Russian Invasion: Is the Transactional Turn Here to Stay?

12 febrer 2024 | Paper | Anglès


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Within the framework of “Euromesco: Connecting the Dots“, a project co-funded by the European Union and the IEMed.


Bilateral relations between Türkiye and the European Union (EU) acquired an EU conditionality dimension with the 1999 Helsinki decision, granting the country the EU candidacy status. Nevertheless, especially since the March 2016 EU-Turkey Statement, also known as Türkiye-EU Refugee Deal, what we see is a thorough shift in Türkiye-EU relations from a conditionality perspective to transactionalism, coupled with several domestic and international developments. In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the significance of geopolitics and the heightened relevance of realpolitik also contributed to a renewed focus on strategic and pragmatic issues, relegating normative concerns to the background within Türkiye-EU relations. All in all, the shift from a conditionality perspective to a security-based logic within the framework of Türkiye-EU relations was mainly determined and characterised by the so-called “transactional turn”. Within this very transactionalist paradigm, both the EU and Türkiye want to pursue their short-term interests at the expense of a long-term principled engagement for some time.

The launch of the European Political Community (EPC) on 6 October 2022 with 44 European heads of state and government (including all 27 EU member states as well as Türkiye) also contributed to this transactional tide, which aimed to “emphasise European geopolitical cooperation in light of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine; to remedy enlargement fatigue by providing an additional forum for exchange between EU candidates and member states; as well as create a forum for exchange with non-EU security actors” (Tcherneva, 2023). The EPC’s rather flexible structure and focus on mini-lateralism, which could provide greater freedom for leaders to focus on their immediate concerns, also raises eyebrows about whether the EPC would be attentive enough (and even have the mandate) to safeguard human rights, democracy, and the rule of law (Jurkovic, 2023).

In light of these debates, the aims of this paper are twofold. First, it aims to explore how recent transactional initiatives between Türkiye and the EU in general and the EPC initiative in particular have unfolded and have been perceived by the Turkish diplomats and foreign policy experts. This endeavour to understand the Turkish perceptions of Türkiye-EU relations mainly focusing on recent transactionalism between the parties will be explored with a particular focus on three thematic layers, namely the foreign policy, migration and energy through semi-structured interviews with Turkish diplomats and foreign policy experts. The main rationale behind picking up these thematic layers is to identify, analyse and describe better the complex nature of Türkiye-EU relations with a particular focus on these policy fields (namely foreign policy, migration and energy), which recently witnessed the highest intensity of interactions between two parties. Second, the paper discusses the significance of the EPC within this very transactional turn and aims to understand whether the EPC is another repercussion of the increasing transactionalism. The final aim of the paper will be to understand whether the EU foreign policy, on the one hand, and the bilateral Türkiye-EU relations, on the other, would evolve in a completely transactional and security-based manner leaving no room for normativity amidst the current global uncertainties and challenges, as well as bringing together policy recommendations for the future

Visit the EuroMesCo website to download the report.