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Turkey’s Middle Eastern Road to Europe

While EU membership looks more distant than ever to Turkey's leaders and public, the country has boldly stepped up its engagement with the Middle East, scoring some notable diplomatic successes. Indeed, Turkey is now firmly set to become a regional power - a development that the EU would be wise to use to its advantage by reviving the accession process.

ISTANBUL – Just a few years ago, Europe headed Turkey’s agenda. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s newly elected government had embarked on a series of ambitious reforms to meet the European Union’s political criteria for membership. At the end of 2004, the EU decided to initiate accession talks.

But pro-European euphoria proved short-lived: for all practical purposes, the accession negotiations are now at an impasse. Euro-skepticism is now at an all-time high in Turkey, fueled by some European political leaders’ rhetoric opposing Turkey’s accession, and by the EU’s own failure to dispel doubts about the feasibility of Turkey’s eventual membership. Domestic support for EU accession was 70% at the start of the negotiations, but is now closer to 40%.

Not surprisingly, Turkey’s government has also lost its appetite for EU-related reforms. For more than two years, the European Commission has found little positive to say in its annual progress reports on political reform.

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