ursula von der Leyen did not let herself be lured out of her reserve on Monday. When asked what she thought of Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s announcement that the country would join the EU if he won the presidential election against incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey is an important partner, she replied diplomatically, and the high turnout is a good sign that Turks want to exercise their democratic rights.
You follow the news from Turkey very closely. “We’ll have to see what the second round brings.” Council President Charles Michel, who joined von der Leyen in front of the press to talk about the upcoming G-7 summit, agreed. It was a rare moment of unity between the two EU leaders, who mostly try to make their mark at the expense of the other.
Even before the first round, Brussels had abstained from commenting on the Turkish election campaign. Any appearance of external influence should be avoided – especially since Erdogan constantly accused his competitor of actually being the agent of western powers. At the same time, it was clear for whom the hearts in Brussels beat: for Kilicdaroglu, with whom the hope is linked that Ankara will give up its confrontational course, which had caused so much bad blood in relation to the European Union in recent years.
Even at NATO, where people are generally less interested in the domestic politics of the member states, the presidential election was and is being followed with eagle eyes. The question here is whether Sweden can sit at the table of the alliance as the 32nd member at the next summit. This hope is also associated with the name of the opposition leader.
EU foreign ministers put Türkiye on the agenda in the short term
However, the European Union would not be prepared for Kilicdaroglu’s election victory. Some foreign ministers complained about this when they met informally in Stockholm at the end of last week. One was not able to speak at all, it said from the internal consultations. The foreign ministers meet every four weeks, but their last in-depth exchange on the country was in 2021. It was the same with the heads of government. At the time, they offered Ankara “to establish links in a graduated, proportionate and reversible manner to intensify cooperation in a number of areas of common interest.” This had no notable consequences. One was already glad that the tensions between Turkey and Cyprus as well as Greece reduced.
At the next regular foreign ministers’ council in Brussels, on Monday next week, Turkey should now be on the agenda, as the FAZ found out. But that doesn’t mean much. While think tanks are already speculating about a “turnaround” in relation to Ankara, about a “new beginning”, diplomats do not expect big leaps – even if the preferred candidate should win the election. “We don’t have much in the quiver,” says one of them. This applies above all to the opposition leader’s dearest wish: the resumption of accession negotiations. “Our main goal is membership of the EU,” he said during the election campaign. He wants to do his best for that.