SUMMIT Roundtable – Turkish German University, Istanbul
In a roundtable discussion on November 22nd, Prof Dr Wolfgang Wessels (University of Cologne) and Dr Ebru Turhan (Turkish German University), examined the role of the European Council in Turkey’s EU accession process and in the up-coming Brexit negotiations. The roundtable was chaired and commented by Dr Deniz Kuru (Turkish German University).
After a brief welcome note by Deniz Kuru, Wolfgang Wessels introduced the European Council as the key political institution and ‘agenda-setter’ of the EU. He focused on its pivotal role in the EU enlargement process and elaborated on the introduction of the Copenhagen criteria. He underlinded the importance of distinguishing between the legal provisions and the actual processes in practice. According to his analysis, the European Council has acted beyond the formal wording of the EU treaties and essentially interfered in decision-making procedures at EU level. With regard to article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, Wolfgang Wessels explained that the European Council is expected to provide guidance for the Brexit negotiations.
Ebru Turhan then contributed to the debate by focusing on the role of the European Council in Turkey’s EU accession process. She stated that the decision-making procedure (unanimous assent) has often revealed unilateral actions and clear attempts by certain member states to influence the proceeding of the negotiations and to pursue certain national interests and preferences (e.g. Greece, Cyprus and Germany).
With regard to the current situation, Ebru Turhan stated that the EU-Turkey summit of November 2015 (meeting of heads of state or government of the EU and Turkey) significantly altered the institutional architecture of EU-Turkey relations and that impetuses of this summit are still maintained. This can be illustrated by the ongoing high-level economic, political and energy dialogues. Turhan stated that this new institutional architecture resembles the “strategic partnership” models the EU has developed with several countries. This model may also be applicable to the Turkish-EU dialogue as diplomatic tensions are becoming increasingly evident and EU-Turkey relations are approaching ‘cross-roads’. Currently, there are attempts to freeze Turkey’s accession process inside the European Parliament, and proposals among Turkish politicians to put the continuance of EU accession negotiations to the vote via a referendum.
Deniz Kuru, in particular, brought the issue of legitimacy into the discussion and embedded the pivotal role of the European Council into the debate of the supposed democractic deficit of the EU.
In the discussion afterwards the audience was very interested in the implications of the Brexit vote and of the current increase of populism for the composition and the activities of the European Council. Moreover, the possibility of an exit of Turkey’s EU membership-bid has been debated.