A crucial ally in NATO, Turkey remains an irreplaceable strategic partner, with whom the breakup would only have disadvantages.
Correspondent in Brussels
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shown a lot in Russia, Africa and the Gulf in recent months, but his figure had become much rarer in Europe since the relentless crackdown launched the day after 2016 summer putsch. The absence is about to be repaired: after Athens and Warsaw, two capitals that do not always carry Turkey in their hearts, it is today in Paris to welcome the strong man of Ankara.
For this man who wears the morgue on edge, the supreme distinction remains out of reach. Angela Merkelthe Chancellor, who wanted to permanently block Turkey's entry into the EU, remains almost indifferent to the charm offensive coming from Ankara. There is little doubt, however, that President Erdogan believes in Germany when he says that his country must now "reduce the number of his enemies and increase that of his friends."
"The membership procedure is de facto frozen"
When was the pendulum coming back? On the Turkish side, the need for Europe is undeniably felt after the diplomatic disappointments of the president in the region, and beyond. Last episode in date, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state He points both against Donald Trump and Israel. Since then, he has warmly welcomed to find Paris and Berlin "on the same line" as Ankara.
After 18 months of glaciation due to the authoritarian drift of the regime and the decline of human rights, Europeans have taken the same turn towards realpolitik. A crucial ally in NATO, Turkey remains the irreplaceable strategic partner, the one with which the rupture would have only disadvantages: from the migration crisis to the return of the European fighters of Daesh, from the convulsions of the Middle East to the triangle of forces with Russia ... Who would really like to cut the bridges?
In the EU, the truth test came in the late autumn after Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat rival Martin Schulz had, in the middle of the campaign, stirred up the idea of burying once and for all Turkey's EU candidacy. The German election passed, a European summit enumerated the voices and the partisans of a consumed break counted on the fingers of the hand. "The procedure of membership is de facto frozen and one would not gain anything out of the ambiguity", one says on the French side. The disappointed, they denounce a hypocrisy that comes to feed the extreme right European.
In Brussels, three sensitivities persist in expressing themselves. The "liberals" who, like the United Kingdom, the Nordics and the Baltics, welcomed Turkey's entry into the common market and did not want to compromise anything in the hope of a better day. Those who, in the East especially, show understanding because they have themselves benefited from economic openness and fear, for some, a too political Europe (Poland and Hungary). Those, finally, who said no at one time or another, like Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and of course France.
Turkey has been a candidate since 1999. Negotiations cut into 35 chapters (or "packages" of legislation) are dragging on since the beginning in 2005, because of a freeze obtained by Jacques Chirac and reinforced by Nicolas Sarkozy. In a decade, 16 chapters have been opened, only one has been completed. Everything was stalled in the fall of 2016, in the face of President Erdogan's growing authoritarianism. Those who are still worried about Turkish entry "are playing with fear," notes one official; those who believe the possible revival "are lulled into illusions". Turkey is no more anxious to respect its commitments than Europe is eager to see.
The immediate political lever is money. Turkey considers that the twenty-eight do not pay fast enough the 6 billion euros pledged in 2015 and 2016 to retain and house some 3.5 million refugees and migrants. The EU has just signaled the opposite by deciding to cut as early as this year up to 175 of the 700 million euros allocated to Turkey as a "pre-accession" fund, an envelope that is clearly no longer necessary. ...