18.06.2021, 13:31

Turkey's request to join the EU military project

Turkey applied to take part in the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), which creates a framework plan for the common defense areas of the European Union countries. Turkey officially made the application in May to the Netherlands, which is the member country responsible for the PESCO project. So why did Turkey decide to make this application and what kind of process is envisaged?

WHAT IS PESCO?

Established in 2017, the PESCO project constitutes a total of 46 joint defense projects on military mobility in partnership with 24 EU member states. This project aims to support member states' commitments to simplify and standardize cross-border military transport procedures, seen as the "silver bullet" for EU-NATO defense cooperation and designed to ensure the seamless movement of military equipment across the EU in response to crises.In short, the project works for the improvement of military mobility. Since November 2020, non-EU countries have also been allowed to participate in PESCO projects. Turkey officially made its application to be included in the project in May 2021. However, there are certain conditions before the application can be officially accepted. Non-EU countries are obliged to fulfill certain political, legal and financial criteria. However, above these conditions, the criteria stand out, as well. The country that will become a member is expected i) to be in harmony with EU values, ii) to develop good relations with all EU member states, iii) not to take steps that would conflict with common security and defense interests. The institution that will monitor whether the requirements are met is the European Council.At the meeting held in Brussels in May, the USA, Canada and Norway have already been allowed to participate in the project. It was the first time that the EU had allowed foreign countries to participate in any of its military projects. This step is a testament to the fact that on European soil it is seen by these members as a formality, especially for the official registration of an already strong NATO entry. So what does Turkey's application mean and what does the EU say about possible Turkish membership?

EU’S REACTION TO TURKEY’S POSSIBLE MEMBERSHIP

There has been general agreement that political conditions effectively excluded Russia, China, but also Turkey, especially after relations between Brussels and Ankara deteriorated over the past few years. Turkey has mostly been a “foreigner” excluded from the common framework, at least until the dispute with Cyprus over activities in the eastern Mediterranean is resolved and tensions with Greece and France are resolved. While examining Turkey's request for involvement in the project, EU diplomats seem to be divided over Ankara's possible involvement. Especially Greece and Cyprus are expected to react negatively to Turkey's demand. On the other hand, there is no clear prediction as to whether Turkey's application will fulfill the political conditions. As a matter of fact, Turkish officials had warned before that if PESCO starts on the wrong ground and creates new division lines, it will neither succeed nor contribute to the transatlantic security architecture.

SO WHAT DOES TURKEY'S PESCO MOVE EXPLAIN?

Within the political, legal and financial criteria, how far Turkey went in practice in sharing EU values has been and continues to be the subject of different debates. It is possible to understand the attempt to have good relations with the EU member states from Turkey's recent positive talks with Greece and France, on the other hand. However, the condition of not taking steps that would conflict with common security and defense interests directly points to the issue of S-400s that have been purchased from Russia but not activated yet for Turkey. Under these circumstances, nevertheless, it is highly doubtful how Turkey can best meet the current criteria. On the other hand, there are also doubts that such an application may not be the best time to be accepted, given the tensions between Turkey and Greece and Turkey and Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean and the current democratic decline in Turkey's domestic politics. However, it is also a fact that Turkey made this application despite its tense relations with Greece and Cyprus, and with this move, it highlighted its support for the development of EU-NATO cooperation. Here, it is not overlooked that the global balances are well observed for Turkey. The new global balances are quite clear within the strategic plans for 2030 that emerged at the NATO summit.

NATO'S 2030 VISION

As the NATO 2030 vision was announced, it became clear that NATO is redefining its identity. In the face of new perceived threats, it is desired to create a shield that will protect the democratic world against authoritarian regimes. As a matter of fact, we had seen a similar foreign policy understanding came from the US President Joe Biden. In its 62nd article, NATO also states that with this declaration, NATO is not only military cooperation and unity of values, but also NATO's 2030 vision foresees political and economic cooperation.

WHAT TURKEY SHOULD DO...

If PESCO is the idea of building a single European defense capacity, Turkey's application will not be  meaningful. However, within the framework of NATO's new vision, if the current regional political situation gets better in the future and if Turkey's participation in PESCO projects is accepted, Turkey will develop its capabilities in air, land, sea and cyber defense activities in a certain cooperation with operational preparations. Thus, Turkey may increase  the possible contributions of military forces. But the only gain is not in military technique. Cooperation with Turkey within the framework of PESCO should also provide the opportunity to improve cooperation between the EU and NATO. Apart from this, steps should be taken to ensure normalization between EU members Greece, Cyprus and even France. Turkey should do this by showing that it is still a part of the Western Pact, steps towards more democratization and human rights in domestic politics, and establish further integration with EU values.

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