Turkey drifting away from Europe

The introduction of a undemocratic executive presidential system has been removed, suspension of Europe accession talks has become unavoidable.


On 24 June, Erdoğan claimed victory in his country’s presidential election, winning an outright majority in the first round with 52.6% of the votes. The electoral campaign was marked by an unfair competition. It was conducted under a stifling state of emergency (in effect since July 2016), with more than 90% of the media under control of the ruling party, and with many government critics – including presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş – in jail.


Despite the lack of opportunities, the opposition recognized that president Erdoğan remains the most popular politician in Turkey. His election triggers the entry into force of a controversial presidential system of governance, narrowly adopted in a referendum last year. The role of prime minister will be abolished, judicial and parliamentary oversight will be weakened and president Erdoğan will be given the unchecked power to appoint and dismiss his cabinet, to dissolve the parliament and to pass decrees with the force of law.

The election’s outcome is likely to shape the country for years to come and now that the last obstacle for the introduction of a highly undemocratic executive presidential system has been removed, formal suspension of EU accession talks has become unavoidable – as already stated by the European Parliament after the narrowly won referendum last year. Turkey’s politics, both domestic and foreign policy, will now be shaped by one man, without the ‘hindrance’ of institutional checks and balances. The ‘New Turkey’ is in stark contrast with the principles of a liberal democracy, and therefore also with EU standards. In a weakened parliament, Erdoğan’s AKP will continue to rely on its coalition with the ultra-nationalist MHP. This alliance makes a renewed effort to address the Kurdish question and the restoration of fundamental rights unlikely. Whether the anti-Western rhetorics will also continue, remains to be seen.

The EU and Turkey are linked by a customs union, and Turkey’s open economy will remain dependent on foreign investment.

Despite the worrisome situation, there does remain a sliver of hope. Turkey has a young, dynamic population, with a strong middle class and a decades-long Western approach. Half of the population is in strong disagreement with the political direction Turkey is heading. Despite the highly unfair electoral environment, many people believed a change was possible. Presidential candidate Muharrem İnce managed to get more than 30% of the votes, something his party CHP never reached in the last 14 years. Yes, the situation in Turkey is worrisome, but the EU must take into account that President Erdoğan is not our only counterpart. The message of the EU cannot be to isolate Turkey and to abandon its population. Also in strategic terms, Turkey remains an important partner. The EU and Turkey are linked by a customs union, and Turkey’s open economy will remain dependent on foreign investment. The EU-Turkey deal hasn’t lost its importance, as Brussels’ internal divisions on how to deal with migration have only increased, therefore making the EU more reliant on third countries.

The integration of Turkey in the EU is – at least for the coming years – no longer a viable option. A pragmatic, transactional relationship with Ankara is the most likely outcome. The EU must reshape its soft power, support Turkey’s civil society and invest in people-to-people contacts. Turkey’s democratic forces have time and again proven their resilience. If they have not given up on their country, neither should we.

Find all related publications

‘Abortion in the EU’ – Country fact sheets

Multispeed access to abortion across member states

Abortion in the European Union

Actors, issues and discourse

A European Health Union

A blueprint for generations

Making trade work for prosperity, people and planet

FEPS Primers series - Arancha González and Yanis Bourgeois
Find all related news

FEPS is recruiting 1 project officer

Notice of vacancy

FEPS President at the SDG Summit and United Nations General Assembly in New York

FEPS President Maria João Rodrigues is in New York this week on the occasion of […]

Call for tender – Researcher on inflation

Basic Information Project    The profits-prices spiral: measures to avoid inflation  Partners   TASC (Ireland), Pietro Nenni Foundation (Italy)  […]

Call for tender – Research and analysis for the project “Progressive paths to rebuild Ukraine”

Basic Information Project Research “In search of a ‘lost generation’. Harnessing youth potential for post-war […]
Find all related in the media
In the media

NATO Deputy Secretary General Geoană: “Democracies should stand united to defend the multilateral global order”

by ReportDifesa.it 25/09/2023
Mircea Geoană, NATO Deputy Sec Gen, took part to FEPS' Annual Autumn Academy 2023 in a session devoted to “Building a sustainable and multilateral global order”

‘SDG funding gap swells to $137trn’ New Policy Study from FEPS, together with Earth4All, to deliver a five-point plan for the SDGs.

by Edie 19/09/2023
The “SDGs for All” report emphasises that policymakers have the potential to significantly advance SDG implementation by the original 2030 deadline and beyond by enacting five “extraordinary turnarounds” that break away from current trends.

“Trade doesn’t work in isolation from good domestic policies” Interview to Arancha González

by Borderlex 19/09/2023
Interview to Arancha González, former Spanish foreign minister, who released together with FEPS the new book entitled 'The Trade Handbook: Making Trade Work for Prosperity, People and Planet'

AI to ‘determine course of global trade, jobs’ in near future

by The Financial Express 14/09/2023
The Financial Express's article focuses on the publication of FEPS Primer on Trade written by Arancha González Laya and Yanis Bourgeois