Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged the European Union on Tuesday to grant his nation membership by 2023 and suggested that it could set up a currency union of its own instead of joining the euro.
At a joint press conference in Berlin, German chancellor Angela Merkel reassured her Turkish counterpart, “The EU is an honest negotiating partner.” She promised that ascension talks would continue “irrespective of the questions that we have to clarify,” referring to the country’s human rights record and disagreements over the status of Cyprus.
Greek Cyprus, a European Union member state that is also part of the eurozone, is opposed to Turkish membership. The Turkish republic in the north of the island is only recognized by the government in Ankara. Erdoğan argued on Wednesday that admitting the internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus without settling the sovereignty dispute had been a “mistake.”
Other European Union member states, including Germany, have conveniently cited Greek Cypriot objections to Turkish membership for years when they are themselves apprehensive about the Muslim nation of more than seventy million joining the bloc. Members of Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic party are almost unanimously opposed to Turkish membership as are conservatives in France, the Netherlands and other Western European nations. Indeed, only Britain’s prime minister David Cameron has openly called for Turkey to join.
Erdoğan’s proposed lira zone seems more a stab at the European currency union’s woes than a true plan for monetary union in West Asia. Although Turkey has signed free-trade deals and entered customs unions with several of its neighbors, it is far-fetched to imagine any of them, besides possibly Azerbaijan, sharing the Turkish currency in the near future, especially as its engagement policy of “zero problems with neighbors” has been buried in the chaos of Syria’s civil war.