Várhelyi visits Türkiye as Ankara targets to revive membership negotiations with the EU

EU’s Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi is visiting Türkiye to hold talks with Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. The discussions will center around EU-Türkiye relations and include regional and global developments as Ankara expects a clear pathway in integration and membership negotiations.

Mansur Ali Bilgiç - mansuralibilgic@intell4.com 

Türkiye has been a valuable ally of the European Union (EU) for almost seven decades when it was established as the coal and steel community.

The integration will only be a natural consequence of relations as the sides carry “similar values and norms along with a mutual history,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Parallelly, Brussels decided Türkiye was fit to join the Union in 1999. The negotiations started in 2005 with the promising AK Party government led by the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and came to a halt in 2018.

The principal cause of the jam was the Cyprus question. The sides have an inherently different understanding of the problem, and heavy negotiations are needed to bring peace to the island.

In 2023, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan linked Sweden’s NATO application with Türkiye’s EU accession process. Even though the authorities in Brussels remained firm on not connecting the two topics, Stockholm declared that they would support Ankara’s way into the Union.

Later on, Bulgaria added their support on the matter.

According to Germany’s Turkish delegation, Berlin has made efforts to initiate accession negotiations with Türkiye and favors their continuation as open-ended negotiations.

Hungary has also been a staunch supporter of Ankara’s accession bid, constantly expressing its backing for a long time.


Türkiye and the EU cooperate to solve numerous challenges. In the migration crisis, for example, Ankara is an essential ally of the Union’s efforts. The Joint Action Plan in 2015 and the Türkiye-EU joint statement in 2016 are two vital steps in cooperation, Dimitris Tsarouhas writes in the book “Policy and Politics of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Eastern Mediterranean States.”

European leaders are also aware that Türkiye is an indispensable partner. In the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting held in July 2023, the diplomats pondered Brussels-Ankara relations, mainly on membership and accession topics.

Türkiye is a strong regional player, able to affect the Middle East, the South Caucasus, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean regions. The peace in Syria, Libya, Cyprus Island, Karabakh, and Ukraine depends on Ankara’s actions to an extent.

Türkiye plays a crucial role in the food and energy security of Europe. The grain deal with Russia came to life due to Ankara’s initiatives, ensuring the aversion of a crisis for over a year. The Turkish government is the leading actor in current diplomatic attempts to renew the pact.

Türkiye’s geopolitical location makes it a transit country and aims to be a regional energy center. In line with such ambitions, Türkiye is a significant energy supplier of the EU.

Europe might also need to be wary of the changing climate in Africa. According to the recent trend, African nations move to oust European colonizers, especially France, from their lands to regain sovereignty.

As Africans harbor skepticism towards Europeans, they tend to get closer to nations with non-Western identities without a colonial background. Russia, China, and Türkiye are among the top examples.

If European leaders want to be active in the future of Africa, they need to rebrand their countries by treading similarly to one of the countries above. Since Moscow and Beijing are posed as adversaries to the EU, the only choice of Brussels would be to use Ankara’s reputation in the continent to regain trust. This increases the need for cooperation between the actors, forcing the Union and Türkiye to be drawn closer.

In conclusion, the Várhelyi-Fidan meeting is likely to revolve around the membership talks and the grain deal with Russia. Global developments, such as the anti-West coups d’états in Africa and the BRICS emerging as a new international force, may also constitute talking points between the two diplomats.