When Turkey first applied for full membership in the European Union in 1987, the world was an entirely different place — even the rich club had a different name: the European Economic Community. U.S. President Ronald Reagan had undergone minor surgery; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been re-elected for a third term; Macau and Hong Kong were, respectively, Portuguese and British territory; the Berlin Wall was up and running; the demonstrations at the Tiananmen Square were a couple of years away; the Iran-Contra affair was in the headlines; the First Intifada had just begun; and what are today Czech Republic and Slovakia were Czechoslovakia.
In March 2003, just a few months after he was elected Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey was “very much ready to be part of the European Union family.” In October 2005, formal accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU began.
Today, 31 years after the first date, the alliance seems to be broken, with no signs in the foreseeable future of a marriage between two perfectly unsuitable adults. Knowing that, both sides in the past decade have played an unpleasant diplomatic game of pretension: not be the one that throws away the ring. This boring opera buffa is no longer sustainable.
Turkey’s democratic deficit has grown just too bitterly huge to make it compatible with Europe’s democratic culture. According to the advocacy group Freedom House: