Greece, along with some European allies, has called Turkey’s measures illegal and provocative and warned against its consequences. Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias from the Greece Conservative Party has recently sent a letter to foreign officials and international organizations protesting against Turkey’s new provocations following the release of a map of the country’s jurisdiction over naval search and rescue operations and has raised a number of demands, including suspension of the EU’s Customs Union with Turkey. In a letter to the EU Commissioner for Development, Greece claims that Ankara, by taking measures not foreseen in the EU Customs Union with Turkey and frequent abusive behaviours, continues to unilaterally violate the agreement. Athens has argued that Turkey, by obtaining customs duties, passing rules and regulations and taking other measures, is unilaterally violating customs agreements with the European Union and calls on the Commission to consider a complete suspension of the Customs Union in relation with Turkey.

Head of the European People’s Party faction in the European Parliament claims that the text of the final statement of the recent EU summit was “not strong enough” and supported Greece’s request to suspend the EU Customs Union with Turkey. He emphasizes that Turkey’s ongoing provocations in Northern Cyprus with exploration activities and violation of international law in East Mediterranean have become clear to everyone. Therefore, he added, he would support any legal response, including the suspension of the EU-Turkey Customs Union and the boycott of individuals, noting that the time is ripe for reaction and taking the measure.

The Turkish Customs Union and the European Union, the establishment of Eastern Mediterranean Conference and even visa cancellation by the Union for Turkish citizens are among the privileges that Ankara has been seeking from the EU for years. Ankara is accustomed to the pressures of the European Union, and in view of the Turkish authorities and even Turkish people, none of the promises made by the EU so far has been fulfilled. And, the best evidence for this claim is Turkey’s non-membership in the European Union, despite the fact that more than sixty years have passed since Turkey’s request and about twenty years since the beginning of negotiations between the two sides in this regard. According to Turkey, the number of members of the union reached 28 during this period, countries that were economically, politically and even socially in the ranks after Turkey joined the Union, but so far the topics negotiated by Turkey with the Union have not been reduced by half.

The announcement of negotiations on Customs Union, visa cancellation for Turkish nationals, revision in the bilateral 2016 agreement on immigration and the start of high-level meetings between the two sides are all incentives against the threat to impose sanctions on Turkey if the country intends to resume exploration in the Mediterranean.

German Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Mr. Burger, commenting on the request of the Greek government for fully suspending the EU Customs Union with Turkey, said he has not received such a special request, adding that the EU’s basic policy towards Turkey and the principles that the EU has set out in its treatment towards Turkey in the coming months, and what the heads of state and the EU countries have decided in the Council of Europe, will remain unchanged in power.

Turkey, as a secular country in the Islamic world that has always strived to present itself as part of the Western world, began close economic relations with the European Economic Community by signing an agreement in 1963 and in 1995 by membership in the EU Customs Union, the level of such relations further deepened. The European Customs Union Agreement, as a symbol of the integration process between Turkey and the European Union, is the most important economic integration agreement in the history of Turkey, which has so far had significant positive effects on many sectors of the country’s economy. The pact, along with the economic policies of Turgut Ozal’s government in the 1980s, accelerated Turkey’s economic growth. Turkey’s entry into the European Customs Union was accompanied by politico-economic effects, including the following cases:

1- The Customs Union completed the process of Turkey’s integration with the world economy and, by increasing the level of attracting foreign direct investment, led to the further growth of new industrial products in that country.

  1. Increased competition, along with greater efficiency of Turkish companies, provided the domestic consumers with the opportunity to gain access to high-quality products that are manufactured as cheap as possible.

3- By increasing employment, the Customs Union provided the grounds for reducing tension in Turkish society.

  1. Increasing economic interdependence with the European Union, while strengthening and consolidating civil society, contributed to the development of democracy in the country.

Turkey, which had made little progress in the field of privatization since the beginning of the economic reforms in the 1980s until the establishment of the Customs Union with Europe, has made significant progress in this area with the implementation of the Privatization Law in 1994. In 2000, however, for the first time in the country’s privatization history, it generated billions of dollars revenue in the field of privatization by removing some government barriers to private sector activity and unleashing part of the power of initiative, creativity and entrepreneurship of capital owners which was influenced by the regulations of the European Customs Union. With the continuation of the growing trend of the Turkish economy and its benefit from the European Economic Reform Program, in the years after the establishment of the Customs Union with Europe, the attraction of foreign investment in that country by EU member states increased dramatically and the integration process between Turkey and the European Union encouraged third countries to invest in Turkey.

Despite explicit opposition of Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to Turkey’s membership in the European Union, the European Commission in its latest report on Turkey’s accession to the European Union claims that the Turkish government has weakened its economy, eroded democracy and independent courts and has not adhered to EU priorities. Turkey is one of the EU’s key partners, but it is still moving away from the EU in the areas of democracy, the rule of law, constitutional rights and independence of the judiciary.

In response to the European Commission report, Turkey considers it biased, unconstructive and based on the EU double standards. According to Ankara, the EU does not mention its responsibilities and obligations in this report that have not been fulfilled and through baseless, biased, unjust and disproportionate arguments of Turkey’s management system, elections, basic rights, some judicial and administrative decisions. It said: Our legal measures against terrorism and security and economic policies show how far this report stands from the principle of neutrality.

According to Turkey, its negotiations as a country candidate for EU membership has been blocked due to the narrow-minded approach of some EU circles. Not only Turkey has not distanced itself from the European Union, but despite the efforts of some circles to distance it from the Union, it is still willing to adhere to the EU membership process. Although a group of European countries have fundamental differences with Turkey, EU members have adopted different policies towards Erdogan for their own national interests, and the gas dispute in the Mediterranean has turned Greece and Cyprus into supporters of EU sanctions on Turkey. Turkish influence in Libya and the threat in the case of asylum seekers is a serious challenge for Berlin. Rising tension between Turkey and Greece and Ankara’s direct involvement in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia have also raised European concerns, making Erdogan a multifaceted challenge for the Union.