Written by: Funda Tekin (Project Director), Nathalie Tocci (Scientific Coordinator) & Wolfgang Wessels (Project Coordinator)
More than 1.3 million asylum applications were registered in the EU in 2015. Although this came as no surprise to the EU and its Member States, this massive refugee influx put the Schengen area severely under strain. At the same time Euro-scepticism and populism are on the rise in EU Member States and while a GREXIT (Greece leaving Europe) was, for the time being, avoided last-minute, the risk of BREXIT (Britain leaving Europe) looms.
Turkey, on its side, has to accommodate more than three million refugees on its territory. The Turkish economy is substantially slowing down and Turkey’s relations with Russia have seen an unprecedented negative turn since the Turkish downing of a Russian jet in November 2015. Finally, the authoritarian drift in Turkey’s political system continues unabated and Prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoğlu, (was encouraged to) resign in May 2016, leaving President Erdoğan as the sole uncontested leader of the country.
These rather gloomy snapshots of the EU and Turkey in recent months highlight mounting challenges for both internally, in relation to one another, and internationally. The inherent paradox is that these challenges resulted in the restart of Turkey’s accession negotiations and the visa liberalization procedure with the EU and a strengthening of institutional EU-Turkey relations through biannual EU-Turkey Summits and regular meetings at the highest levels at times when Turkey’s reform process in light of the Copenhagen Criteria has seriously back slided. The EU has re-discovered Turkey as a “key strategic partner” and the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal will represent one of the key pillars of this strategic partnership in the months to come.
Against this backdrop, it seems more relevant than ever to assess and analyse future prospects of EU-Turkey relations also in consideration of the neighbourhood that is unravelling to the east and south and a power shift that can be detected at global level. Therefore, we are delighted to announce the launch of the three year research project “FEUTURE”, The Future of EU-Turkey Relations: Mapping Dynamics and Testing Scenarios, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Programme.
FEUTURE started on 1 April 2016 and will end its research activities on 31 March 2019. Our coordinating institutes, Jean Monnet Chair/CETEUS at the University of Cologne as project coordinator and Internazionali, Rome as scientific coordinator, have long track records in research on the EU and on Turkey as well as in coordinating EU funded multi-disciplinary research projects. They are joined by other 12 equally experienced partner institutes from the EU (CIDOB, CIFE, DIIS, Eliamep, TEPSA), Turkey (EDAM, Bilgi, Koc, METU) and Iraq (MERI), Georgia (CRRC) and Egypt (AUC, planned). This strong consortium is well equipped to implement in-depth re-search on such a highly topical issue and very well connected to the stakeholder community in order to issue policy recommendations.
We are looking forward to inspiring three years of research on EU-Turkey relations and to sharing our research findings with you in the f(e)uture.
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About MERI: The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.
MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).