Summary of Scenarios for the future of the EU-Turkey relationship

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Scenarios for the future of the EU-Turkey relationship summary

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In the wake of the recently attempted coup, with its government actively eroding checks and balances, censoring the press and arresting political opponents, why is the European Union still considering extending membership to Turkey? According to political scientist Michael Leigh of the German Marshall Fund think tank, vested interests in maintaining a connection with Turkey may keep the EU from breaking off accession talks with the embattled nation, but the future of EU-Turkish relations remains a far from settled prospect.

About the Author

Michael Leigh is a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund think tank, and visiting scholar at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.


Since the failed coup attempt in 2016, Turkey’s government has systematically moved away from secular democracy and rule of law. Politically-motivated arrests continue, academics and writers must censor themselves to avoid persecution, and a 2017 referendum eroded checks and balances within the Turkish constitution. If the European Union requires member countries to act as faithful champions of human rights, why is Turkey still an active candidate for membership? 

There are four main reasons for continued talk of Turkey’s...

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