Wait instead of canceling – Finland still supports EU accession talks with Turkey

The position of the Finnish government is to uphold the possibility of Turkey joining the European Union, regardless of domestic political developments there (MAXPPP / MAXPPP)

Not only did people in Berlin expect approval, but the fact that resistance was coming from Finland in all places made people stand up and take notice. At the meeting in Tallinn, it was Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Sweeney, who is also the founder of the right-wing populist party “The True Finns”, who contrasted with Chancellor Merkel and her rival Schulz. He does not want to break off talks with Turkey.

Are Finn Sweeney and Turkish President Erdogan too close to the populists? Matti Vanhanen, Prime Minister of Finland until 2010, does not see the reason for this in the rapprochement, but in the history of Turkey’s negotiations.

“Perhaps the difference with Germany today can be explained by the fact that accession negotiations with Turkey began exactly during Finland’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in 1999. Finland sees itself in a special role.”

Former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen is now Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament. In his homeland there were no attempts to keep the European Union as a Christian club. Turkey was not even seen as a particularly religious country.

Not even from Johanna Vuorelma, who has lived in Istanbul many times longer as a specialist in Turkey. Finland sees more as a lawyer for Turkey.

“Finland has been doing this for 15 or 20 years. It is consistent in our foreign policy. And the position of the government is to stick to it, regardless of internal developments in Turkey.”

Finns and Turks hardly have any points of contact

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The rather massive criticism of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement in Germany and Europe was not criticized in Finland. The agreement had an impact, with fewer refugees coming to the northern European country since then. its enough. There is no opposition in Finnish policy on Turkey, but rather a long common line.

Paavo Lebonen and Alexander Studd and the two Prime Ministers and Olli Rehn as Commissioner for EU Enlargement defended Turkey’s accession at that time, but at a completely different time. At that time it was easy to talk about Turkey’s membership.

The Finns have no reservations about Turkey, and this is also due to the geographical distance. Joanna Furlma suspects that due to the difficulty of communication between the Finns and the Turks, there are no conflicts. Unlike Germany or Austria, where there are a lot of immigrants from Turkey.

However, the Turkey specialist is aware of a contradiction. Finnish media reported very prominently about the arrest of German citizens in Turkey, but this did not change anything regarding Finnish foreign policy.

Above all, Helsinki wants to continue the dialogue

Chairman of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Matti Vanhanen indirectly confirms the criticism of the Turkish specialist, defending the course:

And our foreign minister said: “Dialogue must continue because cutting off negotiations is not a solution. That is, he did not reject interruption in itself, but he indicated that cutting off negotiations is not a solution.”

Matti Vanhanen standing next to a staircase in the Helsinki Parliament

Matti Vanhanen im Parliament in Helsinki (Deutschlandradio / Sabine Adler)

Whether it is accession negotiations or any other form of talks – it is important not to lose touch with Ankara.

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But even in Helsinki, there are fears that the country is moving further and further away from EU membership. Joanna Furlma has become wary because of the numerous arrests of foreign visitors in Turkey, the Finnish woman has not traveled to the Bosphorus for some time.

“You have a list of everyone who has written or made public statements about Turkey. My doctoral thesis was on Turkish foreign policy. That’s why I prefer not to risk a trip to Turkey for the time being.”

The Turkish expert does not accuse the Finnish government of not being in solidarity with Germany. It’s more about continuity, waiting, and being wary of hasty steps.

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