Support for democracy and human rights in Turkey: New avenues for closer transatlantic alignment?

The Biden Administration’s interest in strengthening the relationship with the EU, as shown at the US-EU summit in June 2021, has opened new avenues for closer transatlantic alignment in foreign policy matters. This could include a more coordinated approach towards Turkey. Over the years, the US and the EU have followed Turkey’s authoritarian turn with concerns. But given the NATO ally’s geostrategic relevance, Brussels and Washington have rarely made the deteriorating human rights situation and the erosion of civil liberties and rule of law a priority in their policies towards Ankara. Despite recent crises over geopolitical issues, including in the Eastern Mediterranean, the European Council has proposed a “positive agenda” with Turkey. As observers have criticized, such an approach risks overlooking the backsliding on human rights and freedom of expression in Turkey. At the same time, the Biden administration has declared its commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and aims to “rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally.

In this dossier, four experts examine the status of Turkey’s relations with the US and the EU and fields of cooperation and conflict from different perspectives – with some articles more closely focusing on the specifics of the US and EU policies towards Turkey, and others more on developments within Turkey. Given the new circumstances and on both sides of the Atlantic, the articles also examine potential avenues for alignment between Washington and Brussels to respond more effectively to the democratic backsliding in Turkey.