Eu and turkey challenges and opportunities by emanuel baisire
The European Union is a composition of 25 member countries that have come together
under different sets of agreements to share a common political, economical and social
policy. According to Dinan (2005) European countries have been characterized by war
and economic rivalry among themselves for centuries. According to Gilpin (2000) in
order to overcome these difference and develop a strong economic partnership, six
European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg)
came together to establish the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 (p.194).
Dinan (2005) has acknowledged that the desire to diffuse long standing rivalry between
Germany and France became a driving force to Europe’s regional integration.
Another important treaty that solidified Europe was the 1957 Treaty of Rome which
established the European Economic Community. According to Dinan (2005) the Treaty
of Rome was an ambitious economic plan aimed at establishing a common market for
European goods and services and free movement of people in the European community.
Since then several treaties and agreement have been reached in order to strengthen and
solidify the European Union. The notable treaties include the Maastricht Treaty (1991)
that paved a way for the Economic and Monetary Union, Amsterdam Treaty (1997) that
supported Europe’s economic, political and security objectives and the Nice Treaty
(2001) which outlined conditions for EU’s future expansion and member states
representation within the European parliament.(Dinan, 2005). According to Dinan (2005)
after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union decided to extend its influence
to the eastern and Southern boarders of Europe to incorporate several former communist
countries and others into the European Union (P.143). The vision for expansion is
attributed to European Union desire to extend its economic and political influence to the
new independent states that had been under communist regimes in order to have a strong
and stable Europe.
Turkey’s Accession to the European Union (EU):
The relationship of the European Union (EU) to its new eastern and southern neighbors is
important for the EU existence and credibility. The possible accession of new members
especially Turkey to the European Union (EU) will dramatically change the political,
economic and social set up of the European Union. Dinan (2005) argued that Turkey’s
accession to the EU will extend Europe’s boarders to unstable and undemocratic Middle
East countries like Iraq, Iran and Syria (p.156). Major pressing issues about Turkey’s
accession to the European Union range from economic, demographic, geographical,
political and human rights.
One commonly raised point is Turkey’s population. According to Nas (2004) when
Turkey joins the EU, Turkey will become one of the most populated member state by
2015 (p.4). Turkey's current population is 71 million, and is expected to increase to 80-85
million in the next 20 years (EU, 2004). In comparison with Germany, EU’s largest
member state which has 83 million people today, but whose population is projected to
decline, Turkey’s accession becomes a concern for many Europeans.
Dinan, (2005) observed that another argument is rooted in the debate on whether it is
possible to establish geographic borders for Europe, and whether Turkey 'fits' within
these borders (p.143). Perhaps the most sensitive of all arguments centre on the cultural
and religious differences. Since the EU identifies itself as a cultural and religiously
tolerant society, Turkey's EU bid should not be compromised by cultural differences.
According to Phillips (2004), EU member states' concerns over Turkey's human rights
record as well as global and regional security-related issues have also been key factors
behind Turkey's prolonged application process (p. 86-97). Luxemburg Prime-Minister
Jean-Claude Junker in a speech referred to Turkey as “A country in which torture is still a
common practice cannot have a seat at the table of the European Union”.
In “Clash of Civilization”, Samuel Huntington describes Turkey as a “torn Country”.
Huntington (1993), referred to “Torn Countries”, as those that “have a fair degree of
cultural homogeneity but are divided over whether their society belongs to one
civilization or another” (p.42). Huntington (1993), argued that Turkey is a torn country
which since the early 1920s has been trying to Westernize in order become part of the
West, though its culture and tradition is different from the Western (p.42). Turkey’s
leaders have greatly supported turkey to transform to Western Civilization, but some
Turks prefer Turkey to remain a Muslim society. According to Huntington (1993),
Turkey being a predominantly Muslim country and the West being Christian, Turkey will
never be accepted as a European Country (p.42).
According to Dinan (2005), Turkey started its effort to join the European Economic
Community in 1963 by signing the Ankara Association Agreement in 1963. In 1987,
Turkey filed an application for membership to the European Community but was rejected
by the European Economic Community (p.156). Kirisci (2004) asserted that some EU
members argue that even if Turkey was to be granted membership for a single day, it is
not ready to meet EU member’s standards and obligations (p.2). However, this argument
has been proven wrong by Turkish politicians. Turkey has initiated reforms over the
years and it has managed to accomplish a great deal of success economically and
In 1995, the EU suggested for a Customs Union with Turkey which came into effect
in1996.Custom duties on goods from the E.U. countries were removed and the European
Union’s Common External Tariff for third countries was introduced. According to Kirisci
(2004), Turkey’s effort to integrate in the European Union fell short of Turkey’s
expectation but it has gradually embarked on the transformation process to become a
democratic, modern and secular state
According to Kubicek (2005), at the end of the Cold War, European leaders embarked on
the enlargement of Europe by considering Post-Communist states. Turkey’s leaders were
optimistic during the EU’s enlargement process that their candidature will be considered
(p.2). The EU argued that the Post-Communist countries fulfilled the Copenhagen
Criteria and that Turkey still lagged behind in democratic reform and respect for human
rights (Kirisci, 2004). According to Phillips (2004), Copenhagen Criteria are Rules that
require all would-be EU member countries to guarantee democracy and respect for
human rights, rule of law and protection of minorities (p.94). According to Dinan (2005),
Copenhagen Criteria is based on the 1993 EU commission report that stipulated
guidelines and conditions that must be fulfilled by an aspiring EU candidate country to be
considered for accession to the European Union (p.147). The
stipulates that for a candidate country to be considered for accession, it must have strong
democratic institutions, respect for minority rights and rule of law, a free market
economy and to accept a common European defense and foreign policy.
Kirisci (2004) argued that Turkey’s exclusion from membership negotiations in 1997
disappointed many Turks (p.3). According to Dinan (2005), EU decision to consider
accession negotiations with other under developed former communist countries like
Bulgaria and Romania was unfair to the Turkish government. According to Phillips
(2004), in response, Turkish government severed diplomatic relationship with the
European Union and threatened to hinder Cyprus reunification process. Kubicek (2005)
pointed out that Turkey’s continuous effort to democratic reform and respect for human
rights convinced European leaders to approve Turkey as a candidate country in 1999
In December 2004 the European council agreed to begin Turkey’s accession negotiations
to the European Union. According to Dinan (2005), some original EU member countries
have made it clear that Turkey’s full membership will be gradual and will not be
complete until 2014 (p.157). According to Phillips (2004), Turkey’s accession is
considered to be open-ended and some European member countries, notably France
proposed a referendum in EU member countries before Turkey can be accepted as a new
EU member. France proposal is to grant Turkey with a “Special Status” membership
while Germany’s version is that of a “privileged partnership”.
Due to pressure to meet the Copenhagen Criteria, Turkey embarked on an extensive
political reform and improved its human rights record. According to Phillips (2004),
Turkey eased restrictions on freedom of press and association. Signed and ratified the
Protocol 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights” (p.94). Turkey’s
political and legislative reforms resulted into the abolition of the death penalty to
conform to the European laws, reduced the influence of the military in government and
Kurdish minority rights were eventually respected by the Turkish government. It can be
argued that without Turkey’s strong commitment to join the European Union, dramatic
political, economical, legal and human rights reforms would not have been easily
The significance of Turkey to the EU is its strategic location to the Muslim world.
According to Dinan (2005), Turkey’s integration to the EU will prove to the Muslim
world that Islam and democracy can Co-exist. The vastness of Turkey will provide the
E.U with the opportunity to advance democratic principle and peace to the Middle East
and Central Asia. Phillips (2004) argued that Turkey’s membership to the EU is in
relation with the “War Against Terrorism” (p.13). According to Kubicek (2005)
Turkey’s strong military capability will also act as a stabilizing force against unstable
Europe’s neighbors (p.13).
Phillips (2004) confirmed that Turkish business community considers the accession to the
EU as an avenue for Turkey to continue its economic reforms in order to meet European
Standards (p.93). Kirisci (2004) argued that due to pressure from the EU, Turkey has
improved its market- economy by introducing deflation measures and promote an exportoriented strategy to achieve economic development (p.4). On the other hand European
business leaders will easily tap Turkey’s market of 70 million people and have easy
access to a relatively cheap labor force. The initiative will also strengthen the
competitiveness of European firms interested in cutting down production cost by setting
up manufacturing plants in Turkey.
Another significance of Turkey’s accession to the European Union is the demographic
aspect of Europe. Europe’s birth rate is low and its population is aging. In contrast,
Turkey’s population is younger and relatively educated; this provides the EU with the
opportunity to utilize Turkey’s labor force (Tusiad, 2004). However, this phenomenon
also plays against Turkey’s accession to the EU because most European considers Turks
cheap labor as a threat to Europe’s employment and other social benefits.
The prospect of Turkey ever joining the European Union is still undetermined. Phillips
(2004), argued that however much Turkey tries to meet the conditions set by the
European Union, Europeans will not accept a Muslim country to join a “Christian Club”
(p.95). This was stressed by Frits Bolkestein (Former EU Commissioner) who referred to
Turkey as a “Muslim threat to Europe”. He argued that “Ukraine and Belarus were more
European than Turkey and that Europe risk becoming predominantly Islamic” (Kubicek,
According to Kubicek, (2005), Turkey has a different culture and history which
disqualifies it from passing the “Europeaness “test. He also argued that since only 5% of
Turkey’ population lives inside “Europe” (In relation to the European map), Turkey does
not fit to be in the European Union (p.11). Some Europeans believe that Turkey is
different and this will result into future problems in the E’U decision –making structure.
Phillips (2004) argued that bringing in Turkey to the European Union will result into
tremendous burden to the Europeans (p. 96). For Example, Turkey being so big and poor,
vast portion of EU development fund will end up being channeled to Turkey. Many
current EU members accessing EU development fund and other social policy program
feel threatened by Turkey’s membership because a big portion of their assistance may be
diverted to Turkey. The often cited argument against Turkey’s accession to the EU is that
Turkey is poised to create a new balance of power in the European Union.
Therefore, in order to down play European concerns over Turkey, European leaders have
come up with different versions of Turkey’s accession to the European Union. According
to Phillips (2004), Germany and France have come up with different proposal that fall
short of Turkey’s full membership to the European Union. For example France proposed
a “Special Status” and Germany prefers a “Privileged Partnership” to be accorded to
Turkey (p.96). However, Turkish leaders are determined for nothing less than full
European membership. Kubicik (2005) agreed that the European Union is using double
standards in dealing with Turkey accession to the EU. For example, France is advocating
for EU member states to conduct a referendum before Turkey can join the European
Union which was not the case with other newer former communist countries. The failure
to ratify the EU constitution (2005 referenda) in France and Netherlands has been
regarded as a sign of the growing anti-enlargement sentiments in Europe which will
be detrimental to Turkey's EU bid.
Turkey has undergone several political, economical and social reforms to satisfy the
Copenhagen Criteria. The progress made by Turkey in meeting the Copenhagen Criteria
is a clear indication of Turkey’s strong leadership and commitment towards European
membership. However, further effort is still needed in the modernization of its economy,
legal reform and the respect for Human Rights. On the other side, Europe should take a
positive position in the accession negotiations and not use the pretext of culture and
religion to slow down the negotiations of Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
Turkey should be provided with the same terms and a leveled ground during the
accession negotiations like Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Czech Republic etc. The negative
decision of the accession talks would be harmful to the strategic alliance of Turkey and
the EU. Turkey’s accession will also be important in boosting economic and trade links
between the EU and Turkey neighbors with abundant natural resources and energy
reserves. Turkish membership to the EU will also send a strong message to the Muslim
world that European can coexist with Muslim despite their cultural and religious
One can rightly conclude that with the new wave of anti-Islamic sentiments and high
unemployment rate in Europe, Turkey is viewed by many Europeans as a threat to their
social and economic welfare and many Europeans are doubtful of Turkey’s prospect to a
full EU membership. Turkey’s big size and its poor population is a threat to the EU social
policy (Common Agriculture Policy and other policies) because it will attract more
development funds that would otherwise been allocated to other member countries. It is
also believed that failure of the EU constitution referendum in France and Netherlands
can be attributed to Turkey’s EU bid and the enlargement process in general.
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Huntington, S. P. (1993). The Clash of Civilization?. Foreign Affairs, 72(3), 22-49.
Kirisci, K. (2004). European Council Decision on Turkey: Is it a Historical Decision.
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