Turkey's accession to the eurpean union by emanuel baisire

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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. Turkey’s accession to the EU will extend Europe’s boarders to unstable and undemocratic Middle East countries like Iraq, Iran and Syria (Dinan, 2005, P156). Major pressing issues about Turkey’s accession to the European Union range from economic, demographic, geographical, political and human rights.

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Turkey's accession to the eurpean union by emanuel baisire

  1. 1. 1 Background: 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. Turkey’s accession to the EU will extend Europe’s boarders to unstable and undemocratic Middle East countries like Iraq, Iran and Syria (Dinan, 2005, P156). 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. When Turkey joins the EU, Turkey would become one of the most populated member state by 2015 (Nas, 2004, 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). This compares with the largest current EU member state Germany, which has 83 million people today, but whose population is projected to decline. 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 (Dinan, 2005, 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. 1
  2. 2. 2 The 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 (Phillips, 2005, P. 86-97). Luxemburg Prime-Minister Jean-Claude Junker 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). 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 (Dinan, 2005, 156). Kirisci (2005) asserted that some EU members argued that even if Turkey was granted membership for a single day, it was not ready to meet EU member’s standards and obligations (p.2). However, this argument has been proven 2
  3. 3. 3 wrong by Turkish politicians. Turkey initiated reforms over the years and has managed to accomplish a great deal of success economically and politically. 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. Turkey’s effort to integrate in the European Union fell short of Turkey’s expectation but it gradually embarked on the transformation process to become a democratic, modern and secular state (Kirisci, 2005). 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 thatTurkey still lagged behind in democratic reform and respect for human rights (Kirisci, 2005). According to Phillips (2003), 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). Copenhagen Criteria is based on the 1993 EU commission report that stipulated guidelines and conditions that must be fulfilled before an aspiring EU candidate country can be considered for accession (Dinan, 2005, P.147). 3
  4. 4. 4 The Copenhagen criteria stipulates that for a candidate country to be considered for accession, it must have a strong democratic institution, respect for minority rights and rule of law, a free market economy and to accept a common European defense and foreign policy (Dinan, 2005, P. 148). 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. In response, Turkish government severed diplomatic relationship with the European Union and threatened to hinder Cyprus reunification process (Dinan, P. 156). Kubicek (2005), pointed out that Turkey’s continuous effort to democratic reform and respect for human rights convinced European leaders in 1999(Helsinki Summit) to approve Turkey as a candidate country. In December 2004 the European council agreed to begin Turkey’s accession negotiations to the European Union. However, some original EU member countries have made it clear that Turkey’s full membership will be gradual and will not be complete until 2014 (Dinan, 2005, p.157). 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” (Phillips, 2004, P.). 4
  5. 5. 5 Due to pressure to meet the Copenhagen Criteria, Turkey embarked on extensive political reforms 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 (Philips.2004).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 undertaken. The significance of Turkey to the EU is its strategic location to the Muslim world. According to Garton (2002), Turkey’s integration to the EU will prove to the Muslim world that Islam and democracy can Co-exist (p.13). 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 (Garton, 2002), Garton Asserted 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 5
  6. 6. 6 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 export-oriented strategy to achieve economic development (p.4). On the hand European business leaders will easily tap Turkey’s market of 70 million people and easy access to a relatively cheap labor force (Kirisci, 2004). The initiative will also strengthen the competitiveness of European firms interested in cutting down production cost by setting up manufacturing plants in Turkey to take advantage of cheap labor. 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, 2005). 6
  7. 7. 7 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, 200). 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 the 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 (Phillips, 2004, 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 7
  8. 8. 8 advocating for EU member states to conduct a referendum before Turkey can join the European Union. Conclusion: 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 the terms given to the former East Europeans countries 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 differences. 8
  9. 9. 9 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 vast 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. 9
  10. 10. 10 http://www.euractiv.com/Article?tcmuri=tcm:29-129678-16&type=LinksDossier http://www.fornet.info/documents/FORNET%20Plenary%2005%20Turkey %20Backgroundpaper.pdf 10

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