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Debate: Should Turkey join the EU?

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Should Turkey join the EU?

Background and context

Public opinion in EU countries generally opposes Turkish membership, though with varying degrees of intensity. The Eurobarometr September-October 2006 survey shows that 59% of EU-27 citizens are against Turkey joining the EU, while only about 28% are in favor. Nearly all citizens (about 9 in 10) expressed concerns about human rights as the leading cause. In the earlier March-May 2006 Eurobarometr, citizens from the new member states were more in favor of Turkey joining (44% in favor) than the old EU-15 (38% in favor). At the time of the survey, the country whose population most strongly opposed Turkish membership was Austria (con: 81%), while Romania was most in favor of the accession (pro: 66%). On a wider political scope, the highest support comes from the Turkish Cypriot community (pro: 67%) (which is not recognized as sovereign state and is de facto not EU territory and out of the European institutions). These communities are even more in favor of the accession than the Turkish populace itself (pro: 54%). Opposition in Denmark to Turkish membership was polled at 60% in October 2007.

Additionally, pros and cons of Turkey's membership should be taken into account, as economics, politics, security and environment are the key issues.

Contents

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European Union: Would the old member states benefit from enlargement?

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Yes

  • Turkey’s geopolitical position makes it a vital factor for Europe’s security of energy supplies: For the emerging European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), Turkey’s considerable military capabilities and the country’s potential as a forward base would be important and much-needed assets. Over the years Turkey has made considerable contributions to international peacekeeping operations, including those in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, and has participated in the EU-led military and police missions in Macedonia (FYROM). Until December 2002 it led the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Turkey’s agreement to the comprehensive deal reached in 2002 on EU-NATO relations allowed co-operation in military crisis management, lifting obstacles to the implementation of the “Berlin Plus” agenda. Furthermore, Turkey has actively participated in the work of the Convention to the Future of Europe with a view to contributing on the improvement of ESDP’s efficiency and capabilities to meet the international security challenges of today. As one of the strongest NATO partners, with a clear orientation toward ESDP, Turkey would be of great value for the European defence system. Meanwhile, with regard to new threats to security and stability like international terrorism, organised crime, human-trafficking and illegal immigration, Turkey’s EU membership would result in closer and mutually beneficial cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs.





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No

  • The Cost of EU Enlargement is big: The figures being bandied about in regard to enlargement costs are totally fictitious. In the first place, we are talking about talks spanning ten-fifteen years, which are unlikely to end with Turkey’s accession before 2015. Negotiations regarding the 2007-12 budgetary framework are still in the very early stages and, although the major guidelines have been drawn (reorientation of expenditure to boost competitiveness and growth), we are as yet quite unaware of which direction the ideas on the EU budget will take in the next decade. Furthermore, as Spain experienced and as tradition dictates in enlargement processes, membership does not culminate with full integration in the European Union: it is possible to introduce transition periods to defer access for a country to the European Union’s main spending policies and, in Turkey’s case, there are specific plans to establish permanent exemptions to some essential items in the Acquis Communautaire, such as the free movement of workers. Consequently, although there is no doubt that per capita income in Turkey (27 over EU-25 = 100), combined with the size of its population (69 million) and a potential demographic boom (87 million in 2025) raises significant questions regarding the possibility of real convergence for Turkey in the European Union, even in the long term, it is no less true that it is impossible to guess what direction regional or agricultural policy will take by the year 2020. This does not mean that enlargement to include Turkey will not be costly, but that the arguments in favour or against membership based on economic cost are static arguments founded on scenarios that bear little relation to reality.




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Would Turkey benefit from joining the EU?

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Yes

  • Turkey is ready to change while respecting "unity in diversity". Turkey wants to join the European Union; it has an undeniable desire to align itself with the West and it has often expressed its firm wish to join the European Union, despite all the obstacles it has encountered and alternatives it has been offered. Naturally, to be European in Turkey is quite different from being European in Paris, Stockholm or Dublin. Nevertheless, therein lies the appeal of the European Union: anyone can interpret what it means ‘to be European’ in line with their history, culture and needs. For the French, to be European may mean to be French but on a different dimension; for Germans, to be European may mean to be a good German; for Spaniards, being European has implied ‘being European again’. Physical borders are, therefore, quite relative: it is not long ago, after all, that ‘Africa began in the Pyrenees’. We must therefore respect the assertion of identity of someone who, if not completely identical to us, claims to want to live side-by-side with us and be like us in terms of democratic rights and obligations.





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No

  • In principle, there are not many good reasons for Turkey to be a member of the EU. Turkey is too big, too distant and too different from what the European Union represents. Historically, the Ottoman Empire has played the role of Europe’s ‘other’ even more intensely than the Soviet Union itself. More recently, despite the fact that during the Cold War Europe and Turkey shared both anticommunism and a market economy, little has brought Turks and Europeans together.




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EU member states: Where do they stand on the issue?

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Yes

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No

  • EU is against the integration of Turkey. In recent days, many voices have raised the possibility of a ‘privileged relationship’ or ‘special association’ as an alternative to membership. These people seem to forget that any privileged relationship must be the result and reflect the will and wishes of both parties, not just one. The European Union does have some relations of this type with Norway and Switzerland within the framework of the European Economic Area since both countries have voluntarily opted to participate in the single market but not in the institutions of the European Union. This is clearly not the case of Turkey, which already enjoys a special association (association agreement + customs union) which, nevertheless, it considers insufficient. Faced with the withholding of a clear membership offer, between 1989 and 1993 countries in Central and Western Europe repeatedly asked the European Community to design mechanisms for partial membership of the European Union. The Foreign Affairs Commissioner at that time, Frans Andriessen, and his successors, Commissioners Brittan and Broek, tirelessly fought for institutions and mechanisms aimed at achieving ‘a European Political Area’ midway between association and membership. Member States consistently rejected all these formulae, arguing that the legal and institutional framework did not cater for any halfway-houses between membership and association. Things have changed little since then: a privileged relationship can only be a prelude to a more intense relationship subject to compliance with Articles I-2 and I-58 of the European Constitution, and in no way a relationship reached as a result of a veto based on essentialist arguments of a cultural or religious nature.





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Is Turkey ready to join the EU?

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Yes

  • Turkey’s eligibility for membership has been reconfirmed on many occasions On 14 April 1987, Turkey submitted an application for membership to the European Community (EC). It took the European Commission until December 1989 to produce an Opinion, approved by the European Council two months later, refusing accession negotiations on several grounds. It was pointed out that the Community itself was undergoing major changes following the adoption of the Single Act; it would therefore be inappropriate to become involved in new accession negotiations at this stage. Furthermore, the economic and political situation in Turkey, including “the negative consequences of the dispute between Turkey and one Member State of the Community, and also the situation in Cyprus” led the Commission to believe that it would not be useful to open accession negotiations with Turkey straight away. The Commission instead recommended a series of supporting measures for Turkey,“without casting doubt on its eligibility for membership of the Community.” Interestingly, an application for membership of the EC submitted also in 1987 by Morocco was rejected out of hand as coming from a non-European country. During the following decade,Turkey’s eligibility for membership has been reconfirmed on many occasions by the European Council, the General Affairs Council and in the Association Council.
  • Turkey is ready to join the EU: Turkey’s relations with Greece have continued to improve over recent years, and Greece now supports Turkish EU membership. Efforts to solve a number of contentious bilateral issues are underway, and exploratory talks are being held between the two foreign ministries on the disputes in the Aegean Sea. It is likely that the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey would greatly facilitate the search for solutions here. Equally, Turkey’s rapprochement to the EU should have beneficial effects on relationships with other neighbouring states. In particular with regard to Armenia, it is to be hoped that the opening of borders and an improvement in bilateral relations may become possible, including Turkey’s recognition of the tragic events of the past in the spirit of European reconciliation. In view of the tremendous efforts undertaken by the Turkish Government and society to adapt to European standards in all their aspects, there is a widespread expectation that by year’s end an irreversible step towards EU membership will be taken. A negative decision by the European Council would be considered as confirming Turkey’s deeply rooted perception of rejection by Europe, with less-than-perfect compliance with membership criteria serving as an excuse for the real reason: religious and cultural differences. Erosion of public support and the likely emergence of a more visible opposition to EU membership could decisively weaken the Erdogan government and bring the transformation process to a halt. At the same time, it should be evident that Turkey does not possess a viable alternative to integration with Europe. The possibility of a grand alliance with the countries of Central Asia or the Black Sea region is mere illusion. It is for this reason that Turkey’s political class and society have consistently focused on Europe. If Turkish hopes are disappointed, an advance of ultranationalist as well as Islamist currents should be expected and a revival of violence in the Kurdish populated regions would be likely leading to increased instability and the return of the military establishment to a more assertive role.



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No

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See also

External links and resources

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