Accession of Turkey to the European Union

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Turkey's formal application to join the European Community—the organisation that has since developed into the European Union—was made on April 14, 1987. Turkey has been a European Union (then the EEC) Associate Member since 1964. It was officially recognised as a candidate for membership on December 10, 1999 at the Helsinki summit of the European Council. Turkey started negotiations on October 3, 2005, a process that is likely to take at least a decade to complete. Its possible future accession is now the central controversy of the ongoing enlargement of the European Union.


[edit] History

Turkey first applied (or, rather, France invited the wary Turkish government [citation needed]) for associate membership in the European Economic Community in 1959, and finally signed the Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community (the "Ankara Agreement") on 12 September 1963. This agreement came into effect the following year on the 1 December 1964<ref></ref>. The Ankara Agreement sought to integrate Turkey into a customs union with the EEC whilst acknowledging the final goal of membership. In November 1970, a further protocol established a timetable for the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods traded between Turkey and the EEC. 1980 saw a temporary freeze in relations as a result of the 1980 military coup following political and economic instability, though the recommencement of multiparty elections in 1983 saw Turkish-EEC relations fully restored.

On 14 April 1987, Turkey submitted its application for formal membership into the European Community. The European Commission responded in December 1989 with a refusal to begin accession negotiation. Although confirming Ankara’s eventual membership, Turkey’s economic and political situation, as well its poor relations with Greece and conflict with Cyprus, were cited as creating an unfavourable environment with which to begin negotiations. This position was confirmed again in the Luxembourg European Council of 1997 in which accession talks were started with central and eastern European states and Cyprus, but not Turkey.

During the 1990s, Turkey proceeded with a closer integration with the European Union by agreeing to a customs union in 1995. Moreover, the Helsinki European Council of 1999 proved a milestone as the EU recognised Turkey as a candidate on equal footing with other potential candidates. The next significant step in Turkish-EU relationships came with the December 2002 Copenhagen European Council. According to it, "the EU would open negotiations with Turkey 'without delay' if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfills the Copenhagen political criteria"

With the 2002 election of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a pro-European party with Islamist roots, a number of reforms led to increasing stability both politically and economically. As part of the drive to enter a reunified Cyprus into the EU, the Turkish government supported the UN-backed Annan plan in 2004. The plan was accepted by Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by the Greek Cypriots. At the same time, a three-decade-long period of hyperinflation ended, with inflation reduced to 6% from annual levels of 75% during the mid-90s.

Oddly enough however, Greece was the first country to support Turkey's accession into the EU. Greece voted yes for Turkish entrance because they believe, even though Turkey is politically and socially behind at the moment, that with the help of the EU, they can make enough changes to put them up to par with other European nations.

Image:UE TURK1.png Turkey - European Union
(EU after the entry of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007)<small/>

The political reform program of the Erdoğan government continued. This included the abolition of the capital punishment, crackdown on torture, and more rights for its Kurdish population. In response to these developments, the European Commission recommended that the negotiations should begin in 2005, but also added various precautionary measures. The EU's leaders agreed on 16 December 2004 to start accession negotiations with Turkey from 3 October 2005. Despite an attempt by the Austrian government to offer Turkey less than full membership, EU accession negotiations were officially launched.

Turkey's accession talks have since been dogged by a number of domestic and external problems. Several European states such as Austria have made clear their reluctance to allow a large and populous Muslim country into Europe. The issue of Cyprus continues to be a major obstacle to negotiations. European officials have commented on the slowdown in Turkish reforms which, combined with the Cyprus problem, has led the EU’s enlargement commissioner to warn of an impeding ‘train crash’ in negotiations with Turkey. Despite these setbacks, Turkey has closed its first chapter in negotiations in June 2006.

According to latest internal EU report from June 2006, Turkey faces increasing nationalism, continuing religious and ethnic discrimination, prosecution of dissenting, pacific opinions and excessive military involvement in politics [citation needed].

[edit] Arguments used for Turkish membership

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Image:Marshall Plan poster.JPG
One of a number of posters created to promote the Marshall Plan in Europe, featuring Turkey

An important argument in favor is that Turkey has a very dynamic, rapidly modernizing economy. In 2004 and 2005, growth was above 7%, being far above average growth in the EU. Although the current GNP per capita is still lower than all of the other new EU-countries, the current economic growth rate suggests that in a few years, Turkey will have overtaken several of these. In addition, Turkey has a young population. That, combined with the huge size of the country, and its growth rates, constitutes a major dynamism and a huge opportunity for the EU.

There are alleged double standards in the requisites for Turkish membership. While some refuse Turkey's admission on the grounds of its territory being mostly Asian, Cyprus is also considered to be geographically Asian. Turkey is poor but not significantly more so than Bulgaria and Romania which will be joining in 2007.

Outside Turkey, Atlanticist countries such as the United Kingdom believe that Turkey, having been a staunch NATO ally, would help counteract France's usually independent stance towards the United States. In non-Atlanticist countries such as France, this is of course seen as an argument against Turkish membership.

Many in the West hope that Turkish membership would cement its alignment with the West. Turkey is a strong regional military power that might give the EU more weight in hotspots like Syria, Iraq or Iran. Alternatively some believe that conditional Turkish membership would encourage moves towards more stable economic growth, democratic government and a less interfering military. This could potentially provide a model of democracy for the rest of the Middle East, comparable to the role played by Western Europe in the Cold War.

Turkey also stresses its involvement in European history for about 1000 years, through the Ottoman Empire and as the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire. It considers itself a European state. A prevalent point of view in Turkey, echoed by its prime minister Erdoğan, is that the EU seems to be a "Christian club", although the foundation of the European Union never claimed to be on religious grounds. However, this argument appears less strong than the previous ones. Many EU-citizens regard this reasoning as suspicious.[citations needed]

European Christians who had converted to Islam freely rose to the highest position in the Ottoman Empire. More Grand Viziers were ethnic Albanian, Slav, or Greek devshirmes, rather than Turks. Even the maternal lineage of Ottoman Sultans was non-Turkish after the first few generations. The Ottomans made key contributions to European culture.

The Turks consider their state a strongly secular one, just as the EU defines itself (for example with the abandonment of the proposals to make reference to Europe's Christian heritage in the draft European Constitution). Compared with the neighbouring Arabic Muslim states, this secular character is obvious. However, the severe discriminations of all other religions than the Sunni, of ethnic minorities and of dissenting opinions make it impossible to consider Turkey as 'secular' in the European meaning of the word. Therefore, many consider Turkey as only partially secular.

Turkey's overwhelmingly Muslim population would lend considerable weight to EU multi-culturalism efforts and might help to prevent potential scenarios involving a clash of civilizations. At the same time, Turkey's young (23% of population is under 15) and well-educated population might act as a balance for the increasingly aging populations of the current EU. In relation to this, Samuel Huntington regards Turkey as a split country in his book Clash of Civilizations, which could drift off to Islamism and/or nationalism if European integration fails.

[edit] Arguments used against Turkish membership

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Opposition to Turkey's entry into the EU varies among the public of the current EU member states, as does political support or opposition to the entry bid. The issues mentioned by some of those objecting to Turkey's EU candidacy can be divided among those inherent to Turkey's situation, those that involve internal issues about human rights, democracy, and related matters, and those concerning Turkey's open external disputes with its neighbours. There is much contention over whether some of these arguments are used by people more as a proxy against peoples true feelings about Turkish membership in the sense that the country is not culturally European and therefore should be denied entry at all. This is a key factor in the debate leading to questions of whether the EU is exclusively a 'Christian club' in terms of its cultural background.

[edit] Inherent issues

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  • Differences in fundamental values and culture between a predominantly Muslim country (99.8% of the population) with current dominantly Christian and non-religious EU members, all of which are historically Christian.
  • The Turkish government's refusal to officially recognize the state of Cyprus, a current E.U. member State, technically nullifies any negotiations and promises made between Turkey and the E.U., and is the greatest obstacle to Turkey's accession to the E.U., much before other issues. This issue alone is of great diplomatic concern because it paradoxically implies that Turkey does not fully recognize the side it is negotiating with. One possible solution, apart from an unlikely change of strategy by the Turkish government, would be the introduction of a bureaucratic or diplomatic circumvention or escamotage, like the E.U. adopting special negotiation rules for Turkey. The other 'solution', or rather outcome, is that the EU prefers to stick with its existing rules, known as acquis communautaire, and further delay Turkey's accession. Turkey's non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus has led to complications with its custom union. Under the customs agreements Turkey already signed as a precondition to start negotiations in 2005, it is obliged to open its ports to Cypriot planes and vessels, but Turkey refuses this and insists it will only do so as part of a settlement to the Cyprus problem. Greek Cypriots have subsequently threatened to veto accession talks unless Turkey complies.
  • Turkey's large size and poverty. Turkey would upon accession represent an expansion almost equal in population to that of the 2004 Enlargement while the Turkish economy has been known for very unstable growth and sharp recessions despite some recent improvement. Many question whether the EU can support and "absorb" such a large and poor state, and many member states are wary of a potentially huge wave of poor Turkish immigration.
  • Turkey's large political power once in the Union. Its almost 70 million inhabitants will bestow it the second largest number of representatives in the European Parliament, after Germany. With the current rate of population increase some fear it might even surpass Germany by the time of accession; thus drastically altering make up of the European Parliament. As at the moment, the AKP (as the largest Turkish party) approached the European People's Party, the largest European party group, and was admitted as an observer-member, it is most likely that the AKP will join this party group if Turkey would accede to the EU.

[edit] Human rights, democracy, and other internal issues

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See Human rights in Turkey for details. Many have continuing doubts on the commitment of the Turkish state to democracy and human rights, and its ability to reach European standards in these issues as gender equality, political freedom and minority rights (especially as regards the Kurdish population (Kurdish independence will likely become an issue), non-Muslims, and gays and lesbians). Freedom of political speech is another area in which some concerns have arisen (e.g. "Regular Report on Turkey's progress towards accession", p. 36, recent internal EU reports discussed in Financial Times, 5 June 2006, EU Observer 6 June 2006, City Journal, 4 June 2006). "

  • Opinions critical of the strongly nationalistic line are regularly prosecuted. Article 301/1 of the Turkish penal code, which is perceived as being contrary to ideas of freedom of speech, states:
"A person who explicitly insults being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, the penalty to be imposed shall be imprisonment for a term of six months to three years." and "When insulting being a Turk is committed by a Turkish citizen in a foreign country, the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one third."
There have been recent indications [1] that Turkey may abandon or modify Article 301, after the embarrassment suffered by the prosecution of its most famous novelist, Orhan Pamuk, after discussing the importance of Turkey's recognition of its responsibility in committing the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and the number of dead resulting from the war with the Kurdistan Workers Party. The prosecutions have largely been initiated by nationalists within the Judicial system, intent on derailing the accession process. [2]

The same law has been used to prosecute the Turkish professor Elif Shafak and Hrank Dink. Professor Shafak wrote a book dealing with the Armenian Genocide entitled " The Bastard of Istambul" and this led to her prosecution.

  • Turkey's treatment of the Kurdish people and other indigenous populations is also of concern. Some decry the recent recognition of the Kurdish language by Turkish authorities as a cosmetic operation. Kurdish education is provided through only a few private local courses, while television in Kurdish is only for half an hour a week and under the monopoly of the state broadcasting corporation TRT. The Kurdish-Turkish politician Leyla Zana was arrested in 1994 and served 12 years for having spoken Kurdish in the Turkish parliament building.
  • Discrimination of gays and transgender people appears still widespread. This has several aspects. [3]
  • Turkey is one of two states (with Azerbaijan) among the 46 members of the Council of Europe which has refused to recognise the status of conscientious objectors or give them an alternative to military service[4].
  • The issue of church and state separation and discrimination of non-Sunni Muslims is another concern. Mainstream Hanafi school of Sunni Islam continues to enjoy large-scale privileges in Turkey, with thousands of imams in state employment, while Turkish clerics from other religions are not paid at all. Some current members however are also open to criticism on these grounds, although none is reported to have large-scale discrimination of non-majority religions as Turkey. The latest internal EU reports (reported on in the press begin June, see above) confirm those large-scale discriminations, adding that no progress was made since end 2005, nor any willingness shown by the Turkish government.
  • The recognition of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, "first among equals" in the Eastern Orthodox communion, only as "Patriarch of Fener", a district of Istanbul[5], and the requirement for him to be a Turkish citizen by birth in a country where 99% of the population is Muslim, have also been regarded as an obstacle.

The Greek Orthodox Church has not yet been able to re-open the Theological School of Halki as has been its request.

  • Although the claims of the Alevi minority have become more vocal in recent years, the Turkish state continues its policy of building mosques in Alevi villages and sending Sunni imams.
  • Important groups in the European Parliament have urged Turkey to recognize the Armenian deaths in the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide, see Armenian Genocide. Turkey denies responsibility, stating that the events were part of a civil war during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey, pointing out that recognition of historical events has never been a precondition for other states, considers this an example of the creation of new obstacles by countries opposed to their joining. Nonetheless, the European Union Parliament, by a majority of 391 to 96, stated that Turkey should recognise the Armenian genocide before it could join the European Union. This requirement was later dropped on 27 September 2006 by the general assembly of the European Parliament by 429 votes in favour to 71 against, with 125 abstentions<ref></ref>.

[edit] Relations with neighbours

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  • The Cyprus dispute—the island is still divided after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, following a coup d'etat by Nikos Sampson against the Cypriot government of Makarios III and fully supported by the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 under its de facto leader Dimitrios Ioannides. Turkey refuses to acknowledge the Republic of Cyprus (an EU member), located in the South, as the sole authority on the island, but instead recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the North. Turkey and Turkish Cypriots, for 30 years rejected all UN-proposals, but suddenly backed the 2004 Annan plan aimed at reunification of the island, but was subsequently rejected by Greek Cypriots on the grounds that it did not meet their needs. That the latest proposal included maintained residence rights for the many Anatolian Turks that were brought to Cyprus after the invasion and their descendants, and that Greek-Cypriots who lost their property after the Turkish invasion would not be compensated for their losses probably played a role in these recent sudden change of positions.
  • The Aegean dispute, a series of unresolved geostrategic issues in the Aegean Sea between Greece (a present EU member) and Turkey, which are sources of a great number of military provocations between those two countries.
  • The economic embargo and closure of land border crossings currently maintained against Armenia (due to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh). Turkey supports Azerbaijan’s claims to Nagorno-Karbakh and views the situation as an occupation of Azeri land. EU reports 3, p.8 state that Turkey should take active measures to resolve this situation before eventual accession, while then-President of the Commission, Romano Prodi said: "Personally, I do not like that the Armenian-Turkish border gate is closed. I do not exclude that the issue of closed borders could be one of the preconditions for Turkey's membership." [6]
  • For the above reasons, Turkey has insisted that the route of the lucrative Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline bypass Armenian territory. Critics point out that this policy of embargo and isolation of a smaller neighbour is inconsistent with Turkey's desire to join the open European Community.

[edit] Effect on the future direction of the EU

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Turkey’s entry into the EU will have profound consequences on the future direction of the EU.

  • Many believe that the inclusion of such a large country with a 'different culture' and poor economy might make it extremely difficult for the EU to deepen its integration, and might force it to be reduced to a simple zone of economic cooperation. This is something that is considered a benefit by many eurosceptics who want the EU to structurally remain as is or even revert to an earlier state, being mainly an economic free market project and not a wider political and cultural project, but the opposite view is espoused by the European federalists. The issue of a 'different culture' is frequently used as a euphamism for 'a Muslim-majority state', as, plainly, all current members of the EU had and continue to have different cultures upon joining.
  • Turkey is a traditionally Atlanticist and NATO country, with very close ties to the United States. The USA has also been one of the strongest backers of Turkey's membership. Some member states, like France, wish the EU to increase its political independence from the United States and therefore believe Turkish membership is undesirable. Atlanticist countries, however, like the United Kingdom, would see their positions strengthened.
  • Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has opposed Turkey's admission on the grounds that it would lead to demands for accession by Morocco, although this is debatable as Morocco would have no claim to a history of integration with Europe to the same extent that Turkey has. Morocco has already applied to join the EU and was rejected on geographic grounds.

[edit] Likelihood of accession

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[edit] Official point of view

EU member states must unanimously agree to Turkish membership for Turkish accession to be successful. A number of nations could oppose it, notably Austria, which historically served as a bulwark for Christian Europe against the Ottoman Empire, and France, which is fearful of the prospect of another wave of Muslim immigrants (especially given the poor integration of its existing, mainly Arab, Muslim minority).

  • French President Jacques Chirac, a supporter of the accession of Turkey into the EU, had to agree that the amendment to the French constitution authorizing the ratification of the proposed European Constitution [7] contains a clause saying that a referendum is required before France can give its approval to Turkey or other future candidates to the European Union (the amendment excludes states that have already signed agreements). [8] Some politicians opposed to the constitutional treaty, such as Philippe de Villiers, argued that the treaty paved the way to Turkish membership, which they deem highly undesirable.
  • Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel has said that he may hold a referendum on the issue. Recently, Austrian President Heinz Fischer has strongly suggested a pan-European referendum on the issue, given its great importance for the future of the EU. Recent Greek governments supported Turkish membership hoping that Turkey would soften up its stance in a number of issues of conflict between Turkey and Greece during the process of and after joining EU. However, opinion polls from the end of December 2004 show that opposition is twice as strong among the Greek public as support.

Developments within Turkey could also freeze accession talks—such as interference of the sceptical military in civilian rule, the rise to power of a hard-line Islamic or nationalist government, or the current government failing to prove its willingness to respect the acquis communautaire.

On the 29th november, 2006, the BBC reported that the European Commission members had decided to suspend parts of the talks with Turkey regarding accession, following the failure to reach agreement over the various issue surrounding the occupation of cyprus. [9]

[edit] Public opinion

Public opinion in EU countries generally opposes Turkish membership, though with varying degrees of intensity. The Eurobarometer March-May 2006 survey shows that 48% of EU-25 citizens are against Turkey joining the EU, while about 39% are in favour. Citizens from the new member states are more in favour of Turkey joining (44% in favour) than the old EU-15 (38% in favour). At the time of the survey, the country whose population most strongly opposed Turkish membership was Austria (con: 81%), while Sweden is current member state most in favor of the accession (pro:61%). 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 European territory and out of the European institutions), followed by Romania (pro: 66%) (which has yet to become an EU member). These communities are even more in favor of the accession than in the Turkish populace itself (pro: 54%).<ref name="special_eurobarometer_255">European Commission: Special Eurobarometer 255 - Attitudes towards EU Enlargement., July 2006, p. 72, PDF</ref>

[edit] Individual opinions and quotes

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[edit] Opinions

  • Notable individuals who oppose Turkish membership:
  • Notable individuals who support Turkish membership:

[edit] Quotes

"In my opinion, it would be the end of Europe."—Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (former President of France, drafter of the European Constitution), 8 November, 2002.

"Turkey has always been associated with European civilisation, and it is an important and loyal member of the Atlantic alliance. It is in our political interest to have a modern, stable, democratic Turkey which has made the choice of secularism since 1924, a Turkey agreeing to share our aims and values."—French President Jacques Chirac, April 29, 2004

"The agreement to start talks with Turkey will probably displease Mr Osama bin Laden, who has done everything to prevent this moment arriving". Diogo Freitas do Amaral (Portuguese Foreign Minister) [10]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  • Cooley, John K. "Turkey Belongs in the European Union." Christian Science Monitor October 2, 2006, 9.

<references />

[edit] External links

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