Issue Report: Turkey EU membership

Should Turkey be given membership in the EU?

Turkey has had a trade agreement with the European Union for nearly forty years, and first applied for membership of Europe’s premier club over thirty years ago. Until recently these requests were politely resisted; Turkey was never turned down outright but the EU made it clear that massive political and economic reforms would be needed before entry could even be considered. In 1999, however, EU leaders unanimously accepted Turkey as a candidate country, but would not set a date for beginning negotiations about entry. Since then the EU has entered into entry negotiations with many Central and Eastern European states, but has continued to refuse to do the same for Turkey. This has led to Turkish suspicion that the EU is not really serious about ever including it. This suspicion seemed to be confirmed in November 2002, when Valery Giscard D’Estaing, a former President of France who now heads the EU’s Constitutional Convention, declared that Turkey was an Asiatic nation that should never be allowed to join the European Union.[1]

Part of Europe?: Is Turkey part of Europe?

Turkey is part of Europe

In 1963, Walter Hallstein — at the time the President of the EEC — declared at the signature of the Association Agreement that “Turkey is part of Europe. This is the deepest possible meaning of this operation, which brings — in the most appropriate way conceivable in our time — the confirmation of a geographical reality as well as a historical truism that has been valid for several centuries.”[2]

There is no obvious and widely accepted geographical definition of Europe

Is Russia a European country? Is Georgia or Armenia or Azerbaijan? Are Cyprus and Malta? Given that part of Turkey’s territory is on what everyone accepts is the European mainland, why shouldn’t it be allowed to join the main European club. After all, it already belongs to NATO and the Council of Europe, and participates in the Eurovision Song Contest and European football competitions.[3]

Turkey has worked hard to befriend the EU

"Turkey's Dreams of Accession". Foreign Affairs. Sept/Oct. 2004

“Erdogan may indeed be torn between his Islamic beliefs and his politics. But he has worked consistently to strengthen Turkey’s ties to the West, even when his foreign-policy initiatives-regarding the war in Iraq, peace in Cyprus, and Turkey’s accession to the EU-have complicated his relations with both Islamists and ardent secularists in the military at home.”

Turkey is already a member of major Western/European organizations

Turkey is not a European country

95% of the nation’s land is on the wrong side of the Hellespont, in Asia. If Turkey is allowed into the European Union, not only would the institution’s very name become nonsensical, but it would be impossible to place a limit upon its potential future expansion.[4]

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in January of 2007: “Turkey has no place inside the European Union. I want to say that Europe must give itself borders, that not all countries have a vocation to become members of Europe, beginning with Turkey which has no place inside the European Union. Enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept.”[5]

Admitting Turkey leads to a slippery slope of non-European admissions

If the EU admits Turkey, what will prevent the application and admission of, for instance, Morocco? Admitting Turkey opens the door to a slippery slope of admitting non-European countries to the EU.

Admitting Turkey distracts from fully unifying Europe in the EU

Europe has not had a chance to fully unify itself in the EU. Many eastern European states remain outside of the EU. Before Turkey is admitted, the EU should focus on admitting those states that are clearly and traditionally part of “Europe”.

Membership in other organizations is immaterial.

The mere fact that Turkey is a meber of NATO does not mean that the EU would benefit from Turkey membership. Firstly, these organizations have a different structure and purpose, secondly, the EU doesn’t need Turkey as a military power (precisely because Turkey is already in NATO).

Religion: Is Turkey a secular country? Does religion have a role in this debate?

Turkey is a fully secular state with a predominantly Muslim population.

The new Justice and Development Party (AK) government is not seeking to overturn the secular constitution, although it does want to amend some laws that positively discriminate against devout Muslims. These include rules such as the ban on women wearing headscarves in government buildings; restrictions on expressing religious belief which would break human rights laws within the EU! In any case, millions of Muslims already live within the EU; excluding Turkey from membership on the grounds of religion would suggest these European Muslims were second-class citizens in a Christian club. It would also presumably rule out future EU entry for Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo. The EU should welcome a state which could provide a positive example of how Islam is completely compatible with democracy, progress and human rights.[6]

Opposing Turkey's admission on the basis of Europe's Christian heritage is wrong.

Europe does have a predominantly Christian heritage, but no modern, religiously tolerant politician should oppose the membership of a country on the basis of religious differences. This would be intolerant and wrong.

Turkey's EU admission would provide religious balance in Europe.

Europe is seen as a Christian club in many ways. This is, in most ways, contrary to modern principles of diversity, integration, and mutual understanding. If religious diversity is seen as a desirable objective in itself, Turkey’s membership will help in its realization.

Admitting Turkey to the EU would cause the Islamisation of Europe

The (outgoing) European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Frits Bolkestein, warned of the “Islamisation of Europe” and said that should Turkey become an EU member ‘The relief of Vienna in 1683 [by a Catholic army from an Ottoman siege] will have been in vain’.[7]

Most opposition to Turkish membership is unrelated to "Christian club" in EU

Tom Spencer. "GOOD REASONS FOR SAYING NO TO TURKEY". August 19th, 2004

“It has become fashionable to denounce those who oppose Turkish membership as wanting to keep Europe as a ‘Christian club’. This is to vulgarise thirteen centuries of complex interaction between Europe and Islam. In any case there are already somewhere between twelve and thirteen million Muslims living in the Europe of 25. There are a further seven million Muslims in Balkan states. Indeed one might reasonably expect there to be three predominately Muslim states in the completed European Union – Albania, Kosovo and the rump of Bosnia Herzegovina. It is nonsense to say therefore that the European Union refuses to admit Turkey because the predominant religion of its citizens is Islam. What matters much more is the nature of the historical experience and mindset of the nations which make up Europe.”

Turkey's government and politics has Islamist elements:

Turkey is not a Christian country but a Muslim one, unlike all the current or prospective EU states, which have been shaped by a shared legacy of Christian values, history and culture. Indeed Turkey’s history represents a clear rejection of any Christian tradition, from the centuries-long Ottoman Muslim conquest of Byzantine Christian territories, to the early twentieth century population exchange with Greece which removed millions of long-established Christian families from Turkish territory. Most recently, Turks have elected to government a party with islamist roots, likely to undermine the country’s secular constitution.

Turkey EU membership should have nothing to do with religion.

If there is a general feeling of Islamophobia among European heads of state and at the Commission then that’s unacceptable and needs to change. A date must be set for consideration of their inclusion so that the issue can gain broader exposure and generate more opinions.

Democracy: Does Turkey uphold democratic principles?

EU membership would help strengthen democracy in Turkey

Its recent election of a party with islamist roots has led to a smooth transfer of power, with no attempt at intervention by the secularist military (as in the past). Turkey’s human rights record is also improving rapidly, with the recent abolition of the death penalty and the removal of some restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language. These advances have been prompted by the improved prospect of EU entry if Turkey conforms to “democratic norms”, and this process is sure to continue to the benefit of both Turkish citizens and the EU if accession is offered in good faith.[9]

Turkey has made significant reforms to gain EU membership

David L. Phillips. "Turkey's Dreams of Accession". Foreign Affairs. Sept/Oct. 2004

“Encouraged by the EU, Turkey has pursued legislative and constitutional reforms liberalizing the political system and relaxing restrictions on freedom of the press, association, and expression. Turkey signed and ratified Protocols 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It abolished the death penalty and adopted measures to promote independence of the judiciary, end torture during police interrogations, and reform the prison system. In addition, Turkey has significantly reduced the scope of its antiterrorism statutes, which had been used to curtail political expression, and it amended the Penal Code and Codes of Criminal and Administrative Procedure. Police powers have been curbed and the administration of justice strengthened, due partly to the dismantling of state security courts.”

Turkey has improved its treatment of Kurds to gain EU membership

David L. Phillips. "Turkey's Dreams of Accession". Foreign Affairs. Sept/Oct. 2004

“The protection and promotion of the rights of the Kurds, which make up about a fifth of Turkey’s population, have also progressed. In several southeastern provinces, the long-standing state of emergency, which led to abuses by the military, has been lifted. New regulations have been adopted to facilitate Kurdish-language education. The rights of the Kurdish media and other broadcasters have been extended. And a provisional amnesty has been adopted for individuals involved in the Kurdish separatist movement. In June, an appeals court ordered the release of Leyla Zana and three other Kurdish parliamentarians who were jailed ten years ago after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party was banned.”

Turkey does not have a stable democracy and has a poor human rights record:

The military has intervened three times to remove governments of which it disapproved in recent decades, most recently in 1997. Police use of torture is widespread and peaceful protestors, including but not only those wanting improved rights for the Kurdish minority, are still tried and imprisoned under anti-terrorist laws. There are also restrictions on the freedom of the press. It is true that reforms have begun, but there are questions as to how thoroughly these will be implemented. Until political dissidents are freed, those accused of human rights abuses are brought to trial and punished, and Kurds are given equal rights, Turkey cannot be judged a suitable candidate for EU accession.[10]

EU admission undermines Turkey's democratic example to Middle East

Tom Spencer. "GOOD REASONS FOR SAYING NO TO TURKEY". August 19th, 2004

“It would also be bad for the Islamic world, which desperately needs examples of successfully functioning democracies. It would send entirely the wrong message if Turkey’s recent relative success with democracy was ‘rewarded’ by its being defined as ‘European’. In fact non-Arab Muslim countries have a reasonable history of establishing and preserving democratic regimes. The problem for the Arab world lies in the lack of legitimacy of the regimes which succeeded the destruction of the Ottoman Empire by the British and the French after the First World War. Europe can and should play a key role in bringing security and prosperity to the Greater Middle East. It will not however do so successfully on the basis of sloppy history and poorly defined foreign policy goals. It would be much better to end a generation of diplomatic dishonesty by giving the Turks a simple ‘No’ now and starting work on the creative task of how Turkey and Europe together can bring security to the regions which they jointly abut.”

EU institutions: Would Turkey fit neatly into the EU's political institutions?

A growing EU reduces the significance of Turkey's size and population:

Turkey is a large country in European terms, but even if its population would make it the largest single EU member by 2020, this would still only give it some 15% of the total in an enlarged EU of 25 countries or more. This is a much smaller proportion than Germany represents now, so it is ridiculous to argue that Turkey would dominate EU decision-making.[11]

Turkey size would give it too much voting power in the EU

By 2020, on current population trends, it is likely to have more than 90 million people, making it the largest single state in the EU. As population size determines representation and voting strength in the Council of Ministers, and in the European Parliament, Turkey would be able to dominate EU decision-making and set its own agenda, to the disadvantage of existing members.[12]

Regional stability: Is Turkey and its surrounding neighborhood relatively stable?

Turkey's proximity to conflict zones would not endanger the EU.

Turkey is already a long-standing member of NATO, the defence club to which the large majority of current and prospective EU states belongs. This means that any security crisis on Turkey’s borders already involves its European neighbours. Furthermore, as the EU has begun to develop its own defence identity outside NATO, it has had to involve Turkey over issues of planning and access to NATO assets. Finally, engagement between Turkey and the EU has greatly reduced historic enmity between Turkey and Greece, and held out hope for a solution to the division of Cyprus, showing the benefits of a closer relationship.[13]

EU membership for Turkey would help liberalize the Middle East

"Turkey's Dreams of Accession". Foreign Affairs. Sept/Oct. 2004

Summary: The hope of joining the EU has driven major reforms in Turkey, including economic liberalization, human rights protection, and greater civilian oversight of the military. But these reforms have fueled suspicions among Islamists and hard-line army officers. EU membership would help Turkey become a successful Muslim democracy, strengthen it as an ally in the fight against terrorism, and foster liberalization in the Islamic world.

Turkey membership will help advance EU interests in the Middle East

If Turkey is a member state, the EU will be able to exercise greater influence in the Middle East through Turkey.

Turkey's admission would expose the EU to new conflicts and dangers.

The Caucasus is very unstable, with some of its nations looking to Turkey for support for religious and cultural reasons. A Middle Eastern border would involve the EU in the Israeli-Arab conflict and give it a border with an aggressive and unstable Iraq (and Iran), with whom it would share an assertive Kurdish minority seeking statehood. Turkey even has major disputes with Greece, a current EU member, over territory in the Aegean and over the divided Island of Cyprus, where it alone recognises and backs the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, preventing a settlement.[14]

Terrorism: Would Turkey's membership benefit anti-terrorism efforts in the EU?

Turkey's EU membership would help the fight against terrorism

"Turkey's Dreams of Accession". Foreign Affairs. Sept/Oct. 2004

“Turkey is a secular Muslim democracy and a crucial ally for the West. The eastern flank of NATO, straddling Europe and Asia, it played a critical role in containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In the 1990s, it helped monitor Saddam Hussein and protect Iraqi Kurds by permitting U.S. warplanes to use its bases. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, it became a staging area for coalition forces in Afghanistan, where Turkish forces eventually assumed overall command of the International Stabilization Force. Turkey continues to be a pivotal partner in the fight against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, despite attacks by radical Islamists at home.”

Turkish membership would increase terrorist threats in EU

Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald

“Turkey will not be admitted to the E.U. It will not be admitted because, at this point, given the behavior mainly of Arab Muslims (for does anyone doubt that it was the Arab influence that caused some Chechens to embrace not only the idea of Jihad, but all of the current methods being used to further it), Europeans have lost their stomach for parroting phrases about the religion of “peace” and “tolerance.” They do not want to admit a country of 70 million Muslims, who would then move freely about Europe. They do not want Turkey admitted because it will be an easy conduit for non-Turkish Muslims to enter Europe, posing as Turks.”[15]

Economics: Will Turkey's admission be economically advantageous?

Turkey's membership would economically benefit the EU

Turkish Delight - Does Turkey's Accession to the EU Bring Economic Benefits? RUUD A. DE MOOIJ , ARJAN LEJOUR CPB Netherlands Bureau of Economic Policy Analysis; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)May 2004

“We explore the economic implications of the possible Turkish accession to the European Union. We focus on three main changes associated with Turkish membership: (i) accession to the internal European Market; (ii) institutional reforms in Turkey triggered by EU membership; and (iii) migration in response to the free movement of workers. Overall, the macroeconomic implications for EU countries are small but positive. European exports increase by around 20 percent. Turkey experiences larger economic gains than the EU: consumption per capita is estimated to rise by about 4 percent as a result of accession to the internal market and free movement of labour. If Turkey would succeed in reforming its domestic institutions in response to EU-membership, consumption per capita in Turkey could raise by an additional 9 percent. These benefits would spill over to the EU.”

Turkey's large population offers a strong market for EU goods

Admission to the EU will generate greater investments in Turkey.

EU membership will improve the standard of living in Turkey

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in 2006, “I don’t find these negative campaigns to be right. This is what our negotiations with the EU and our membership will bring: the standard of the living of the Turkish people will rise.”[16]

The EU has welcomed poorer entrants before without disaster:

Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece were all much poorer than the EU average when they joined and all are now well integrated and much more prosperous. Disastrous migration was forecast in their cases too, but did not occur. Nor is Turkey as poor as has been suggested; Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania among current prospective entrants all have lower GDP per capita. Turkey’s economy is also in the process of reform, including the restructuring of its banking system and IMF programmes; in the next few years this process will allow for faster, more sustained growth.[17]

The EU will never be able to integrate Turkey economically:

Turkey is too poor, with millions of subsistence farmers and living standards far below the European norm (making massive migration to richer EU countries inevitable). It has huge debts following a banking crisis and crash in 2001 and only survives due to massive aid from the IMF (which many see as its reward for providing support to the USA over Iraq, Israel, etc.). It will already be very difficult for the EU to integrate the much wealthier Central European states, and to provide the money for reconstruction in the Balkans. Coping with a much poorer, much less stable, much more indebted Turkey is simply not possible.

Turkey is too poor and underdeveloped to join the EU

"Turkey’s Membership Application: Implications for the EU". Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series. Vol. 5 No. 26. August 2005

“Level of economic development. Turkey is a significantly poorer country than any of the ten states which joined the EU in May 2004 and is also poorer than Bulgaria and Romania which are scheduled to join in 2007. Despite its current population accounting for 15 per cent of the EU-25 population, its GDP is equivalent to just 2 per cent of the EU-25 GDP. Its GDP per capita is 28.5 per cent of the EU-25 GDP (European Commission, 2004c: 13).”

Turkey is likely to be a major funding strain on the EU

Turkey doesn't have to join the EU

in order to receive investment. Besides, Turkey is already a member of a customs union, thus does not need the EU membership.

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