Argument: Turkey membership will help advance EU interests in the Middle East

Issue Report: Turkey EU membership


Sedat Laciner, the director of the International Strategic Research Organization (ISRO-USAK). “Turkey’s EU Membership’s Possible Impacts on the Middle East”. December 24th, 2004 – “The Middle East profoundly affects the EU with oil, terrorism, migration, human trafficking, narcotics, arms proliferation, etc. At the present state of affairs, the EU is affected from problems originating from the Middle East but lacks the means to tackle them. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a typical example. By allocating its vast resources to this region and others, the EU has difficulty in obtaining results. It has been unable to attain a role in the Middle East on par with the US. Neither in terms of impact, nor in prestige, has the EU risen to the status that its efforts warrant. On the other hand, the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War clearly depict that Middle Eastern events are going to affect Europe, just as they do with the rest of the world. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer confirms the vitality of the Middle East in the EU’s interest:

“Before 11 September 2001 attacks I had been skeptical about the EU bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. But now, it is strategically important… Our security will be defined for at least five decades in this region… whether we like it or not.”

Should the EU fail to play its role as a guide, the Middle East might be reshaped adversely, perhaps even in a way that could harm the EU. At this point, Turkey’s membership may grant the desired means and the power to affect the region. In addition to its Ottoman legacy, Turkey’s cultural links with the region award it with a great boon. Especially with its performance during the Iraq War and the proactive policies it pursued with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, prejudices and misunderstandings about Turkey in the region have decreased. For example, while it was presumed that Turkey had an interest in Iraq’s disintegration and in the rich oil fields in Northern Iraq, Turkey was the most ardent supporter of Iraq’s territorial integrity. With this approach, Turkey gained Arabs’ and the neighboring countries’ respect while advocating the need to avoid further conflict. On the contrary, it urged steps to be taken for integration. In this sense, it can be said that at the center of Turkey’s Middle East approach lies integration and regional cooperation. On the one hand, Turkey increases its commercial, social, and cultural links with the region, and on the other, strives to eschew the eruption of yet another war. It does not find it fit with its national interests and in the interests of the region to have the events in Iraq rerun in Syria and Iran. Thus, it can be said that this approach is in line with the EU’s Middle East policies.”

“Turkey’s Membership Application: Implications for the EU”. Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series. Vol. 5 No. 26. August 2005 – “Turkey’s Islamism. Whilst this is viewed by many in negative terms – often because it is seen as heralding the end of any prospect of the EU being based on a shared sense of identity – it can be viewed in a positive light too. The UK government, for example, has based much of its public justification for supporting Turkey on the grounds of a real opportunity existing of embracing an Islamic country that is looking westwards. Might not, many proponents of Turkish membership ask, a moderate Islamic country inside the EU serve to demonstrate that Islam, democracy, and western capitalism can mix, to encourage moderate Islamism, and to help extend the EU’s ‘soft’ influence in other Islamic countries
with which it wishes to have better relations?”