23 Mar 2015 02 May 2017
Why has the Turkish membership of the European Union been continually rejected?
As well as political, cultural, and economic differences, the continual rejection of the Turkish membership for the European Union (EU) is simply that the basic conditions for membership are not being met; these basic conditions being, Turkey having:
a) A European identity
b) A securely established democratic Government,
c) Respect for human rights,
d) willingness and ability to accept these obligations of membership.
After an attempt for membership in 1987, and many others, the Turkish application was eventually officially referred to the commission, for an opinion on its accessibility, as provided by the Rome Treaty and has occurred with all previous applications.
Many Turks feel the time has come for their full acceptance into the EU membership, after serving around fifty years as the eastern anchor of NATO, (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), and after years of sending many of their young workers to Western Europe.
Europe is said to be the most ‘globalised continent’; a successful application for membership would enable Turkey to gain access to many benefits in all angles. Politically it will be integrated with the EU so in the long-run a stable democracy would be created.
Their economy would be enhanced by a significant amount, through its exports with the rest of Europe, and result in long-term economic growth. Any deficits, on Turkey’s balance of payments, that have or are to occur, could potentially be wiped out easier. Furthermore if Turkey were to adopt the Euro as a currency, it could promote exchange rate stability, producing positive effects for their trade.
The Turks believe that the more their country becomes economically involved with the EU the more difficult it will become for the union to refuse its full membership. By becoming more economically involved, i.e. with its trade exports, it could potentially make an impact on the union’s decision, depending on the extent to which the good/service is demanded; if the good/service has an inelasticity across the rest of Europe, it shows that it is not price responsive, therefore enabling access for Turkey. However, in practice, Turkish accession is unlikely unless the entry conditions are met.
Additionally, if Turkey were able to improve some areas, it would be more likely to be considered, as Turkey would then seem more ‘accessible’; a sustained improvement in Turkey’s human rights record would push up its status. Furthermore a solution to the Cyprus dispute, whereby the Turkish withdraw their troops and the consolidation of the Turkish democracy would also give Turkey the upper hand during its application to full membership.
Another factor which contributes as a ‘downside’ is the size of Turkey itself. It would be hard to accommodate within the EU because it so large; whereas Malta and Cyprus may be difficult to accommodate because they are so small. Turkey’s population in 1995 was sixty two million people, which is three times that of the combined populations of three new members that joined in 1995.
Also, unlike existing members, Turkey’s population is growing rapidly; it is forecasted by 2025 population will be ninety three million, which is equivalent to twenty four per cent of the population, of the present fifteen members. Therefore we can see the actual size and population of Turkey will have adverse effects on the EU. One of the adverse effects could be the potential risk of debts.
Turkish accession would have a considerable amount of economics, institutional and societal implications, both for the EU and Turkey itself. This statement suggests that Turkish accession could lead to the end of the EU, as the overall adverse effects produced from Turkey would push the EU to collapse.
On the other hand since the average income (per head) in Turkey is less than a third of the average in existing member countries, Turkey being part of the EU would mean that structural funds would occur significant added weights. This ultimately means a decrease in the EUs fund. Furthermore, the possibility of migration to countries with higher income levels would occur. So far, if Turkey is issued full membership, it seems to be unravelling more and more problems.
In its opinion in 1989, the commission concluded that ‘Turkey, nor the community, are yet ready for full membership’. Around November 1992, the commission announced that it wished to proceed to a full customs union with the EU, as had been foreshadowed in the original association agreement. The target that the Turks had set themselves was 1995. One of reasons for rejection was because the Turkish economy was inadequately developed and also because its democracy had not been fully established.
But in saying this, early indications for Turkey actually seemed promising. During the early months of 1996 there had been a sharp rise of exports to Turkey, whilst Turkey’s exports to the EU had also risen, but not so intensely. Also, Turkey has attracted a lot of west European investment in recent years on top of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) which has benefited the economy.
Alternatively, since the end of the Cold War, Turkey has been an important trading link with the countries of the former Soviet Union. Furthermore Turkey is a secular Muslim democratic state in nature; accession would strengthen it in the fight against terrorism. So things look hopeful for Turkey, if this sustained improvement generates positive effects for Turkey and the rest of Europe.
Successful membership for Turkey may also prove to be a test for the Turkish industry. Its ‘infant industries’ will have to suffer the full effect of competition from manufacturers within the EU. However an optimistic Turkish Government greet this challenge because they believe they will benefit; Turkish industries will be given a prompt to efficiency; for example, reaching economies of scale.
Besides all this, Turkey has many political, cultural, and economical differences, in contrast to the rest of Europe. This could perhaps elevate disputes in the future. Many arguments have been raised on the idea of Turkish accession. Some reflect genuine problems; others are of an emotional nature. Politically, Turkey’s democracy is very weak, and poor, as it does not contain the stability that reflects any of the other European states.
More significantly, in nature, it is a Muslim state; however being a Muslim state had its advantages in the sense that it became a great ally against terrorist forces in Afghanistan, and also was used as a base when bringing down Saddam Hussein. But Turkey ultimately being an Islamic state, conflicts with EU membership conditions, and the ‘European identity’.
“Alternatively the question whether Turkey belongs politically to Europe can only be answered according to the stipulated criteria of the European partners. The question however, whether Turkey belongs culturally to Europe, cannot be answered by other European states, but only in Turkey itself”. This statement seems to be pragmatic in the sense its suggesting human rights issues must be dealt with and Turkey itself can only make the change.
The first basic condition (for membership) is for Turkey to have a ‘European Identity’; is Turkey a European country? This answer depends on a variety of factors. The first factor is the actual geographical construct. Turkey lies within the boarders of ‘Europe’ making the geographical element satisfactory. Therefore in ‘geography’ terms, essentially, it has as much rights as the other European countries to be a part of ‘Europe’.
The second factor is the ‘cultural’ component. Being a secular Muslim state, it does conflict with a ‘European culture’, which may reflect parts of Christianity, Humanism, reason, and science. Turkey does not seem to ‘enclose’ any of these essentials. As a result, Turkey is not ‘culturally compatible’. This can cause some concerns in the future as Europe ‘share common values and ideas, as one community’.
This brings us on to the next factor: History. Turkey’s history of communism does not act in their best interests. However Turkey’s ‘history’ can come into usefulness within the EU, as it can act as a ‘link’ to former soviet states. Furthermore Turkey being involved with NATO acts as strength. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty in 1949 reads: “The parties agree that an armed attack on one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”. Turkey became a member in 1952; this, in principle, suggests that any attack on Turkey will be considered an attack on the NATO members, whom most are European. In history, in terms of NATO, Turkey does seem to meet the criteria.
The other factors are the choices made by Turkey itself and the acceptance of other European countries. This table, taken from the BBC News website, shows that statistics of other EU members in favour of Turkey.
The table shows that the ‘EU Average’ for Turkish EU membership is about 36%. This suggests that most EU members have not yet ‘accepted’ Turkey, to become part of their community. Interestingly, Hungary is just over the 50% margin, which proposes that it is ready for Turkish membership. On the other hand, Austria looks like a salient anomaly from the EU average, as it is only just on the 10% margin, to accept Turkish membership.
Fascinatingly, whether it has any connection I’m not sure, Hungary and Austria are neighbouring states, but have around a 40% difference margin, for Turkey attaining membership. In addition, Greece seems to be moving on with its ‘anti-turkey’ era; their vote is just over 25%, which is interesting considering their many disputes with Turkey and the Cyprus issue. Germany and France seem to be just over 20% despite there very ‘anti-Islamic’ views. This to me suggests that over time Europe will learn to perhaps accept Turkey, and welcome it in the community, despite cultural differences.
Europeanisation, is a significant ‘process’ Turkey must go through, in order to gain a ‘European identity’. Europeanisation, in general, refers to ‘becoming more European’. On the other hand if Turkey were to become a member, the EU would be ‘under threat’, as economically and institutionally orientated ‘Europeanisation’ is not sufficient. The requirement for Turkey to ‘attain Europeanisation’ would be to have a living democratic political culture, which currently, does not exist in Turkey;
Thus bringing us to the second and third basic conditions: for Turkey to have a securely established democratic Government, and Turkey’s respect for human rights. Ataturk wanted to Turkey to reform because he knew Turkey was inevitable for collapse, if no changes were implemented. He terminated the political functions of Islam and the powers of religious institutions IN Turkish law and justice, turning religion into a matter of personal conscience.
One of the components to eliminate was the ‘Shariah Laws’. By eliminating them, Turkeys ‘respect for human rights’ the ‘European way’ could be undertaken. Issues concerning gender, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, gay rights, and ethnic groups and many more could be discussed in a stable democracy, and push up Turkey’s human rights records. With Ataturk’s reforms Turkey began to reform into a modern secular state. If Turkey continues to strengthen its democratic government perhaps accession would become significantly easier.
The last condition is Turkey’s willingness and ability to accept the obligations of membership. Accession to membership means the acceptance of rights and obligations attached to the union system and its institutional framework (Also known as the ‘acquis’). Turkey will have to apply this as it stands at the time of accession.
If Turkey carries out, and meets the conditions of the Copenhagen criteria, then accession negotiations shall be opened. (The Copenhagen criteria are the basic conditions needed for entry, briefly mentioned in the first paragraph). On the other hand further delay will actually cause adverse effects for the EU’s ‘creditability’, and could be seen as a breach of the generally recognised principle that “pacta sunt servanda” (agreements are to be honoured).
Furthermore Turkey must understand that there are no ‘individual cases’ for the Copenhagen criteria. Every EU member has had to go through the process, so the same rules apply to everyone (who are, or want to, join the EU). This means that Turkey must change and meet the conditions, otherwise membership will just get further and further away.
As far as Turkey’s ‘identity’ is concerned, it is classed as a ‘Euro-Asian’ state. Turkey’s history and culture are strongly ‘tangled’ with Europe, with a strong “European orientation and a European vocation which has been accepted by European Governments”. Furthermore the failure of accession, would not only mean a loss for both sides, (the EU’s loss with the link over the Middle East, and Turkeys economic loss), but also a loss in Turkeys identity, which could lead to a political turmoil for the Union.
In the case of Turkey persistently breaching human rights issues and the rule of law on which the union is founded, the commission may recommend the suspension of negotiations for membership. However Turkey’s current ‘performance’ to meet the Copenhagen criteria seem appreciating accordingly.
Ultimately, the continual rejection of Turkish membership will come to an end, but perhaps not in the near future.
[Think more about the cultural aspects – mainly being an Islamic state; germany and France are very anti-Islamic;]
[The political and cultural differences are interconnected, as they both stem off Turkey being a Muslim state. Turkey’s main cultural difference was seen through its human rights concerns;.]