Turkey and EU

The accession of Turkey to the European would offer very considerable benefits to both Turkey and the EU. For the European Union, the unique position of Turkey in terms of geopolitical position at the crossroads of Balkans, South Caucasus, Central Asia, and wider Middle East and also beyond will be of great importance to the security of the energy supplies of Europe and its economic, political and military weight which would be great assets to the European Union. Turkey is also a large Muslim country which if it is embedded in the European Union could play a significant role in the relations of Europe with the Islamic world.

This paper will try to examine the challenges that would arise if Turkey is given the full membership of the European Union and also the implications of the Turkish membership for future of both Europe and Turkey. There will also be implications to the existing Turkish-US relations and how they would be altered by the Turkish accession to the European Union.


The Turkey-EU relations have a very long history and this discussion of this entry is not new. It is dated back to early 1960s because in the year 1963, EEC and Turkey entered into an Association Agreement which contains the membership perspective. In this agreement, Turkey was promised to be members once they met criteria. Despite the geographical location of Turkey, the European Union considered it part of Europe chiefly the Cold War made it a strategically significant country. Later in 1987, Turkey applied for membership in the EU.

However at this time, Turkey did not meet the criteria for membership and were denied entry and accession to the European Union. It was offered various initiatives such as customs union for preparation for entry which they formed in 1995. In the year 1999 at a summit in Helsinki, the European Union decided that Turkey was to be a candidate for entry to EU.

Turkey has been working hard and waiting for accession to the European Union for a minimum of 40 years. However on the 17th of December 2004, the European Union Brussels Summit gave Turkey an opening date for their accession negotiations and this would be the 3rd of October 2005. This opened a new era for Turkey and brought to an end the long waiting process. This decision represented the most important and irrevocable step to the road towards Turkey’s goal of membership in the European Union. It also signaled the beginning of a lengthy and difficult process of the negotiations that would change both the European Union and Turkey. The potential accession of Turkey to the European Union will not be of importance only within Europe. This is an important decision for Turkey, European Union, transatlantic relations and also the United States. The U.S. has had a foreign policy relationship and a close security relationship with Turkey and also a secure partnership with the EU. When Turkey moves nearer to the membership in the European Union, these relations are bound to change (Scott 2004).

There were however positive signals to Turkey from the European Union which sped up the process of reform. In 2004 and 2001 there were 8 reform packages that were introduced. Turkey welcomes the decision to start negotiations but it has continued with the economic and political reforms. Turkey’s National Security Council was transformed into a people’s think tank, and called on the EU not to impose the unnecessary conditions on Turkey. The accession of Turkey to the European Union will present both itself and the EU with serious challenges and also considerable benefits and opportunities (Sayari 2003).

EU organization, history and objectives

The European Union is a political and an economic union comprising of 27 member states and is located mainly in Europe. It was formed by the Treaty of Maastricht because it was committed to regional integration in 1993 and this was after the start of European Communities. The European Union has grown a single market through the standardized systems of the laws that apply to all the member states and it ensures free movement of goods, capital, people and services. The European Union maintains similar policies on trade, regional development, fisheries and agriculture. 16 member states of the EU have adopted euro as a common currency that constitutes the Eurozone. The European Union has legal personality which enacts legislation in home affairs and justice. The European Union has diplomatic delegations and missions that are established in the world and is represented in G8, G20 major economies, World Trade Organization and at United Nations. The European Union operates through a mixture of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism (Larrabee 2004).

The members of the European Union include Austria, United Kingdom, Spain, Slovenia, Belgium, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovak Republic, Poland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Malta, Luxembourg, Lithunia, Italy, Latvia, Ireland, Hungary, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. The motto of the European Union is united in diversity. The objectives of the European Union are numerous in all aspects affecting the relations and the member states individually. The EU works towards and also oversees the political and economic integration of all the member states. The EU also consists of EC, European Community, which was formerly known as EEC, European Economic Community, and the framework for the unified action by all member countries in foreign and security policy. It also works for cooperation in justice and police matters. Within the European Union, services, goods, people and capital move freely (Cliff & David 2004).

The main aims of the EU are many and are classified in different categories and these are: promoting peace, their values and the overall well-being of all the member states; it also offers citizens with an area of security, freedom and justice without any internal frontiers and also provides an internal market of all the member states where competition is undistorted and free; the EU also works towards sustainable development of Europe and its member states based on the social market economy and aims at social progress and full employment and also provides a high level of improvement and protection of the quality of the surrounding environment; it also aims at combating social discrimination and exclusion, promoting protection and social justice, it also ensures equality between men and women, solidarity among generations and also the protection of the human rights of the children in the member states (Eralp 2003).

The European Union promotes social, economic and territorial cohesion and the solidarity between member states. It also respects the rich linguistic and cultural diversity and ensures cultural heritage of the Europeans is enhanced and safeguarded. It also aims at upholding its interests and values in its relations with the rest of the world. This would contribute to security, peace, sustainable development of the whole universe, mutual respect and solidarity between peoples, fair and free trade, the eradication of poverty and the protection of all human rights. The basic objectives of EU have been met and are being met as time passes by. These objectives, operations and structures of the European Union are laid down and explained within various numbers of treaties (Cliff & David, 1994).

The objectives and aims of the EU are achievable through four institutions that were recognized under the Treaty of Rome. These include the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission.

Challenges Turkey would face by joining EU

There are major challenges that are connected to the membership of Turkey into the European Union and they raise resistance and anxieties in many areas of Europe. Turkey is considered to be poor, big and not European enough. Its borders to Iraq, Iran, and Syria are very dangerous to be borders of the European Union after the inclusion of Turkey in the European Union.

It is argued that the large population of more than70 million people in Turkey, they would put the labor market of the EU under high unacceptable pressure and would dominate the work in the institutions of the EU and would also lead to the changing of the decision-making mechanisms (Reports 2004). With this economic prosperity in the EU, the birth rate will fall sharply and the total fertility rate will also decline and the population would reach 82 million by 2015 and then stabilize at that level. If the Constitutional Treaty is adopted, then a majority of the Council will need at least 50% of the member countries voting in favor of any proposition, and these countries constitute 60% of the total population of the EU. From here we can conclude that Turkey will not have any greater weight than Denmark in the very first case although population-wise it will have similar importance as Germany (Larrabee 2004).

There is also a challenge of mass migration to other European countries from Turkey after the accession of Turkey to European Union. There is a wide wealthy gap between the west and the east parts of the country and therefore the low-income people will immigrate to Europe from the eastern side of Turkey. However, there will be put-up agreements to control free-movement for the first period after entry into the EU like those that had been given to Poland. It is however very difficult to predict which approach that the EU will adopt. This is because Europe has been divided over this issue of EU Turkish membership. However, some of the major European governments that include France, Britain, Greece and Germany are expressing support for starting and opening consent negotiations with Turkey (Sayari 2003).

The joining of Turkey to the European Union will greatly affect the future political orientation of the EU and Turkey and also the broader strategic interests of the United States in the Black Sea region and Middle East. The United States should recognize that if Turkey is accepted for membership in the EU, then the U.S.-Turkish relations nature will be altered. This is because the integration of Turkey into the EU will be more of “European” Turkey which will organize and coordinate its rules and policy more closely with European capitals and Brussels which is not what the Turkish government has done in the past. This wholly and inevitably affects the tenor of the U.S.-Turkish relations (Scott 2004).

The defense ties in Turkey could also be affected due to their integration with the European Union. In the past, Turkey has always received goods and services from the United States which is their largest supplier of these essential goods and services. Turkey also has received their arms and ammunitions from the United States. Most of the Turkish officers in the army have also been trained in the U.S. This however would change after their integration to the European Union because Turkey will now be under the increasing pressure to “get and buy European” just like most of the new integrated eastern European members of the European Union have been pressured. With time however, Turkey will broaden their defense relationships with the European suppliers and move away from the supplies from the supplies from the United States (Eralp 2003).   

If the EU gives their answer as an unqualified yes, then the EU would have agreed to integrate Turkey without any prior qualifications. This decision would be highly applauded by the United States and would be taken by Washington as a verification that the EU seeks to understand well the wider strategic stakes that are involved in anchoring Turkey more steadfastly to the West. The European and the United States’ policy would therefore be in wide harmony. This would highly reduce the chances that Turkey would be a main source of unwelcomed tension in the European-U.S. relations (Larrabee 2004).

Challenges Turkey would face by not joining EU

In the scenario that the European Union openly rejects the Turkish request to start the negotiations of accession and the actual integration to the EU, then this would be regarded by many in Washington as a big slap in the face for the Turkish government. This would also prove that the European Union lacks strategic vision. This would prompt very strong criticism mostly from most neo-conservatives. This would also exacerbate the existing tensions between Europe and the United States (Cliff & David, 1994).

This move would cause extensive resentment which would then provoke the rethinking of some of the aspects in the policies in Turkey. Turkey would not however be in a position to turn its back entirely from Europe but Ankara would seek very close ties to Israel and Washington. The Muslims would call on them to strengthen their ties with their world. This would weaken Erdogan’s position. All Islamists and nationalists would argue that the decision of EU not to accept Turkey was a good proof that their reliance on Europe had been an illusion and a strategic mistake. This would be followed by the slowed down impetus towards the internal reform which however would not be halted entirely. Turkey however would probably go through a vigorous period of internal turmoil and at this time would sought to sort out its foreign and domestic policy priorities as they would have awoken by the idea and the reality that they had been rejected by the European Union (Larrabee 2004).

In case Turkey is rejected by the European Union, this could lead to an emergence of a more insecure and nationalistic nation, Turkey. This means that it would be less sure of the political orientation that they have and also would be less reliable partner for both United States and Europe (Abramowitz & Burt, 2004). This new Turkey would also be more prone and exposed to take unilateral actions mostly in the areas that are close to its borders especially Iraq. However this is what the European governments should consider and whether this is the development that they would really want Turkey to go through.

Conclusion and recommendation

There is an increasing threat to security and peace in the world and it is becoming more unpredictable and sophisticated. Therefore Europe has to make bold steps in creating endeavors in bringing greater peace and stability to all parts of the world. The EU being a corporation should seek momentum towards regional integration and cooperation in which Turkey has a significant importance in doing so. This is because Turkey has a unique web of relations and deep hinterland in the heart of Eurasia. Turkey should continue to negotiate with the European Union in order to be given access to the EU and this would be of great help to them as a country. It would be also to the benefit of the EU, and the United States.

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