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Aktif Makale How Far Does Continuing Enlargement Affect The İdea Of Europe? Considered Particularly The Case Of Turkey.

Yazan : Dalina Gjunkshi [Yazarla İletişim]

Makale Özeti
The enlargement of EU; analyse on the EU absorbing new members. Analyse of Turkey's case. P.S. Please note that this essay is written in October 2005. The author is working on updating. Please do not hesitate to contribute with your own resources if you wish so.

How far does continuing enlargement affect the idea of Europe? Considered particularly the case of Turkey.

In a memorable 1980 episode of Yes Minister, the wily mandarin Sir Humphrey Appleby explains to hapless minister Jim Hacker that the purpose of British foreign policy for the past 500 years has been to create a disunited Europe. ‘’It is the old divide and rule, you see, that’s why we want to break up the European Union. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we are inside we’re free to make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing’’. But if that is true, asks the aghast Hacker, why is the foreign office pushing for more countries to join? ‘’I’d have thought that was obvious,’’ Sir Humphrey wearily responds. ‘’The more members an organization has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes. ‘’What appalling cynicism,’’ Hacker sighs. ‘’Yes, minister,’’ comes the ever-silky rejoinder: ‘’we call it diplomacy.’’ (The Guardian, June 6, 2005, Pg.21).

While enlargement is announced that it will bring substantial benefits to the EU, it is a fair bet that there are some capitals in which governments suspect that the spirit of Sir Humphrey is just not alive and well in London in 2005, but also purring with satisfaction at the confused condition of the European Union in the aftermath of the French and Dutch referendums.

The road to enlargement is long and seemingly endless. The last round of enlargement, involving the Central and Eastern countries, plus Cyprus and Malta, began in the early 1990s, shortly after the Cold War. Previous rounds of enlargement have occupied, and sometimes preoccupied, the EU since the early 1960s, shortly after the European Community came into existence. Although episodic in its intensity, especially when the accession negotiations reach a crescendo, enlargement is therefore a major, ongoing EU development, as pervasive as economic modernization, regulatory harmonization, or other key aspects of European integration. This study puts enlargement in perspective by asking why countries want to join the EU, why EU allows new members to join and analyzes the affect enlargement has on EU along with the current and future prospects. It then lays out the aspects of the enlargement process of Turkey, Turkey’s democratization and Turkey-EU relations in a multi-dimensional and reciprocal manner, paying attention to how both domestic and European contexts have impact on Turkey and European Union (Disdan, p. 7).

Prospective member states want to join the EU for many reasons. Economic advantage is often the most compelling. Britain, for example, proposed a rival free trade area in the mid -1950’s in order to thwart the European Community, but failed either to undermine it or to establish an alternative pole of economic attraction in Europe. Being eager for its products to have unlimited access to the continental markets, afterwards Britain joined the EC instead. However, Britain’s less compelling strategic reason to join EC is its willing to be able to shape the EC’s orientation from the inside, rather than marginalized from the outside if and when the EC became an influential global actor.
For Britain and Denmark, which applied for EC membership at the same time, there was no question of joining (or rejoining) ‘Europe’. The EC was not then the Europe has later become or projected itself to be. Only for Ireland, the other successful applicant in the first round of enlargement (Norway also applied but eventually decided not to join), did EC membership have a strong ‘identity dimension’. As Ireland wanted to move out of Britain’s shadow, EC membership afforded the economic as well as the political and cultural opportunity to do so. Greece, Portugal and Spain, the next group of candidates, only when they became democracies in the mid-1970s could apply to join the EC. Apart from consolidating democracy and reconnecting to other European countries, Greece, Portugal and Spain wanted urgently to modernize and become more prosperous. Austria, Finland and Sweden, which joined in 1995, were already wealthy, democratic and sure of their European identity. The reason which prevented them to join until then was their military neutrality. Austria, Finland and Sweden saw the end of the Cold War as an opportunity finally to participate fully in the EU marketplace, especially at a time of accelerating economic integration as a result of the single market program.

The newly independent countries of Central and Eastern Europe wanted to join the EU for a range of economic, political and security reasons. They were not less European for not having joined or for not having been able to join the EU at the beginning. For them, Europeanness and EU membership were synonymous and they spoke openly of wanting to rejoin Europe by joining the EU (Dinan, p.9). As ruined by forty years of communism, the Central and Eastern European countries struggled in the early 1990s to make the transition to capitalism. Nevertheless, the economic allure of EU membership was particularly powerful. Each country chose different path and each faced different difficulties and therefore progressed at different speeds. Yet, the EU’s assistance was crucial and investment flowed in those countries. The Central and Eastern European countries as relatively poor but with large agricultural sectors could look forward to substantial financial transfers from the EU budget through Common Agricultural Policy and the structural funds.

Yet, the EU membership had costs as well. Those countries were poor and had suffered enormous environmental damage under their old regimes; therefore meeting environmental standards could be very expensive. Similarly, imposing EU social policy directives, which would result to the increase of labor cost and therefore to falling of foreign investments. Everything had to be balanced.

Another cost of EU membership, being so for all member states in general, was the loss of sovereignty. Their sovereignty would still have to conform to EU rules and regulations in order to increase their global competitiveness. A charge often brought by eurosceptics is the perceived loss of national identity by joining the Union, the concern of the impact the EU membership would have on national identity and cultural distinctiveness. Why, argue some Estonians, should Estonia escape from the Soviet Union and join another Union? The answer is simple. No one is forcing Estonia to join the European Union. Yet membership to the EU is voluntary and they would chose to stay outside. The question of identity is not easy to resolve. Many leading British, German, Spanish and Italian soccer teams are multinational. Frenchmen manage both Arsenal and Liverpool. How does this effect identity? Turkey, Israel and Ukraine all participate in the Eurovision song contest and the European champions’ league soccer competition. But many doubt that any of this countries is really ‘European’ or sufficiently European to join the EU. Some argue that Turkey should never join the EU because it lacks a Christian identity. Yet, identities and loyalties change over time. Citizens may have multiple identities to their local city, region, nation state and to Europe. What is clear is that the development of the EU has affected identities but it has not brought into question the fundamental adherence to national identities. After fifty years of the EU, the French are no less French and the Italians no less Italian. Nevertheless, within the EU, national traits and characteristics abound. EU being sensitive to criticism of cultural homogenization, it celebrates and supports cultural diversity along the national and regional lines. Therefore, the cultural costs of EU membership, like the implications for national sovereignty, did not seem excessive (Cameron, p.12). Certainly the new members have a rich cultural heritage to share with other Europeans. In art, architecture, music, cinema, literature, their contribution to European culture is widely appreciated. In this way it has to be thought about Turkey as well. It is true that existential problems lay in the heart of some of the basic questions asked by ordinary citizens confronted with the diverse society and immigrants from Turkey. However, Turkey as other countries who has joined the Union, has to give much about its culture which is quite different from the West but impressing, its grand tradition of architecture, its reputation of history. Most of the citizens who visit Turkey, come back very impressed and with quite changed ideas about the country.

But why enlarge the EU? Countries have the choice whether to apply for EU membership, but EU has little choice except to admit applicants which meet its reasonable clear-cut criteria. One of these is that countries be European countries of which Turkey is an obvious example although now it membership candidature is acknowledged.

As long as the countries that are undeniably European meet the economic and political criteria for membership, the EU has no grounds for denying the membership. The EU clarified its membership terms in 1993 in so called Copenhagen criteria. This was the time when the Central and Eastern European countries rushed to apply for the EU membership. Only European countries, with liberal, democratic, free-market systems would be considered for membership. However their membership should not be likely to disrupt the process of European integration. Yet France had managed to keep Britain out the EC as it feared the incompletion of the CAP, Britain’s being a superior possible state, etc. Despite the difficulties in negotiations Britain finally accessed the EC in the first enlargement in 1973. After all, the European Community was a community of European states. Greece, Portugal and Spain were hardly to admit countries because of their poor economy. Yet from the perspective of the original member states, enlargement was a difficult and disruptive process whose drawbacks were obvious and benefits unclear. Nevertheless, the EC’s prospects improved greatly in the late 1980s with the launch of the single market program during a period of strong economic growth (Dinan, p. 12). This proving the steady growth of the EC’s responsibilities and the decision to embark on economic and monetary union, the challenges of EU membership became more attractive for new entrants.

Despite the tendency for existing member states to view enlargement uncharitably, the accession of new member states has benefited the EU greatly. Enlargement has added to the EU’s economic as well as physical size and to the EU’s share of global trade, therefore allowing the EU to become a major international actor. Enlargement has diversified the EU’s interests and obliged it to deal ith parts of the world of particular importance to the acceding member states, such as Latin America in the case of Portugal and Spain. Enlargement has also allowed the EU to fill the European space to which its founders and leaders always staked a claim. This is especially true in the case of Central and Eastern European enlargement. This last round of enlargement has also allowed the EU to fulfill what some see as its destiny: overcoming the East West political division, even though an East West economic division will persist for a long time to come. Central and Eastern enlargement allows the EU to revive one of its original reasons for existing to promote stability and enhance security in Europe.

The Mediterranean candidates (Cyprus, Malta and Turkey) were in a different category from the Central and Eastern European countries. Malta posed a special challenge for its being a small country with a population similar in size to Luxembourg’s but not famous for its history of EU’s involvement. There was the fear of Malta’s not fulfillment of the institutional responsibilities. Cyprus, another small island and a special challenge has been divided into the self styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an enclave propped up economically, politically and militarily by Turkey and the Greek Cypriot south, which enjoyed international recognition as a sovereign state.

Turkey’s situation was worse in the comparison to other countries to join EU. As well as administrative and economic shortcomings, the country lacked a solid democratic foundation. Turkey itself applied to join in 1987, but the EU only took its application seriously a decade later, when the prospect of large scale Central and Eastern European enlargement made the country’s possible accession seem less anomalous (Dinan, p.19). Nevertheless, Turkey was in a unique position: apart from being poor and politically volatile, it had a huge population (if it ever joined the EU, Turkey will be the second largest member state after Germany) and was predominantly Muslim. Many Europeans doubted and still do doubt that Turkey is European, either geographically or culturally. Turkey’s trump card is its strategic location on the fault line of East and West, in a chronically unstable region. Turkey wants to join the EU not only for the usual political and economic reasons, but also to shore up secularism against Islamic fundamentalism (Dinan, p.20). Yet, Turkey has to meet the Copenhagen criteria otherwise its membership in the EU is not feasible. Nevertheless, in deference to Turkish sensitivity and to US pressure to Turkey’ s behalf, the EU formally recognized Turkey as a candidate and now the accession negotiations are on run.

In every round of enlargement there were questions in minds. What are the boundaries of Europe to be? What will be the economical impact on enlargement? Will the enlarged Union be able to play a greater role on the world stage? How will the US view the enlarged EU? There are not simple answers to these question and they become more polemical in the case of Turkey. How will Turkey’s potential membership affect the EU?

Each round of enlargement has been accompanied by moves forward in the process of integration, a parallel deepening of the EU (Cameron, p.1). The first enlargement led to the EU adopting a regional policy and was preceded by a common fisheries policy. The second and third enlargements led to the single market, a stronger social policy, an increased commitment to solidarity with the poorer regions and greater powers for the European Parliament. The fourth enlargement followed moves towards economic and monetary union and new policy areas in foreign policy and justice and home affairs. Prior to its fifth and biggest enlargement, the Union introduced the single currency (the euro) and is poised to adopt the constitution that would mark a significant step forward in the process of integration. Now at a time that EU faces major challenges concerning its democratic legitimacy, its internal cohesion and efficiency, its economic performance and its external role, the debates and negotiations about Turkey’s membership and its effect on integration and enlargement are at the top of the agendas.

Nevertheless, today the EU has every reason to take more responsibility for what happens on and beyond its borders. The test case is now the EU’s treatment of Turkey, where there is a new government in Ankara whose evolving relationship with its own religious inheritance is more than a little reminiscent of the dilemmas facing those eminently “European” Christian Democrats half a century ago. The cold War is over and notions of an essentially Christian Europe need to be left behind, too, if the EU is to replicate the success in the next 50 ears that it has enjoyed in the last (Harris, p. 99).

However, yet the prospects for Turkey’s accession remain unclear. In December 2002 the new government of Turkey invested much time, unsuccessfully, in trying to convince the European Council to fix a date for the opening of accession negotiations. In December 2004 European leaders had to make a decision on this matter. During 2003 Turkey appeared to be gaining more sympathy and understanding in both institutions Council and Commission as well as from Member States. Two issues could, however, still hold back Turkey’s progress, its being a Muslim country and the most important being the continuing political role of the army labeled as “the guarantor of the Turkish state…the guardian of the political structure shaped by the Kemalist reforms” (Christou, p.141). Leaving aside the precise institutional arrangements, which are unique for a European country, the role of the army was reported rather negatively when the UN efforts to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem broke down early in 2003. During the Iraq crisis of the spring of 2003, the Turkish military also seemed more cooperative with US than did the Turkish political authorities but it remains to be seen whether the consistent support of Washington for Turkey’s accession to the EU will continue. The fact remains that since 1999 Turkey has been treated as a candidate by EU and now moreover the negotiations are on the run. It receives increasing amounts of “pre-accession” financial assistance and everyone from the right to the left and from nationalist politicians to Kurdish leaders fully believes that Turkey should be in the European Union.

The fundamental question of the enlargement of the EU is how to ensure that an enlarged EU continues to function on the basis of democracy, transparency and efficiency. Furthermore, how do countries which want to join the Union participate in these criteria? Discussing the case of Turkey in particular, one should examine all aspects and perceptions from Turkey.

Turkey’s aspiration to become part of Europe has been longstanding, dating back to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of the new Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It was Ataturk’s belief that Turkey’s future lay with Europe and the West and his intentions were clearly to modernize and civilize Turkey through embarking on a political project to transform Turkish society into a secular and democratic society on the basis of European norms (Christou, p.125). As well as joining organizations as OECD in 1948 and NATO in 1952, Ataturk’s civilization project in due course, also came to mean, for Turkish elites, being a part of the integration process in Europe, with the aim of eventual membership of the European club.

Starting from decades ago, Turkey is now very close yet for some Europeans far from the membership. The EU, urged also by the US, saw Turkey as a stabilizing factor in the region. Rather than its status decreasing after the cold war, in the eyes of the EU, “Turkey gained in importance…as a bridge to the Islamic world, as a NATO partner, associated member of the WEU” and a long time friend (Christou, p.132). Nevertheless, the debate on Turkey’s relations with the European Union tends to focus on socio-political determinants of the crisis that have recurred since Turkey’s membership application in 1987. This is understandable, because there is indeed a significant degree of divergence between EU and Turkish socio-political structures and orientations. One needs only to recall that Turkey has to undertake short-to medium-term reforms in no fewer than 32 policy areas in order to satisfy the political range of the Copenhagen criteria. As facts stand that Turkey has been and is improving fast in all directions to approach these criteria.

The EU has always stated that Turkey “has many of the characteristics of a market economy” and should be able to “cope with competitive pressure” within the EU market, provided that “macroeconomic stability is attained” and “legal and structural reforms” are carried out (European Commission, 2002:22). Furthermore, given the importance of security and cultural identity, Turkey, (with its geopolitical importance and its pivotal position at the EU’s borders) constitutes an important and challenging test case for the New Europe (Keyman & Onis, p.180). The recent global conjuncture indicated that Turkey too has a significant role to play in shaping the future of the New Europe. It must be indicated that the test case does not involve cultural variables alone. In other words, Turkey’s membership can no longer be assessed with reference to the cultural foundations of the “New Europe” or to the domain of cultural essentialism versus multiculturalism. Turkey also constitutes a test case in terms of its geopolitical importance and its pivotal status in the Balkans, Caucasia and, more importantly, in the Middle East. Therefore, the decision to include or exclude Turkey from the New Europe is a decision that the EU should take in reference not only to an essentially inward-oriented integration project but also to its role in the drastically changing international order. If Europe is to acquire a common identity and foreign policy and if it is to emerge as an influential global power against US unilateralism, Turkey definitely has a significant role to perform in this process (Keyman & Onis, p.191).
One reason why we should qualify the significance of the cultural/identity issues in Turkey-EU relations is the following: Turkey’s eventual EU membership would not pose a “new” problem for EU and national policy-makers; it would merely force European policy-makers to address long-standing but conveniently avoided problem that arises out of Europe’s relations with Islamic countries in general and its substantial Muslim minority in particular. In other words, Turkey’s EU membership would induce European policy-makers to give substance to the concept of “New Europe” rather than pose an obstacle to its construction.

Initiated with the Customs Union Decision (CUD), Turkey made significant progress in many policies. Turkey’s economy is quite diverse, with large agricultural, manufacturing and services sectors. Also Turkey’s imports to EU are highly to be taken into consideration, furthermore it is notable the increase in the EU share of Turkish imports. Turkey also has access to the EU for its textiles and clothing exports, which is on of the largest manufacturing industry.

Finally, Turkey has a crucial role to play in linking September 11, 2001. We are witnessing the potential increase of polarization in the international system between the West and Islam, between Eurasia and the West and between the United States and Europe (Eralp, p.82). Turkey is situated in the middle of most of these tensions. Were Turkey to be clearly situated within the EU framework, this would facilitate the creation of more cooperative relations in the critical regions around it. Turkey’s inclusion in the EU would also give Europe more claims to lessen tensions in a multicultural world.

Yet, Turkey’s key government officials have emphasized that the EU is not an obsession and that it has other foreign policy alternatives.

Seen from a historical overview, the only condition applied for the first wave of the enlargement to Britain, Ireland and Denmark was the basic condition defined in article 237 of the Rome Treaty as: ‘’Any European State may apply to become member of the Community.’’ For the southern enlargement (Spain, Portugal and Greece) with states in transition from authoritarian rule to democracy, the European Council added as a condition the "respect for and maintenance of representative democracy and human rights". In fact, what was given a bigger consideration was not to this aspect, but to the economic and administrative capacities of the applicant; thus this became an implicit membership condition. The Community did not, however apply membership conditionality consistently; Greece although considered "not ready" on economic grounds, was accepted in order to support its democratic transition. The conditionality application did not work for Turkey as well (applicant since 1987) based on the same judgment. In the previous enlargement practice, pre-accession strategies as such, were almost lacking and the candidate countries had to cope with these strategies mainly in the transition period after the entry into force of their accession Treaty. (E.g.: UK; one of the most difficult adaptation to the "acquis communautaire" concerning agriculture, only in the 1970’s an agreement for an adjustment of the UK agricultural policy was achieved as regarding their post-enlargement transitional policy). Also legislative changes in the accession countries took place before enlargement, but not as preconceived EC strategy (e.g. UK; constitutional change, in order to adapt the EC law principles of supremacy and direct effect in the British legal order and judicial practice). With the end of the Cold War it became imperative for EU to set out more explicit requirement for membership. The criteria changed quite often and it was tailor-made for each further wave of enlargement. The EFTA-n enlargement (Austria, Finland and Sweden) did not pose any economic problems, so the emphasis was on accepting the EU acquis in common foreign and security policy (CFSP). In order to prepare the Central and Eastern European (CEE) enlargement, in June 1993 the Copenhagen Criteria was issued for the applicant to meet. However, the political, economical and institutional relations between the candidate countries and Brussels and EU Member States has fundamentally shaped progress in the last decade and created a special dynamism of the enlargement process. European Union, like any other club, now sets conditions for new members to enter. These conditions have become more demanding as the Union has evolved; from a simple customs union, now the EU’s competences extend to policy making in diverse areas always widening. EU has become a monetary union where 12 countries have a single currency, the Community law prevails over the national legislations of Member States. Thus, through membership conditionality these achievements and the integration process are thought to be protected.
Now, the countries wishing to join the European Union must meet a certain number of criteria that have been established by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 as the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities (the political condition); a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces within the European Union (the market economy condition) and the ability to take on the obligations of the European Union membership, including adherence to the aims of economic and political union (the asquis condition). However, the Copenhagen criteria did not define clearly the content of each of conditions, so it was the Commission’s job to perform it in Agenda 2000. It sets out the political conditions (indicating what is considered a fully functioning democracy) and the economic criteria). By all above mentioned accession strategies, it is aimed for the new member states a must to make preliminary political, economical, legal adaptations before accession. But at the same time it occurs an important institutional and mentality change/adaptation on the European Union side in order to be ready to absorb the changes brought by last enlargement. Finally, the enlargement of the EU is believed to bring stability and modernization of the EU. The EU becomes a more relevant player in global politics and economy. The global changes which contributed in increasing importance of the Eastern European countries, contributed in the Eastern enlargement as well such as if the enlargement was delayed or didn’t take place, stability in Europe would be seriously at risk and even if EU has a rapid growth, it will still not afford to pay for preserving stability. The difficulties and the dilemmas experienced in Eastern Europe during "the transition" from authoritarian politics and planned economies to more democratic and liberal capitalist regimes, however, seemed to sour western elites on both the case and the appropriateness of extending the European project to the East. Moreover, the previous enlargements had been driven as much by threats to business in member states from American and Japanese competitors, particularly the need for larger protected markets for so-called "Euro-champions" as by devotion to the ideal of a larger Europe (Hudson, 2000:5). The possibility of eastern enlargement came along precisely at a time when the existing member states were adjusting to the new goals laid out in the late 1980’s and beginning to focus on their interests in policy-areas exempt from integration rather than looking for a new challenge (Corbey, 1995). The approach to Eastern Europe between the early 1990’s and the present, however, augurs a fundamental reorientation of the European project as a whole away from a single Europe to a multi-tier, patchwork Europe with various "degrees" of actual membership. To anticipate the main conclusion, Agnew argues that this trend in public discussion about EU enlargement to the east represents a fully fledged victory for a neo-liberal vision of Europe in which uneven economic development across the continent is seen not as a temporary state of affairs to be corrected by policies from Brussels but accepted as an inherent feature of the future of Europe, indeed as an attractive feature of an "integrated Europe" in which common rules of property and capital mobility prevail everywhere but that institutionalizes differences in incomes and standards of living between a core area, a peripheral Europe and an external Europe (Agnew, 2001). Currently, the bias is towards a marketization of the enterprise, with the criteria for the potential eastern members emerging as measures for the European Union as a whole. The question of the EU enlargement, therefore, speaks to the future of the European Union as a whole.

Debate over eastward enlargement of the EU in both EU documents and academic discussions has had two interrelated themes that have undergone subtle but important transformations during the course of 1990’s. The first theme concerns the qualifications of eastern applicants for full membership. The drift here has been from an emphasis on broadly political criteria to relatively narrow economic area, with NATO and membership in other organizations (such as EEA) increasingly held up as "alternatives" to full membership in the EU). At the same time a "geographical line" has been more firmly drawn between a "Central Europe" in tune and the European project and an "Eastern" periphery "beyond the pale" of integration into the new Europe (Ash, 1997; Anderson, 1999). The second theme involves the increasing tension between the official EU position that eastern expansion can simply follow the model previous expansion and the practical need to reform the objectives and organization of the EU in response to the ‘widening’of the membership. Although it’s a taboo…to deny ultimate membership to the applicant states…there are many who would quietly rejoice were enlargement to be almost indefinitely postponed (Spencer, 1998; p.61). This sentiment is reflected in the increasingly selective approach to membership and paralleled by increased debate inside and outside the European Commission about alternatives to full membership in the EU even for those countries with whom negotiations for entry have begun. Now that 10 countries joined on 1st May 2004, supporters of enlargement say this has been a historic opportunity to unite Europe peacefully after generations of division and conflicted is now the world’s biggest single market in population terms and the size of which should boost the EU economy and create jobs, while increasing the influence of the EU in the wider world. But the question that "how will enlargement change the EU" yet, has the only answer: No-one really knows. It will be less easily for France and Germany, acting together, to dominate the enlarged EU. Perhaps rightly, Brussels fears that with 25 countries round the table it will be more difficult to take decisions, the meetings will last longer, most of the old members will have fewer MEP’s, etc. These are maybe the fears in appearance; but yet, most recently discussions and debates are focused on Turkey’s membership as it is still another enlargement planned or promised (like Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania). (BBC News, 18.06.2004). Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said: "we successed" upon the negotiations date confirmation as October the 3rd 2005. After the meetings in Brussels he said: we successes, but we don’t have to fly! We need our feet on earth, we need to be realistic! (Hurriyet, 18.12.2004). This shows that Turkey is aware of its problems such as human rights, democracy, accountability, Cyprus dispute and so on. Still, there is something of a silver lining. And this is the most recent surprise that France and the Netherlands signed in the EU constitution referendums. But before trying to analyze the result, let’s have a look in the Turkey’s journey along the membership negotiations. The debates that focus on Turkey’s European Union membership reveal that there are multiple, profound and essential stakes. The distinctive feature of Turkey lies as well in the specific characteristics of this predominantly Muslim country as in the image and the questioning that this country send back to the European continent as regards its cultural and religious identity. Facing Turkey, Europeans are asking themselves: Who are we? What do we want to be? One can also notice that the discussions aroused by this membership take place on many levels and, in the long run, it becomes difficult to define the precise nature of the discussed question: the only impression left is that Turkey’s membership is indeed problematic and this proves finally that ‘nobody’ is really ready for it. The slogan that wins broad consensus is thus: "let’s wait!" That one should wait and study the questions very closely, it is obvious; nevertheless, what is absolutely urgent today is to clearly distinguish different stakes, different questions roused by this membership and the different levels of analysis. At the global level, three themes emerging from the fundamental questions aroused by Turkey’s membership are such; is Turkey really part of the European continent? Does the predominantly Islamic Turkish society really participate in the European identity? Are the fundamental human rights and the principles of democracy suitably respected? Some intellectuals and European specialists endeavored to show that "even geographically speaking" Turkey did not belong to Europe and that the "small intrusion" on this side of the Bosporus was not enough to justify Turkey’s EU membership because Turkey was above all an Asian nation, and Europe, on the other hand, is bound to determine "boundaries". This view can be unfounded with regard to the historical and geographical facts which show and prove that Turkey, for so many years has been linked with the European reality. With its construction and its shape; secondly this view can be found dangerous because by pretending to geographically delimit Europe, it attempts to conceal that the real issue is religious and cultural. Indeed, one does not hear the same "geographical" reserve when speaking about Russia. Thus, is that a weak argument which actually, hides the central question of the Islamic nature of Turkey? (Ramadan, Zaman, 06.25.2005).

I will option to focus on real problematic view and concerns about Turkey’s membership as such the human rights, rule of law and religious aspect. In my view, economical criteria, in not a far-to-reach approache for Turkey itself as we see that it has improved very speedily in a short period of time. Being very closed with Turkey I have been able to closely follow the developments in every aspect and I strongly believe that Turkey is doing its outmost in capturing the EU economic standards. As an example, after the 2 economic crisis in 2000 – 2001 while the inflation rates were about 25, this year this number is about 5-6. Thus, I do not see the economic aspect as a preventive one for Turkey’s membership. Furthermore, we should bear in mind, that not all member states have been in the required economic standards in their accession as such the Eastern European countries. But, in my view, the problematic aspects deal more with the social standards. Turkey has officially applied for the EU membership in 1987, date which arises question marks in one’s mind. Obviously, the reasons lay behind Turkey itself and the EU as well. Although an applicant, Turkey as whole, did not make big efforts to comply with EU standards, either EU did not push along. It was when the AKP leader pressed and speeded up the negotiations that something in concrete was discussed and achieved. But what will be the EU with Turkey? Indeed, we all have just assumptions. No-one can know, but the time will show. Prof. Dr. Huntington from USA, Harvard University says that Turkey can never enter the EU. "It is because the Europeans do not want it, they will do their outmost because the EU’s membership of Turkey will create divisions with EU" underlines he in his book (Medeniyetler catismasi, 2005). He stands behind the view that Turkey as a different culture, religion and history cannot be a part of Europe. He also mentions that most probably Turkey will be aleat of the other non-Arabic countries such as: Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India and Russia. Or it could be the leader of the Islamic countries he continues. However, Turkish population believes that once Turkey fulfills Copenhagen criteria, it will be able to access the full membership (Hurriyetim, 28.05.2004). Yet, previous to the French referendum about the EU constitution, 25 members of French parliament published an article in LE Figaro with the headline: "How could we welcome to Europe the ones who say, the minares are our faith?" They have been cried out for a "yes" to the constitution in order to say "no" to Turkey (Le Figaro, 11.05.2005). In the independent of June 4, 2005, Castle asked: Are all "no" voters singing from the same song sheet? Although the answer is "no" in appearance, many in both countries seem to have been opposing the enlargement of the EU, which admitted 10 new countries last year, and hate the ides of Turkey starting membership talks. As in France the people fear that in this case, they might lose their jobs. Even more, the British enthusiasm for Turkish accession to the EU will run into greater opposition, not just from France and the Netherlands, but Austria and if the government in Berlin changes, in Germany. The crisis of the constitution is showing to be deeper than in appearance. Many EU’s politicians are announcing the constitution as "dead", while French President Chirac signaled that he would block the moves to bring Turkey into the EU unless this crises was resolved (Chapman, J. Daily Mail, June 14, 2005).
Well, "Ou va l’Europe maintenat"? (French: What now for Europe?). While the leader of Turkey’s governing party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attacks the European Union for applying double-standards in its judgments about which countries might join the EU and when, Turkey is continuously being criticized for its human rights record (BBC News, 9 December, 2002). He has singled out Latvia’s human rights record, which has joined the EU last year and he finds impossible to understand this and the EU should leave aside double standards. Here, once again reinforces the feeling amongst many in Turkey that the problem is not either country’s human records or economic criteria to be fulfilled, but the fact is an overwhelmingly Muslim society. Yet, Britain and Blair are amongst them who have argued that paving the way to Turkish membership of the EU would send a positive signal to the Muslim world, it would show that the Europe was not anti-Muslim and that a modern Muslim country is capable of being integrated with the West. While some Europeans see integrating Turkey as a huge challenge, and one that can not be rushed as such as its human rights standards, others fear that Turkish membership and the free movement of Turkish workers throughout Europe would fuel anti-immigrant sentiment (BBC News, 13 September 2002). Actually, at this point, as Britain takes over the six months rotating presidency of the EU, more problematic is its drive start membership talks with Turkey on 3 October. Not only is France as mentioned above, and the Netherlands, likely to be wary, but the main German opposition party is opposed to Turkish membership of the EU, and it could become to power in elections scheduled for September. In fact, as being just underline the EU’s Turkey immigration concern, the above opposition declared countries, are in fact the countries which best have experienced the migration flows from Turkey. They still face problematic aspect with this population, although most of which has successed to integrate in these countries.
However, EU heads of government have agreed to open the talks but all member countries will have to agree a negotiating mandate with Turkey at the end of this month. Yet, it is clear that diplomats are bracing themselves for new obstacles to plans to open membership talks with Turkey. Even before the "no" votes in France and the Netherlands, Austria had threatened to block EU membership talks with Turkey if there were no prior agreement to start talks with Croatia (Belfast telegraph, June 3, 2005).

Nevertheless, in Commissions 2004 report, Turkey has been mentioned as to have taken satisfactory steps towards strengthening guarantees in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms and limiting capital punishment. The reforms related to economic, social and cultural rights contain a number of positive elements as well and the reform of the judicial system is ongoing. Despite several initiatives to foster more transparency in Turkey’s public life, corruption remains a serious problem. The economic situation in South East needs to be improved still. Indeed, when one visits Turkey, will notice an unbelievable sharp difference between main big cities in the Western part and the Southern part of the Country. Visiting Istanbul makes you feel nothing different from Europe, while in Southern cities regional disparity, social and cultural conditions are to be mentioned as extremely poor. Turkey still does not have a functioning market economy and there is still a lot to be done. Still, in one of my conversations with the governing of the Central Bank of Turkey I learnt that considerable parts of its economy are already competing even in the EU’s market. Turkey’s alignment with the acquis is most advanced in the areas covered by the Customs Union and it has started a substantial reform in the agricultural sector. Though it has begun to make progress in most of the areas, Turkey does not yet meet the Copenhagen political criteria and is therefore encouraged to intensify and accelerate the process of reform to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully protected both in law and in practice, for all citizens, throughout the country.

Finally, it is a commonplace of discussions about the EU that it represents a novel type of institution based on an "alternative means of organizing human beings" (Linklater, 1998, Pg.218) to existing states. It is a great ideological hope and organizational prototype for the whole humanity. If Europeans can sink their differences after what they have done to one another in the 20th century then there is hope for all, even Turkey to be a precious member of the Union. It is partly in this spirit and in the hope also for economic salvation that Turkey has applied has applied to join EU. Alternatively, engaging with economic, political, cultural and religious differences need not signify abandonment of the goal of the single Europe. Rather, accepting and valuing the regional and local differences could be central to regional and local economic vitalization.


John A, (2001), How many Europe? University of Los Angeles, USA, European Urban and regional studies

Corbey, D. (1995), Dialectical Functionalism: Stagnation as a booster of European Integration, International Organization, (49)2, 253-84

Hudson R, (2000), One Europe or many? Reflections on becoming European, paper presented at Annual IBG/RGS Conference, University of Sussex

Huntington S.P. (1993), ‘’The clash of civilization’’, Foreign affairs 72: 22-49

BBC News website:

Turkish daily news online:

Zaman online:

Hurriyetim online:

Official website of the European Union:

Report of the European Commission on the progress towards accession by each of the candidate countries, (2001),

Turkey is not a European country, says Giscard, article retreived from:
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