Should the European Union commit itself to including Turkey in the future, offering it a starting date for accession negotiations?
All the Yes points:
- There is no obvious and widely accepted geographical definition of Europe.
- Turkey’s citizens may be Muslims, but the country is as firmly secular.
- Turkey has a better history of democratic elections than a number of the former communist states.
- Turkey is a large country in European terms.
- Turkey is near some global flash points.
- The EU has welcomed poorer entrants before without disaster.
- Turkey was promised a chance to join the EU at the Helsinki summit in 1999.
- Precedent (Romania and Bulgaria)
All the No points:
- Human Rights Record
- Animosity Between Turkey and Existing Member States, i.e. Greece
- Free Labour Market – Turkish and Kurdish Migrants Would Flood to EU States with Better Living Standards
- Fear of a Backlash Due to Turkey’s Political and Religious Influences
- Stability of Turkey’s Democracy
- Turkey is not in Europe
There is no obvious and widely accepted geographical definition of Europe.
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.
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.
Turkey’s citizens may be Muslims, but the country is as firmly secular.
Turkey’s citizens may be Muslims, but the country is as firmly secular as France in terms of its constitution and government. 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.
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 has a better history of democratic elections than a number of the former communist states.
Turkey has a better history of democratic elections than a number of the former communist states currently negotiating their membership of the EU. 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.
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.
Turkey is a large country in European terms.
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.
Turkey is too big to be safely included within 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.
Turkey is near some global flash points.
Turkey is near some global flash points, but its entry into the EU would not bring these potential dangers closer to current EU members. 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.
Turkey has some dangerous neighbours and its inclusion within the EU would expose Europe to a greatly increased risk of crisis and conflict. 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.
The EU has welcomed poorer entrants before without disaster.
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.
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 was promised a chance to join the EU at the Helsinki summit in 1999.
Turkey was promised a chance to join the EU at the Helsinki summit in 1999, when its candidacy was unanimously accepted after three decades of consistent Turkish requests. Clearly economic and political reforms are necessary, but that is true of all member states and should not be used as an excuse to backtrack now. Starting negotiations will focus attention upon what must be done before entry can take place, perhaps in a decade or so, as it has in Central Europe over the past few years. If the EU is seen to break its promise to Turkey it may turn a potential friend and partner into a suspicious and hostile neighbour.
Turkey first applied to join the EU back in the 1960s but there is no document where EU leaders have promised to include Turkey in the future. Even if they had, past declarations (as opposed to treaties) cannot be held to bind today’s leaders in weighing both their own national interest and the wider European interest. The possible negative impact of Turkish EU membership upon existing members must be considered. The recent rise of far-right anti-immigration politicians, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen, Jorg Haidar and Pym Fortuyn point to a dangerous public reaction to more open borders and unchecked migration.
Precedent (Romania and Bulgaria)
Romania and Bulgaria, who have by far the worst human rights’ records in the EU were prioritized over Turkey when they were granted the right of accession, joining the EU in 2007. The EU has in the past rewarded states that have made a big effort to democratize and change policy in order to be allowed in to the EU, and yet member states have only taken these steps after being issued hope from EU elites themselves that there was a strong chance of success in their application.
By essentially procrastinating on Turkey’s case, the EU are discouraging Turkey from making the required changes to their legislature and norms and thus hindering their chances of accession; and yet there is not much point in doing so at present as EU elites seem hostile to Turkey ever being a future member state. Countries such as Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic were pressurized to reform at a rapid pace after being promised by the EU they would likely be in the EU in a relatively short period of time; Turkey has been given no such promises and so spending vast quantities of time and resources in preparing to make similar changes would be likely to be a poor investment.
Turkey should have even more ‘right’ to be in the EU as these states, as it formally applied for membership long before these states and should thus be given priority over them, not discouragement about future prospects of joining even as these states have since acceeded to the union.
It is the EU’s attitudes and hostility to future membership that has hindered Turkey’s bid for membership and has made efforts to appease Brussels essentially pointless.
Human Rights Record
The sine qua non of EU norms is having a strong human rights record – which Turkey does not have. In 2006, 10% of the pending cases to be addressed by the European Court of Human Rights were against Turkey [[http://www.taa.gov.tr/proje/dersnotu/Zwaak-EfficiencyofECHR.pdf]].
As the European Court of Human Rights was set up to uphold principles set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights, which all member states are required to sign, this clearly poses somewhat of a problem. And in cases where judgments have been put forward by the European Court of Human Rights, Turkey is often loath to implement the advice of the court, as in the Loizidou Case, [[http://www.taa.gov.tr/proje/dersnotu/Zwaak-EfficiencyofECHR.pdf]].
In particular, Turkey represses its main minority, the Kurds and has been criticized for the routine use of torture by the Turkish armed forces in interrogations of PKK members and sympathizers. Amnesty International reports that over 400 detainees have been tortured to death since 1980. Human rights workers, journalists who report on the civil war, and doctors who attempt to provide medical care to wounded Kurds also are frequently arrested and tortured. During this decade, disappearances have also become common [[http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2008&country=7508]]. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances reported that in 1994, there were over 50 disappearances in Turkey, more than in any other country [[http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/TestFrame/efb18eb4337a6c768025672b003c3b30?Opendocument]].
Turkey refuses even to acknowledge that Kurds have a seperate culture and ethnicity, referring to them as ‘Mountain Turks’. From Turkey’s beginnings, Ataturk banned the use of the Kurdish languages and did not allow Kurds to be recognized as distinct from the Turkish people. Contemporary Turkish leaders clearly don’t see the need to stop repressing the Kurdish people simply for wanting independence (and, let’s face it, who could blame them?). This is a clear violation of human rights and contradicts the ethics on which the EU is based.
Surely countries with a history of bad human rights activities should be embraced by the EU, in the hope that the EU will have a positive influence on them. It is true that banning them from membership is an effective punishment but that will not enforce any change. If we wish to see compliance with Human Rights conventions we have to ensure that countries that may contravene them are under the jurisdiction in the first place! Once they are members we can then encourage better behaviour through punishing any further contraventions.
Animosity Between Turkey and Existing Member States, i.e. Greece
Existing animosity between a member state and a non-member state is a good reason not to allow Turkey in to the union. The EU has been a successful security regime over the past half century – introducing two member states who have a conflict over another member state, Cyprus, would only lead to tensions and conflict and might hinder further EU cooperation and strength through taking time out to mediate Greek-Turkish relations.
The EU was originally created for just this situation! Politically the EU is a body designed to ensure that there is co-operation between members and ensure that the outbreak of war is made as unlikely as possible. Turkey should be encouraged to join so that war with Greece becomes less probable.
Free Labour Market – Turkish and Kurdish Migrants Would Flood to EU States with Better Living Standards
The unspoken elephant in the room when it comes to EU discussions on whether Turkey should be allowed to accede is the fact that Turkey is a nation of over 70 million with significantly different living conditions and lower wages than most EU member states.
Most EU states are already going through a recession and credit crunch and are suffering enough without a potentially huge number of Turkish migrants legally given the right to live and work in 27 member states, but who would be expected to choose to reside mainly in the more prosperous member states such as the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. This brings the fear of immigrants coming in significantly – especially for Germany, who by 2004 already had 1.739 million Turkish people living in Germany (one third of which are Kurds), [[http://www.faz.net/s/Rub594835B672714A1DB1A121534F010EE1/Doc~E0F99A1C8B80A445E84A70B8453383895~ATpl~Ecommon~SMed.html#F603AFF15A3548B08367A3ED2DB2733A]] who make up approx. one fourth of the immigrant population in Germany – to allow migrants to come in legally could potentially hinder Germany’s economy significantly by increasing unemployment levels even further.
Fear of a Backlash Due to Turkey’s Political and Religious Influences
The fact that Turkey is politically and religiously divided is another unspoken pink elephant in the room. Yes, Turkey is overwhelmingly Islamic, but it is not Saudi Arabia – they are also the most moderate and ‘western’ Islamic country there is.
However, proponents arguing for Turkey’s bid for EU membership should consider that Turkey is a diverse country, arguably divided religiously and politically between the more liberal and moderate Western influence, and the more politically and religiously conservative influence (which continues to be an influence, although this influence tends to be focused more in East Turkey).
Should Turkey accede to the EU which is overwhelmingly liberal and whose laws supercede those of national laws, this would almost certainly lead to a backlash and political actions (which might not necessarily be democratic or non-violent) from the conservative influence over this perceived ‘triumph’ of liberalism within Turkey.
There are also persisting fears that if Turkey were to join, they would press ‘Islamic’ issues and concerns to the fore, and might clash with the EU in this respect, e.g. over Palestine, which, if the EU were to be perceived as not being in agreement with Turkey, might lead to opposition and hostility to the EU, which would not easily be resolved.
Regardless of one’s beliefs surrounding Turkey’s possible ascension to the European Union, the fact that the nation’s predominant religion is Islam is surely not one of the issues to be considered. If the EU is to be regarded as an institution that promotes freedom for the citizens of its member states then surely this also means that it promotes freedom of religion. If EU member states are fearful of building closer relations with Islam, which they will inevitably have to, proceeding with the world’s most moderate and ‘western’ Islamic country is the most logical first step.
Stability of Turkey’s Democracy
Just over a decade ago, Turkey’s armed forces forced the ruling coalition to resign and the Islamist party Welfare, who had won parliamentary elections in 1995 and joined the ruling coalition the following year withdrew from power [[http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2008&country=7508]].
The nature of the struggle between Turkey’s generals – who try and keep the country as secular as possible (arguably at the expense of taking away the right of the people to decide for themselves which party/representative best represents their views) and the increase in votes for conservative Islamic political views and, resultantly, influence of conservative Islamic political forces the generals want to avoid coming to the fore paves for an unstable political environment which is vulnerable [[http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/01/opinion/01tue2.html]].
The EU surely cannot accept a government in which the military plays such a large role, and yet neither can it accept a member state with conservative Islamic leader, leaving the EU essentially with no option except to deny Turkey membership until it resolves this issue.
Side Propositions argument precisely links us back to the nature and obligation of the European Union. Isolating Turkey so it can fix it’s own problems by itself and then coming back and register is not what a leading European Body should do. Embracing Turkey as a needy state and providing advisory and physical support(such as military aid etc.) is what can both help Turkey and strengthen EU.
Military role is not a pretext for halting progress, but rather, a reason for speeding it up. we cannot open up the EU for perfect nations to come in, our goal is to help those who require aid to become a stable nation.
Turkey is not in Europe
There might be other reasons that would mean Turkey could not join the EU but the most important one is that it is not in Europe. We have to draw the line somewhere – the EU is not a worldwide confederation.
True – a part of Turkey is in Europe but only a little part.
For the same reason we should be clear to Israel, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia that they may not join. Russia could join if it split from Siberia.
If Turkey could join why not Iraq or Iran?
Given that the European continent does not really have a clearly defined frontier it is difficult to see that the EU should be entirely based upon Geography. It should also be noted that while Turkey’s land area is almost entirely in Asia the European part does have immense historical significance and has population in Europe of about 14million out of a total population of 72million, larger than many of the smaller EU members.
Then again Turkey is part of NATO and it is difficult to argue it is on the North Atlantic.
The answer to why not Iraq or Iran is indeed why not? But both would have an immense way to go. Turkey has been trying to be European for almost a century while Iran in particular rejects much of what it means to be European, so if they ever became secular democracies that are westward looking and are reasonably prosperous then indeed why not. But I would not expect the issue to arise for well over 50 years if ever (as by then everyone will be looking east not west!)