an Advantageous Turning Point for the EU or an Adverse Drawback
This article will attempt to explore the issues regarding Turkish accession into the European Union. There are advantages and disadvantages for the European Union (EU) if Turkey is to become a member. Some setbacks for Turkey stand in the way of it becoming a member, such as economic concerns and Turkey’s previous problems with human rights issues. If Turkey should even be considered part of the European Union is also a concern, due to the fact that Turkey is predominately a Muslim country. If Turkey becomes a member it will be the first predominately Muslim country to ever join the EU.
The Turkish membership process to the European Union has been going on ever since Turkey applied to the EU in 1959, but it has just recently been seriously considered for full membership. There has been many reports and information that has been flooding the news, explaining and analyzing if Turkish membership will be advantageous for the EU or not. Most of the literature found on this issue is unbiased and states the current facts about EU and Turkey. The literature merely explains the advantages and disadvantageous of membership and leaves it up to the reader to come up with their own decisions. Some authors, such as Katinka Barysch and Subidey Togan, seem more towards allowing Turkish membership, while Arthur Bonner and Lucy Jones lean towards being against Turkish membership. Lucy Jones of the European Press Review stated that “Turkey could become a bottomless pit into which billions will be poured without the economy getting on its feet.” This is a view that Turkey will never meet the criteria for accession and if allowed can be a waste to EU’s funds. A more brighter and favorable view is of Katinka Barysch of the Centre for European Reform stated “Turkish integration has more economic benefits for the EU, than costs. Turkey is one of the fastest growing economies…If the EU fails to solve its problems, the Union in 2010 will be gridlocked, slow-growing, an inward looking and unwelcoming there is no reason why Turkey should want to join such a club.” This issue is fairly divided and ultimately it will be up to the European community to decide about Turkish accession.
Social, Historic and Intellectual Context
Turkey has had a long association with the project of European integration. It made its first application to join what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) in July 1959. The EEC’s response to this first application was to propose the creation of an association between the EEC and Turkey until a time came that circumstances permitted Turkey’s accession. This association came into being with the signing of the Ankara Agreement in September 1963. This agreement envisaged the progressive establishment of a customs union which would bring the two sides closer together in economic and trade matters. The Ankara Agreement was supplemented by an additional protocol signed in November 1970, which set out a timetable for the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods circulating between Turkey and the EEC.
There was a temporary freeze in Turkish- EEC relations as a result of the military intervention in government in 1980. However, following the multiparty elections of 1983, relations were re-established and Turkey applied for full membership in 1987. The European Commission’s Opinion on Turkish membership, endorsed by the European Council in February 1990, confirmed Turkey’s eligibility for membership yet deferred an in-depth analysis of its application until the emergence of a more “favorable environment”(Flam).
Mutual trade between Turkey and the EU is a key factor in EU- Turkey relations. The customs union between Turkey and the EU was established in 1995. Since then, the European Community’s (EU-25) share in Turkey’s foreign trade has continued to increase to the extent that Turkey is now the EU’s 7th biggest trading partner (up from 9th in 1990). It is also now the 13th biggest exporter to the EU (up from 17th in 1990). In the first nine months of 2004, the proportion of Turkish exports destined for the EU increased to 54.87%. At the same time, the proportion of Turkey’s imports that came from the EU climbed to 50.62%. Turkey’s share in total EU exports has climbed since the financial crisis in 2001 to 3.95 % in 2004, while its share in total EU imports was 3.01% (Flam).
At the Helsinki European Council of December 1999 Turkey was officially recognized as a candidate state on an equal footing with other candidate states. This marked the beginning of a pre-accession strategy for Turkey designed to stimulate and support its reform process through financial assistance and other forms of cooperation. Turkey also drew up a National Plan for the Adoption of the Acquis, which outlined the government’s own strategy for the harmonization of its legislation with that of the EU.
A revised Accession Partnership was adopted by the European Council in May 2003. The purpose of the Accession Partnership is to assist the Turkish authorities in their efforts to meet the accession criteria, with particular emphasis on the political criteria. It covers in detail the priorities for accession preparations, in particular implementation of the acquis, and forms the basis for pre-accession assistance from Community funds.
A revised National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis was adopted in July 2003. Both the Accession Partnership and the National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis are revised on regular basis to take account of progress made and to allow for new priorities to be set.
On December 17, 2004, the European Council defined the perspective for the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey. Following the opening of negotiations the European Commission is expected to produce a revised accession partnership document, which will identify priority areas in which Turkey needs to make progress.
The 44th session of the Turkey-EC Association Council was held in Luxembourg on April 26, 2005. At this meeting, the two sides reviewed the current status of EU-Turkey relations, with the EU summarizing the state of play of preparations in view of the opening of accession negotiations, while Turkey outlined its expectations regarding the negotiation framework and the revised Accession Partnership (Bonner).
A Joint Parliamentary Committee comprising representatives of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the European Parliament also meets frequently to discuss matters related to EU-Turkey relations. The most recent meeting of the Committee took place at the end of February 2005. The last meeting took place in June 2005.
This paper investigates the issue of Turkish membership into the European Union. The research question addressing the issue is:
What are the advantages and disadvantages of Turkish membership to the European Union?
Advantages and Disadvantages
Turkish accession will affect the EU economically and socially in many ways. Migration, security, social standing, trade, budget, youth, agriculture, human rights, and Islam are all factors that will affect the European Union if Turkey becomes a member. The costs and benefits for the EU vary, EU’s growth will be marginal if Turkey is to join, but for security and the migration potential is high. There are a few obstacles in the way with Turkey being a predominately Islamic country and problems with human rights issues.
The growth impulse for the EU as a result of Turkey’s membership will be marginal: From the Union’s viewpoint, the entry of a country is rational if it raises internal and external security or increases overall economic benefit. Considering the relatively small size of Turkey’s economy and the limited trade volume, membership for Turkey will have only marginal effects on growth in the current EU. This does not mean that trade and investment cannot rapidly expand to bilateral advantage as a Turkish growth process occurs. Such a development is also possible in the context of current integration levels combined with a solid national economic policy. An EU accession perspective further supports this.
The migration potential and the financial costs will be high: Potential economic effects only have real purchase when unified rules are implemented in the same manner for all participants of a defined economic group. In the case of Turkey this will require time and considerable effort. Large economic disparities can also lead to adaptation costs in EU core countries. The income gap would remain an important motivation for traveling and a high – if also difficult to quantify – migration potential is to be reckoned with (up to 4 million). Long-term transition periods before full free movement of persons is introduced would then be unavoidable. The costs of an accession to the EU by Turkey will be high: with full political integration, around 21 billion euros (in 2014). By comparison the EU Commission estimates 27.6 billion euros (in 2025). Welfare loss for old and new member countries is to be expected if transfers to Turkey are redirected from elsewhere or tax increases are imposed (Barysch). It is unlikely that EU member states would be willing to pay such large sums. Alternatives could be found by formulating special conditions for Turkey, which could stimulate political tensions with Ankara. Extensive reforms of agricultural and structural policies would be the other option. However, they are very difficult to implement in a EU with 27 or more members.
Political-strategic arguments dominate: There are frequent assertions that accession negotiations will have resulting positive effects on European security; as a counter model to fundamentalist Islam. Turkey’s questionable status in the Arab Middle East, and tense relations with many of its neighbors, means that any notion of Turkey’s functioning as some kind of model for other Muslim countries to emulate is presently hard to support intellectually if not politically (Khan). Beyond this, a European perspective for Turkey could be developed without a necessary full EU membership.
Membership for Turkey will have far-reaching consequences for the EU: The entry of the Central and Eastern European Countries’ (CEEC) has already changed the EU from a union of mainly rich industrial countries to a heterogeneous club with a large number of transition countries. Economic and monetary policies are therefore faced with stern challenges to maintain internal coherence and a sharp focus on goals (Jones). This affects the enforcement of internal market regulations and coordination tasks. While the industrial core countries are compelled to internationally secure and extend their competitiveness in advanced technologies, the unified countries must first induce a successful real convergence process. Additionally, the question is raised as to whether in such a heterogeneous economic space it is sensible that all adhere to a communal monetary policy.
One of the key properties of the Turkish economy is advanced trade integration. Through its 1995 customs union agreement with the EU economy Turkey already participates in the EU internal market for goods (but not for labor services) and will adopt significant parts of the acquis independent of the state of accession decisions. Thus, the country has arrived at a higher degree of EU integration than the CEEC’s at a comparable stage before their accession (Barysch). As indicated by the increasing share of overall exports to GDP and the constant share of the EU in overall Turkish trade, the customs union with the EU did not lead to trade diversion but mainly to trade creation.
Turkey is endowed with a rather low degree of human capital. In this respect, Turkey’s scores in variables like total expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP and the percentage of the adult population with upper secondary education deserve a closer look. In terms of investment in, and output of, education, Turkey’s performance is certainly much worse than in the EU. However, according to the same criteria, the CEEC perform at about the EU average (Bonner). These deficits appear even larger in view of the exceptionally high share of the Turkish school age population and its great importance for Turkey’s future growth prospects.
Turkey is characterized by demographic dynamism. Turkey’s labor force will continue to experience grow rates of more than one percent. for at least one more generation. In contrast, the labor force currently tends to be shrinking in many CEEC. This huge discrepancy gives Turkey potentially much more dynamism and leeway for growth. Moreover, Turkey’s working age population is currently increasing 1.5 percentage points faster than the total population (Barysch). This implies ample room for redistribution, pension payments and the like before Turkey experiences the same demographic transition to lower demographic dynamics as that the EU will face soon. This will also help the aging labor force of many of EU countries.
External debt and capital flight has been a key feature of Turkish financial performance for decades now. Turkey’s foreign debt burden is higher than that of most other new EU entrants or EU candidate countries. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) figures, it amounts to around 80 to 100 billion euros. Most of it, around 70 percent, is government debt. Since cumulated current account deficits since 1963 have been only slightly above 40 billion euros (Flam).
The agricultural sector is still a big player in the Turkish economy. Turkey is strongly similar to other CEEC (above all Poland and Romania) in that a large part of the workforce is officially employed in agriculture. One third of the Turkish labor force is employed in this sector but it accounts only for about 12% of GDR. As in other EU countries, this indicates the low labor productivity performance of this sector and – to a certain extent – also some potential labor-shedding and emigration (Togan). However, a marked difference to other candidate countries consists of the fact that Turkey runs a significant trade surplus to the EU in agricultural goods. The main reason is that Turkey – due to its favorable climate – is one of the few countries which specialize in products for which the EU does not significantly hamper imports. For example; fruits, vegetables and nuts. In addition, in contrast to the CEEC case, some Turkish agricultural products have been protected even more heavily than by the EU. In the case of Turkish EU membership the protection of this sector would be abolished and would, for instance, mean increasing farm sizes. Hence, human capital problems in this sector will become even fiercer in the future. A large amount of Turkish exports to the EU come from a minor, progressive sub-sector. At the same time, the remaining sub-sectors employ the vast majority of the labor force but are not competitive (Flam).
The issue with human rights has been with the minorities in Turkey. Most of the Turkish population consider themselves as Turks, except for the large Kurdish minority based in the southeast of the country. The Kurdish population is estimated to about thirteen million people, roughly twenty percent of the total population. The Turkish majority views expressions of Kurdish nationalism as a threat to the territorial integrity of Turkey and due to that thousands of Kurds have been forced from their villages to urban areas in Turkey or abroad. Until recently, Turkey restricted publication, broadcasting and education in a number of minority languages, particularly dialects of Kurdish. The Turkish constitution of 1961 allowed Kurdish publications in principle, but many were confiscated for inciting separatism. During the 1980s, several laws were brought in to suppress the use of Kurdish in public life as part of a heavy-handed military response to Kurdish separatism. Under foreign pressures, the Turkish government has legalized the use of Kurdish languages. There are private schools that teach in Kurdish and Kurdish radio and TV broadcasting is allowed on national media. In the most recent Accession Report by the European Union Commission reports that rates of human rights violations are on the decrease (Flam).
Another major issue before EU will allow for Turkey to become a member is that it wants Turkey to admit to the mass genocide of Armenians that occurred in 1915. The Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the twentieth century, occurred when two million Armenians living in Turkey were eliminated from their historic homeland through forced deportations and massacres. The genocide was the forced mass evacuation and related deaths of hundreds of thousands or over a million Armenians, during the government of Young Turks from 1915 to 1917 in the Ottoman Empire. Several facts in connection with the genocide are a matter of ongoing dispute between parts of the international community and Turkey. Although it is generally agreed that events said to comprise the Armenian Genocide did occur, the Turkish government rejects that it was genocide, on the alleged basis that the deaths among the Armenians, were not a result of a state-sponsored plan of mass extermination, but from the result of inter-ethnic strife, disease and famine during the turmoil of World War I. Ankara has drawn criticism and accusations of historical revisionism for this reason, especially inside the European Union. Despite this thesis, most Armenian, Western, and an increasing number of Turkish scholars believe that the massacres were a case of what is termed genocide. For example, most Western sources point to the sheer scale of the death toll. The event is also said to be the second-most studied case of genocide, and often draws comparison with the Holocaust (Bonner). A growing list of countries have officially recognized and accepted the authenticity of the Armenian Genocide. If Turkey wants to become a full member of the EU, it will have to admit to these massacres that occurred or the EU will not see Turkey fit to join.
More recently, there have been problems with Turkey concerning Cyprus. Turkey has had a long-festering problem of divided Cyprus, a legacy of an invasion decades ago that stands as a problem for Turkey’s accession. The European Commission on November 8, 2006 threatened to recommend freezing entry talks unless Turkey opens its ports and airports to EU member Cyprus by mid-December. Turkey said Cyprus is a political problem that has nothing to do with the technicalities of the negotiation process. Turkey wants the self-declared state in the north of Cyprus, which is only recognized by Ankara, to be allowed to trade with the rest of the world in return for backing a U.N.-drafted reunification plan that Greek Cypriots rejected in 2004. Greek Cypriot leaders say that allowing direct trade with northern Cyprus would imply recognition of the breakaway state. Turkey, in turn, insists that even if it opens its doors to Greek Cypriot ships and planes, it would not mean recognition of the Greek part of Cyprus. The European Commission decided against recommending the immediate suspension of the year-old entry talks despite this deadlock, and Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, said in Rome that Turkey would achieve “positive results” despite the “obstacles and barriers.” (Hacaoglu) Turkey is under pressure to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot goods before EU leaders meet at a Dec. 14-15 summit in Brussels.
The issue of cultural difference should not in principle exclude an accession, though it should be dependent upon the agreement of the European citizenry: EU membership for Turkey has a political-cultural dimension that is of wide-ranging importance for both parties. It cannot be determined a priority whether, against the background of a largely Muslim society and a state whose secular character is guaranteed by the military, European values can be anchored and sustained in Turkey. If they can be, then this would certainly have an important exemplar function. If this does not happen then a culturally motivated backlash would cause enormous problems for the EU (Yavuz). It would require the application of comprehensive sanction measures in order to enforce basic values. For the EU, as a union of citizens, the membership of Turkey is also a matter of identity. European citizens should answer the question of whether the cultural or geographic borders of Europe have been transcended. An entry for Turkey would be justified if they gave a clear vote in favor. They would then also be prepared to render the necessary solidarity within the community framework. Turkey is one country that straddles the geographic divide between Europe and Asia, and the cultural divide between the Western and Islamic worlds. If this accession is to take place, it would bring these two cultures together, if that is what the European community wants.
Overall, it is estimated that even tough Turkey is a highly populated country, which is below average compared to many other EU states, there are benefits of Turkish accession. The migration, trade and agriculture potential is high. With that, the youth will help most of the EU nations’ aging population and labor force. There will be a security advantage for the EU, because Turkey borders most Middle Eastern countries and can help fight terrorism and protect the EU from security threats. Since EU will have a base very close to the Mid East, EU’s security will be high. Capital debt and human rights issues may be a hindrance for Turkish accession, because the EU only permits a country if certain criteria are met. Europe also has to decide if Turkey, being predominately Muslim, will be a factor for accession. The EU will have to determine if the “European Union” will only embody European countries or if it wants to extend its borders and allow Turkey to become a member.
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Devyani Jagasia has a degree in Government and International Relations from George Mason University.