This paper will defend the position that due to the recent problem with the immigrants in Turkey, it is now a good occasion for the country to prove that it belongs in Europe. In the light of the past events, Turkey is not likely to become the EU member due to the geographical, political, economic, cultural and historical issues it has faced in the past and is continuously facing. The issue of Turkish membership in the European Union is quite problematic. For Turkey, the question of the EU membership remains an important socio-political and economic issue during the last decades. However, its currency is gradually decreasing with numerous ambiguous actions of the EU. On the one hand, there are doubts of whether Turkey can be considered European from the geographic perspective; on the other hand, there are the political issues, such as insufficient level of democracy and human rights were emphasized as the main obstacles that keep Turkey away from the EU membership. Moreover, while still remaining as the undeveloped country with the history and culture related to Asia and the Middle East, rather than Europe, Turkey has numerous obstacles on a way to being accepted to the European Union. The opposition of such two strong EU members, as Germany and France against the acceptance of Turkey is also an important argument. Till nowadays, the existing obstacles have encouraged Turkish government to implement the numerous changes and reforms. Nevertheless, the European Union has not yet accepted the country and does not give any guarantees that the EU membership will be provided in future. Even though the strategic meaning of Turkey has increased with the existing problems with immigrants, the European Union is still unclear about the Turkey-related decision. With regards to present and the previous long-term unsuccessful attempts of Turkey to get the EU membership, the current paper proves that the pieces of evidence against this country’s acceptance still overweigh the arguments for the country’s acceptance. This is why Turkey is more likely to remain the privileged partner of the EU, rather than its member.
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The world has peculiar classifications, where the countries are united by the common culture, history, and norms. Europe is united by the common norms and history, and, particularly, such an event as World War II unifies many countries with the common past experiences. With regards to this background, the joining of the EU by Turkey is a problematic question, while this country historically belonged to the Islamic civilizations of the Middle East and Central Asia, which predetermines a great number of the distinctive features of its policies (Republic of Turkey, 2011). However, its geographical location is very beneficial for the European countries. First of all, Turkey plays a crucial role in the energy security because it is the “energy bridge” with all non-Russian oil and gas deposits (Tekin & Willims, 2010). Therefore, due to the possible benefits, the EU is aimed to analyze the existing possibilities to accept this country or, at least, to provide it with the unique position to ensure the mutually beneficial cooperation.
The advantages associated with EU-Turkish cooperation are also predetermined by the position of Turkey in the world. According to the international reports, Turkey has the sixth biggest economy in the world, even though it is classified as the developing country (Republic of Turkey, 2011). Moreover, Turkey is the member of the Customs Union and one of the founders of the OECD, OSCE and the Council of Europe, the associative member of the Western European Union, the founder of the Group of Twenty (Republic of Turkey, 2011). All of these achievements significantly contribute to the right of Turkey to claim for the EU membership and be a good partner for its countries.
Negotiations about Turkey joining the EU had started in 1999, when this county was officially accepted as the EU candidate (Yesilada, 2013). In December of 2002, the demands towards the Turkish government were provided and the country had to meet ‘Copenhagen’ criteria, as defined by the European Council for all of the possible candidates. These include the political, economic and administrative criteria that must represent the country as democratic, stable, ruled by law, respecting human rights, having the functioning competitive market economy and effectively fulfilling the obligations of the membership (European Commission, 2012). Since that time, the government made the decision to perform the rapid political reforms in order to promote democratization, human minorities’ rights, civilian control of the military and many others. Overall, the goal of the EU was to motivate the Turkish government and implement a number of the changes in different life spheres. Even though particular problems associated with the reforms in the human right area and democracy existed till 2004, the European Commission has announced that the negotiations regarding Turkey joining the EU have started on 3 October, 2005 (Ahtisaari & Rohan, 2005). However, the process was quite complicated, and the date was just a beginning of the long road. After one month, the key European decision makers have emphasized on a number of obstacles that detained Turkey from the EU membership. In December of the same year, the conditions to the country government included: the legal reform that would strengthen the law and human rights and the signing of the Protocol that would extend the customs’ union with the EU to all members (Ahtisaari & Rohan, 2005). The conditions were accepted, and Turkey has put into force the legal reform and has signed the Protocol until the end of July (Ahtisaari & Rohan, 2005).
Since that time, the issues that remain unsolved still exist. In particular, Cyprus issue is unsolved, human and minority rights need the serious development, as well as the freedom to express and speak. The conditions of getting the membership comprised of 35 chapters. In 2006, the first chapter regarding the science and research was closed (Yesilada, 2013). Later, in 2006, eight chapters were frozen due to the denial of Turkey to open traffic from Cyprus (Yesilada, 2013). Enterprises and industrial policies followed but statistics and financial control were negotiated in 2007 (Yesilada, 2013). The further chapters in 2008-2015 included consumers’ protection, health, transport, intellectual property, information, defense, culture, and many others (Yesilada, 2013). However, till these days, the chapters that remain open are those that are related to Cyprus and freedom of human rights. However, the lack of the decision on the part of the European Council leads Turkey to demand new possibilities to show its readiness to meet the demanded standards.
In January of 2015, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has stated that his country was not interested in joining the EU. The format dictated by the EU was claimed as inappropriate, and the president has pointed out that the democracy level in Turkey is higher as compared to many European countries. Consequently, Erdo?an defined the EU as the closed Christian club that is not welcoming the Muslim countries and stated that the union is not as democratic as it is officially represented (Schachtel, 2015). However, in 2016, when the refugee crisis has appeared as the serious problem of the EU, the Turkish government agreed to cooperate and end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU (Delegation of the EU to the USA, 2016). Hence, the country obviously shows its disposition to cooperate with the European Union.
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Still, the considerations of the question for already 12 years lead to a number of doubts that this country will finally become the member of the EU, and there is a solid background for such position.
The opposition against Turkish acceptance is supported by France and Germany, represented by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. The President of France and the German chancellor emphasize that Turkey is more likely to get the “privileged relationship” with the EU, as it has now (Cendrowicz, 2009). The privileges can be developed even more. However, the full membership is very unlikely to be provided (Cendrowicz, 2009). Hence, it is necessary to emphasize that these two countries are the influential representatives of the EU, whose decisions can hardly be neglected.
The first and probably the most important supporting evidence against the acceptance of Turkey in the EU is the fact that only 3% of its territory actually belong to Europe (Yesilada, 2013). Consequently, its membership in the EU would have two negative consequences. The first one is the issue with other countries like Morocco that got a refusal to join due to the geographic position. Hence, the acceptance would deny the credibility of such refusal and can, finally, lead to a wide extension of the EU far beyond the borders of Europe. For that reason, the Turkish membership is undesirable because the EU extension above geographic borders means there are growing risks of its consequent disintegration. This risk is obviously undesirable, as well as the second one. Nowadays, the EU has no borders with the countries of the Middle East like Syria, Iran, or Iraq. However, accession of Turkey to the European Union will create undesirable borders, and is likely to be accompanied by many new and aggravated terrorism and oil-related problems. Apart from that, the Kurdish issue is quite worrisome in Turkey and acceptance of this country as the member would imply acceptance of the Kurdish problem (Yesilada, 2013). In addition, the territory of Turkey is very big. In case the EU absorbs this country, it will have to increase the population at about 75 million of Turks (Wright, 2016). Such conditions can make Turkey the dominant member of the union, which is undesirable. In addition, it is not quite logical if the country that is only by a small part situated in Europe would become its dominant member.
The major argument mentioned by Merkel and Sarkozy refers to the Criminal Code of Turkey with the 301st article that bans the offence of the Turkish identity, the considerable role of the army in the Turkish political life and non-correspondence to the principles of the liberal democracy, including the freedom of speech (Yesilada, 2013). The number of journalists were imprisoned for their work and inappropriate views (Yesilada, 2013). Moreover, the rights of females are strongly limited and, in fact, it shows that Turkey still does not provide the European-style democracy to its inhabitants. With regard to this, the distinctive laws separate the Turks from Europe, as well as the high level of the military involving in the policies implementation. These issues make Turkey different from the European countries, hence, unable to join the union harmoniously. Finally, the Greek-Turkish conflict is the serious obstacle. While Turkey recognizes the government of the Northern Cyprus, the EU has a different position and views concerning the northern territory as the part of the Cyprus Republic (Cendrowicz, 2009). Hence, the EU and Turkey represent different sides in the conflict. Therefore, unification of two parties of conflict will be another background for the development of numerous consequent problematic issues for the EU. Moreover, this would mean that the conflict exists within the union, and searching for the alternative solutions will become even more urgent.
Apart from the political issues, the economic ones are also important. Turkey has a large economy, but it does not mean that it corresponds to all of the average indexes of the EU. The country’s economy was marked as the one having the considerable growth, and its GDP per capita has reached €13,000 (Yesilada, 2013). Nevertheless, this number is too low and is even less than a half of the European average (Yesilada, 2013). The regional inequalities contribute greatly to the low GDP level. Hence, the European Council is not likely to accept the country with poor indexes join the union due to the negative impacts on the EU finances. The immigrants from Turkey, who would earn less, are likely to head for Europe, which will finally decrease GDP per capita in the entire union. Nevertheless, making the countries poorer is not the final argument against giving the full membership to Turkey.
In addition to that, the fundamental Christian values that unify the EU obviously have nothing to deal with the Muslim country. The history of Turkey and its culture remain far from Europe and are closer to Asia and the Middle East. World War II as well as periods of Renaissance and Enlightenment were common for the European countries, but had practically no influence in Turkey (Yesilada, 2013). For Europe, Turkey was commonly regarded as an invader instead of the partner. Hence, while the common experiences always bring countries closer, Europe and Turkey have no such common experiences and can cooperate only based on the common interests that have appeared not earlier than the last two centuries. However, in contrast to the strong liaisons between the European countries, the latest experiences with Turkey prove that the country will most likely not be accepted as a part of Europe on the cultural level.
The cultural values and traditions are strongly interconnected with the beliefs of people. The European public opinion on the Turkish acceptance is also an obstacle for the positive decision. According to the poll of 2009, only 31% of Europeans supported the decision to accept the Turks in the EU (Cendrowicz, 2009). Therefore, the decision that would be taken against the public beliefs can also have the negative impact on the society due to the lower level of trust to the government and non-readiness of Christian people to accept Muslims in a greater number. With regards to the above-mentioned political, economic, geographic and cultural issues, one can see that accepting Turkey in the EU in the current situation has too many challenges and can hardly bring more positive consequences than just providing the country with privileges. To understand the possible negative consequences more clearly, it is necessary to analyze the possible counterarguments in more details and weight the positive consequences over the negative ones.
Among the possible benefits of Turkey’s EU membership, one should point out the strengthening of the global geostrategic position due to the Turkish economic, political, cultural and historical links in the region. As a result, the EU can get the influence in the areas of the West, Mediterranean and Black coasts, Middle East, Caspian Sea and Central Asia (Yesilada, 2013). However, at the current stage, the influential position will be followed by the financial losses and possible public discontent. At the same time, the privileged position will also allow the EU to promote some favorable decisions with the help of Turkey. Therefore, numerous problematic issues, in addition to providing stronger position with regard to the Asian and other territories are raised in case of providing full EU membership to Turkey. Therefore, the privileged position offered by Merkel and Sarkozy is a better alternative that will help the European countries avoid a great number of possible complications.
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The Turkish government has implemented a number of changes, and the efforts must be rewarded. The majority of chapters were negotiated, and the EU position was accepted for at least 65% (Yesilada, 2013). The country has become more democratic in contrast to the previous years. However, 65% is not enough to reach the level of other countries. Instead, such a country will lag behind and become an obstacle for the EU development. Apart from the reformation on the way to the democratic society, the country has also showed its devotion to the EU by helping to manage the refugee crisis. The EU-Turkey Agreement has positively contributed to the positive perception of Turkey among the Commission members (Delegation of the EU to the US, 2016). Nevertheless, returning irregular immigrants and some changes in legislation do not overweigh the gaps that still exist; for instance, the visa-related concessions for the Turks (Delegation of the EU to the US, 2016). Moreover, the rewards for Turkey do not necessarily mean that the membership is the only way to support the good relations with Turkey. Again, the privileges provided to the country can bring the same benefits to the EU without taking the responsibility for the existing problems and insufficient indexes.
Another argument in favor of Turkey’s EU membership can be associated with the economic achievement of the country, which grows at approximately 3.5% annually (Yesilada, 2013). With regard to this, the perspectives for the economic prosperity are quite high and beneficial for the EU in future. Moreover, the current GDP measure in Turkey is higher than in such countries as Bulgaria and Romania, which should convince that the rights of the country to be the equal EU member are higher than ever (Yesilada, 2013). Even though the measures for the country’s achievements are high, they are insufficient and will decrease the EU average. Moreover, accepting the country that shows a good tendency towards growth is not always a good idea until the demands that were listed are met.
The situation with the country’s history and religion is different. It cannot be changed. However, it is necessary to remember that the Turkish president has already talked about Islamophobia in the European Union (Schachtel, 2015). Therefore, letting the country join the EU will become the evidence for the entire world that the European Union is not negatively set against Muslims. It can be a symbol of unification of culture, tolerance and accepting the differences of others. Some defenders even believe that it can become the catalyst to solve the Kurdish and Cyprus issues by showing a good example of how the alternatives can be found, regardless of the different heritage, religion or rules (Yesilada, 2013). In fact, the shreds of evidence for this are quite weak because people can co-exist, but the Muslim and Christian societies are strongly different and cannot become whole, even though they can live in peace. As for the Cyprus conflict, it is not likely to be solved so easily because it has already lasted for decades, and the only example of the peaceful co-existence is the weak motivator to step aside, especially for the government that already has power.
The question regarding the accession of Turkey to the European Union is quite timely with regard to the latest events and long-lasting disputes. However, it is also complicated because Turkish membership in the EU has a number of advantages and disadvantages for the European countries. This paper has focused on the geographic, economic, political and cultural perspectives to prove that the events of the last decade show that Turkey is not likely to join the European Union because it is more beneficial for the latter to cooperate, based on the privileged partnership relations. Instead, letting the Muslim only partially European country with the developing economy and insufficient level of democracy to join the Union will lead to a great number of undesirable issues. In particular, the Turkish membership would cause a number of the risks associated with losing the European borders, suffering financially, having to deal with the problems of the Middle East more closely. Hence, even though the decision may seem unfair to the Turkish government that has done a lot to join the EU, the possibility that Turkey will finally meet its aim is very low.