Europe's turkish Dilemma?
"Will Turkey ever become a member of the EU? "
By: Nicholas Newman - Monday, 09 October
Politicians are again in the 'line of fire' again opinion polls
inside Europe and Turkey are reporting declining support for
the very idea that Ankara should join the European Union (EU)
by 2015. In fact, opponents on both sides of the Aegean Sea
utilise many of the same arguments in their case against Turkey
joining as Europe’s first predominately Moslem Middle Eastern
On the European side, there are distinct advantages in Ankara
joining the EU, despite many European’s valid concerns and
worries. However, EU politicians should follow the advice of
Italian political strategist Niccolo Machiavelli ‘and take
advantage out of a disadvantage.’ If the EU fails to implement
the reforms required and make the necessary compromises in its
negotiations over the role of the Turkish military and Cyprus,
then the prospects of Turkey joining look increasingly
Brussels’ case for Turkey’s accession is based on essentially
economic, political and strategic reasons.
European business is facing a problem of finding enough skilled
workers to fill all the fresh jobs being created each year.
EU’s existing labour force is aging, due to declining birth
rates, by 2015 it is estimated that the supplies of new young
labour from Eastern European states will be fully utilized.
Consequently, the prospect of Turkey providing a new source of
workers is likely to be welcomed by many expanding European
Last winters’ gas dispute between the Ukraine and Russia,
demonstrated that Russia is prepared to use its energy supplies
to Europe as a weapon to promote its economic and political
interests. The impact of the Kremlin cutting off supplies to
Kiev caused those concerned with maintaining Europe’s energy
security to question Russia’s reliability as a gas and oil
supplier of its energy imports. Security analysts now see
Turkey as a secure alternative land route to oil and gas fields
to countries in the Middle East and around South Caspian Sea
region that avoids making use of Russian territory.
Turkey with its army of over one million soldiers is seen as a
useful bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. Already, the
Turkish army has proved useful in EU reconstruction efforts in
Lebanon providing 1,000 troops for peace-keeping purposes. In
the future, it is hoped to be a significant partner in a
planned European Army.
However, unfortunately for Turkey, Europe has a few qualms
about Turkey joining and these are political, economic and
social in nature. These doubts about Ankara’s accession is
reflected in recent polling by the German Marshall Fund which
reports those European’s favoring Turkey’s membership have
fallen from 30% in 2004 to 21% in 2006.
The implications of Turkey joining before the EU has fully
implemented a number of constitutional reforms are of
increasing concern to many observers. Without such reforms, it
is believed that it will be harder for member states to make
and implement EU policy and lacking such reforms, the ‘Big
Four’ will have limited its scope for maintaining essential
control of the direction of EU policies.
For Europe, there are concerns about the role the Turkish
military has in politics. The army has influenced policy on
issues it deems a threat to the country, including those
relating to Kurdish insurgency and Islamism. The Army has
staged three coups between 1960 and 1980, whilst also
influencing the removal of the Islam-oriented government of
Necmettin Erbakan in 1997, in its efforts to maintain a secular
and democratic society.
In terms of trade between mainland Europe and Turkey, a World
Bank study suggests there will be little difference in the
volume of trade in goods, services and capital, since Turkey is
already a member of the European customs union. In fact, the
study suggests Turkey will gain out of accession at the expense
Medieval intolerance against European democratic values and
traditions, by Islamic extremists who have settled in the EU,
has not endeared Moslem settlers to the indigenous inhabitants
of Europe. In the EU, there are estimated 3m Turks working in
Europe, mostly in Germany. It is expected, with accession, a
further 1.8m Turkish workers are expected to move to Germany
alone. Such a prospect is not welcomed by much of the German
public, due to the failure of much of the existing Turkish
community to integrate into mainstream society.
To sum up, for Europe, for its foreign policy and strategic
ambitions there is a case for Turkey’s accession. In terms of
providing a new source of labour, the case is doubtful, since
the existing mechanisms for importing labour to supply European
business work well enough. As for the accession bringing
economic benefits to Europe, the case is not proven. On
fundamental matters, unless EU reforms its constitution, in
particular voting rights and on policy-making and
implementation are achieved, the disruption caused by Ankara’s
accession, means that the case for the status quo in Brussels
relations should be maintained. The strongest case against
Turkey’s accession is Europe’s experience of the failure of
Moslem immigrants to integrate and share in mainstream European
democratic traditions and values. Overall, one is forced to
conclude that there appears to be little advantage in Brussels
continuing with negotiations to let Turkey join as a new member
of the European Union.
by Nicholas Newman - Monday, 09 October 2006