Turkey: Should become a member of the EU?

Escrito el 6 marzo 2010 por Mikel Aguirre en Economía Global

This week we received the news of an alleged military coup bid in Turkey.  It was an alleged plot of 2003 but once again shows the difficulties this country always faces to achieve stability.

Turkey is a founder member of the United Nations, NATO, OECD and the G-20 Economies. Since October 2005 has begun formal accession negotiations with the EU to become a member but this has not been successfully achieved so far.


Since 2003 there is an accession partnership with Turkey signed by the UE that includes some Political and Economic reforms that have to be enforced within the country.  Since 2005 Turkey has developed a great effort in reducing government deficit, easing the access of foreign companies, and developing what is suppose to be a modern Muslim society compatible with the modern world.  At the beginning of the 21st century Turkey has the second-largest IMF package in the world so Turkey’s monetary policy is something to look after.  The Lira (former new) is now around 0, 50 EUR what is quite as achievement for a country that held the world least valuable currency less that ten years ago. The government efforts to bring the informal economy into the tax net, to cut interest rates, accumulate reserves, secure the banking system and to increase confidence had developed big achievements in the last 8 years.

Do the 2001 economic crisis has been left behind for good? Is the agricultural sector –bigger than any country of the EU- a threat too big for the existing members? Will Erdogan´s AKP bring stability in the next year? May a Muslim country that defends secularism be part of the biggest Christian association of the world?

The Turkey military forces promised to watch closely the party in the government, and as we have seen this week they still do, what is a situation quite unique in a parliamentary democracy in the world


Roberto Marinelli 6 marzo 2010 - 12:24

I believe that Turkey is the Spain’s best friends. Spaniards and turkish both are genetically and religiously very similar, muy morochos y calientes! Our great,
magnificient Country is a scrap of Near Orient set between Africa and Europe.

I love SpainKey!!

Milo Jones 8 marzo 2010 - 13:49

Below is a short piece that I wrote late last year on the geopolitics of Turkish membership for an Austrian publication. I believe that it bears on several questions raised by the note above.

Kind regards,

Milo Jones

Turkey’s Membership is the EU’s Golden Opportunity

Most discussions of Turkish EU membership process are either mired in the EU jargon of the moment, or grounded in the experience of only the last few decades. This internally-focused, short-term perspective is only natural, as it draws on the life experience of Europe’s current leaders and commentators.

It is possible to argue, however, that such a technical, short-term perspective on the Turkish-EU membership process is misleading, because it overlooks the fact that the last ninety years or so have been an anomaly in Turkish history. Since World War I, Turkey has been relatively insular, but the geopolitical circumstances that created that behavior have changed. Turkey is resuming its place as the natural economic pivot of three continents, and this fact should underpin discussions of Turkey’s future membership in the EU.

As a result of its unique geographic vantage point, the Ottoman Empire (with today’s Turkey at its heart), was an important regional force – and a key element of the European balance of power – for centuries. Indeed, as soon as the old theological worldview within Europe began to be replaced by state interest in the mid-17th Century, the Ottoman Empire was treated by European nations – at least de facto – as an actor that observed fully the norms of European public law (jus publicum Europeum). In the 19th Century, the Sublime Porte even became a de jure member of the Concert of Europe (via the Treaty of Paris, 1856).

This full participation in Europe ended at the conclusion of World War I, and Turkey was forced to focus inward. Why? First came the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, followed quickly by the Turkish War for Independence, the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, and the formal end of the Caliphate in 1924. Shorn of its Empire, and struggling to create the world’s first secular state governing a Muslim population, Turkey ended half a millennium of international activism and regional leadership, and it had to spend the three decades rebuilding internally.

With the emergence of the Cold War Turkey continued reform, but its leaders recognized that many of its historical trade routes and traditional cultural links were now closed. In response, in 1959 Turkey applied to join what was then the European Economic Community, signing the “Ankara Agreement” (that aimed for full Turkish membership in the EEC) in 1964. Since then, progress towards Turkish membership in the EU has been relatively slow: Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995, and was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership only on 12 December 1999, at the Helsinki summit of the European Council.

Despite the sometimes sluggish EU entry process, Turkey has been growing rapidly, especially since the end of the Cold War. In fact, Turkey’s swift economic growth (at around 7% per annum) has catapulted it to become the sixth largest economy in the EU (and the seventeenth largest economy in the world). Turkey is not China, but it has a thriving middle class, and it is now the largest economy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and east until the Hindu Kush. Full and certain EU incorporation of such dynamism would have obvious benefits.

But it is the two underlying reasons for Turkey’s recent growth that are key to its EU membership discussions. First, Turkey has grown because it has continued (and in the last decade even accelerated) its sustained effort to modernize, leaving no part of its society or economy untouched by reform. Second, Turkey has grown because the collapse of the USSR has allowed it to return to its historic role as a fulcrum of trade and investment bridging Europe and Asia.
What does this mean for Turkish membership in the EU? It increases the attractiveness and urgency for the EU of creating a clear path towards full Turkish membership. A quick review of the EU’s priorities shows how this is so. The most obvious example of Turkey’s central place in the EU’s future priorities is the EU’s long-term goal of achieving greater energy security. A glance at the map shows that Turkey will be at the heart of any plans to transport energy from the Caspian region, Central Asia, or the Middle East.

Another EU priority is the economic development of the Balkan countries; once again, the facts of geography, history and culture (along with its dynamic economy) cry out for full Turkish membership. The lesson from previous enlargements is notable here – when the “engineered uncertainty” of the current EU membership process is removed, trade, investment and the prosperity (not only of Turkey but for the EU as a whole) accelerate.

There is a non-economic dimension to Turkish EU membership process as well. In today’s world, Europe must actively address questions of security and human rights. Here again, by virtue of history and geography, Turkey has a number of constructive roles to play.

First, Turkey and the EU share common goals and values in this arena. Turkey is, of course, Islamic, but it is the premier example for Islamic countries world-wide that wish to balance their religion with a rights-based, secular society. Turkey has been a secular Republic since 1924, and it continues to modernize its legal, political and social structures to fulfill that promise. As a result, Turkey has led the Islamic world in the area of human rights (and has sometimes been ahead of Europe: in 1930, women were granted the right to vote in Turkey, well ahead of women in Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Romania, Malta, Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Cyprus, and Liechtenstein). With over one billion Muslims in the world, a positive embrace by the EU of Turkey can only increase Europe’s security.

Second, Turkey has strong cultural influence across a wide swath of the former Ottoman Empire and beyond. This includes areas with which Europeans might be familiar (such as the Balkans), but also includes the Turkic peoples of Central Asia (Kazakhs, Turkmen, and Uzbeks) and about one-quarter of Iran’s population. Turkey’s cultural links to these populations, along with its vested interest in stabilizing the Middle East, will benefit an EU that welcomes Turkey. Rapid integration by the EU of Turkey would also extend Europe’s “soft-power” to these critical regions. In addition, Turkey’s large and well-trained military force has a history of successful involvement in UN and other peacekeeping missions. It’s integration would powerfully strengthen the EU’s Rapid Reaction Force and enhance Europe’s potential as a global peacekeeper – especially in Europe’s southern Mediterranean and Black Sea backyards.

As the recent example of the Lisbon Treaty shows, the path forward within the European Union is not always smooth. In the years ahead, as Turkey re-emerges as a regional power, with a dynamic economy, a key geographic position, and the full spectrum of both soft and hard power, Europe will face a choice. An EU membership process that offers Turkey a clear and steady road to full membership will be safer, more prosperous, and a more effective member of the world community. Viewed in such a long-term light, Turkey’s membership is the EU’s golden opportunity.

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