Turkish Accession into the European Union

The question of Turkish accession has dominated European nation’s discussions for over a decade now. Its major contention has revolved around Turkey’s compatibility with the rest and the wisdom behind accepting such a different nation. Oymen (2003) states that while some of Turkey’s drawbacks are clear, for instance its agricultural nature, Muslim orientation, large size and relative poverty in comparison to the rest; its major shortcomings lie in the question of Cyprus and Armenian genocide. This he states that they can be vocally used as reasons to delay or stop the accession by various Armenian lobby groups. Thus, this paper focuses on these major issues by reviewing historical encounters of Turkey and the EU. It proceeds to investigate the reasons for delay, EU’s demand on Turkey and the economics of this accession. Lastly, the paper analyzes the positions of major European players and their effects on Turkey’s accession; it reviews future scenarios likely to occur within and without Turkey that will shape accession talks and concludes by projecting future possibilities.

Accession Procedure

Moustakis (1998) postulates that, the European Union considers expansion as an accomplishment which will bring regional stability to Europe. With regard to accession procedure, there is a criterion that guides EU membership; this includes values of stable institutions, democratic state, human rights protection. Article 49 in the Treaty for European Union invites applications from any European nation that satisfies the set criteria. The application process for EU membership is rigorous since the EU operates under comprehensive procedures for approval. The procedure stipulates admission only in the event that the applying country has met all the requirements plus the consent of EU member states, EU institutions and the applicant countries. An applying country submits an application to the European Council, which is then assessed for ability to meet the conditions set (Moustakis, 1998).

The Acquis communautaire is an approximately 80,000 pages document containing rules and regulation guides to the screening of an application process. This book is divided into 35 chapters that cover aspects of goods movement among others. Common negotiation positions are formulated by the Commission with respect to each chapter and this requires a unanimous approval of all the members of the Council of Mministers. Upon conclusion of the negotiations in all the 35 chapters, a draft treaty is submitted to the European Council for approval, and later for assent to the European Parliament. Thereafter follows the ratification by all member states including the applicant (Moghadam, 2005).

The EU had 27 member states having admitted the highest number of applicants in 2004. Moghadam (2005) notes that since then, there have been a number of countries on the queue including Croatia (already done with the 35 chapters), Iceland (begun accession process in 2010), Macedonia, Turkey and Montenegro.

The First Touch in Relations to the EU and Progress

According to the European Commission, there were only six founding countries of the EU although much later, the EU extended its reach to many other countries. The proceedings of the EU enlargement temporarily stopped by the Cold War after which, the EU embarked of its enlargement. Zarakol (2008) notes that this majorly constituted inclusion of countries in Eastern Europe. The enlargement was crowned by the formation of the Copenhagen Criteria in 1993 at the Denmark European Council. He terms the first unofficial contact between Turkey and the EU as traceable through its efforts to become a developed country. This dates back to 1856 when the Ottoman Empire declared the ‘reform mandate’. This mandate demanded equal treatment to minority groups under different religions. He concludes that the mandate propelled Turkey into joining the European Countries Council in 1856. This contact qualifies as the first unofficial contact since the ECC could be sufficiently accepted as the EU of that time (Zarakol, 2008).

On the other hand, Pan (2005) expands Zarakol’s argument by stating that Turkey’s contact with the European Countries Council (ECC) can be extended to an official expression of interest to join the EU in 1963. He indicates that it is during theat year, Turkey and European Council concluded the Ankara Agreement (Association Agreement) in which, Turkey pledged to forge closer economic ties. In the Ankara Agreement, Turkey made a commitment to form a Customs Union that would apply to all member states within the EU. However, in 1987 the EU contended that it was not contemplating accepting new members and thus, deferred Turkey’s first full application to the EU up to 1993. He states that such deferment added Turkey into a list of countries like Britain that had been turned down.

According to official reports from the EU, it was in 1995 that the Customs Union agreement between the EU and Turkey was enforced. This rolled the discussion of integrating Turkey into the EU even deeper. Later on, the Luxembourg EU Summit of 1997 confirmed Turkey as an eligible applicant for membership, but it was not until 1999, that the Helsinki Council Summit formally recognized the eligibility. Moustakis opines that the confirmation notwithstanding, the Council proceeded to give assertions to the effect that Turkey owed it to the EU to demonstrate sufficient compliance economically and politically.

Reports by the European Commission (2005) indicate that the adaptation of an Accession Partnership between Turkey and the EU occurred in 2001. This, it indicates, set the priorities that Turkey had to confront and address as an adoption and implementation of the EU standards. However, Pan (2005) notes that the EU Copenhagen Ssummit of 2002 failed to reach any agreement regarding an official date of initiating negotiations. This happened despite such being the hope of the Ankara Agreement. In duration of two years, other new states like Cyprus gained admission into the union, but it was until 2004 that the Council unanimously agreed that Turkey can proceed with accession negotiations. However, Pan refers to this as a compromise formula because Turkey was yet to comply with some Customs Union requirements (European Commission, 2005).

Under this compromise, the Council issued a requirement that Turkey adapts the Ankara Agreement before October 2005, including a Customs Union to the 10 new members. This 10 new member included Cyprus. Owing to the problem of Cyprus to Turkey, it stated that the signing of the Customs protocol will not amount to its diplomatic recognition of the Cyprus Republic. It also pointed out that such recognition would only occur in the event that Turkish Cypriots and Greek communities reunite. Moghadam (2005) refers to this declaration as a point of contention, which did not go down well with a majority of member states. In reaction, the EU Council informed Turkey that Cyprus is a full EU member, also added that the protocol required full and non-discriminatory recognition of all members, and a failure will interfere with the entire negotiation and progress (European Commission, 2005c).

The Requirements

According to Moghadam (2005), the European Union has some demands to countries requesting membership. These conditions include its maintenance of some political norms and values that the union upholds. The values include presence of stable institutions, guarantee for democracy, human rights observance, respect for the rule of law, protection and respect for the minority rights. As an extension of these fundamental requirements the EU requires that Turkey addresses the issues of Armenian genocide which has spillovers into observance of human rights issues. Through its member states, the EU continues to call upon Turkey, to recognize the atrocities of its Turkish government in the Ottoman rule.

Togan et al, (2005) indicates that the EU continues to put pressure on Turkey to demonstrate its commitment to human rights and freedom of expression, which Turkey continues to choke under Article 301. They argue that with respect to the democracy and stability, the EU requires that Turkey demonstrates seriousness in solving the Cyprus problem. Pan (2005) also adds that this issue has been central in Turkey-EU negotiations and unofficially a precondition for Turkey’s full membership. In their view, Turkey’s non-committal approach to the Cyprus problem appears like a refusal to use its influence on the issue for the good of the region. The EU also requires political reforms on Turkey through changing its political system. They conclude that the EU views this change as a promise to redress income inequality issues, restructure its industrial system and privatize some major firms. There is also a requirement that Turkey upholds the rule of law and complies with EU’s agreements such as recognizing the Republic of Cyprus (Pan, 2005).

Why it has taken too long to Agree

Eussner (1989) indicate the reality that many countries applied to join the European Union at the same time or after Turkey. In addition, she states that Turkey sets itself apart as the one longest in waiting at the periphery, and with the smallest expectations of joining the EU soon. For instance, she points out that Croatia which started the accession process at the same time with Turkey in 2005 has closed 22 of the 35 chapters while Turkey has only closed one chapter. Thus, the differences in the advancement procedure seem to account for the long time it is taking to agree. According to a 2010 Strategy Paper, Turkey evaluation by the Commission is stated as having come to a critical stage that demands Turkey’s boldness in fulfilling some conditions. The same Commission evaluates Croatia as having come to the final phases of negotiations (European Commission, 2010).

The difference between Turkey and Croatia can shed light on why the process takes that long. For instance, it is clear that there has been a disagreement between the influential member states on substantive principles upon which they would decide on offering or denying Turkey a right to membership (European Commission, 2012). The EU leaders continue to disagree over Turkey’s effect on them in either geography, culture, religion among others. The problems of Turkey and Greece have also led to significant delays. For instance, Moustakis (1998) points out that Greece used its veto power in the European Council to block enactment of legislation perceived as beneficial to Turkey. This was mostly highlighted when Greece opposed the horizontal financing to the European Union Mediterranean policy since Turkey was a big beneficiary. This also prolonged implementation of certain trade concession (Moustakis, 1998).

The European Commission (2010) assessment indicates of another big hurdle delaying Turkey’s accession and perhaps the most fundamental has been the freezing of negotiations since December 2006. The Council stopped negotiations on eight important chapters blaming it Turkey’s refusal to grant Cyprus Customs Union rights. Since then, it has taken four years for any tangible negotiations to resume. Indeed, it is notable that Turkey has adopted key changes such as constitutional changes in order to conform to EU concession demands. However, Moghadam (2005) argue that the process of evaluating this progress still seems to view Turkey’s efforts as insufficient in meeting the liberal democratic demands of the EU. However, this evaluation does not reflect the actual accession procedure, neither do Turkey’s reforms towards EU liberal norm helpful in fast tracking its accession process (European Commission, 2010).

Zurcher (2004) also indicates that an entrapped process has also been a key delay factor through lack of an agreement, since negotiations to join the EU were opened; the EU has not appreciated the existence of disagreements between member states on a position on Turkey. He contends that the entrapment within these negotiations continues since the differences continue to grow and the same party to the negotiations is in charge of assessing Turkey’s progress. The growing disagreements and lack of a consensus on whether to accept Turkey explain the freezing decision. No other country has undergone such freezing in the EU enlargement process. In addition, the aspect of normative institutionalization adopted by the EU has its bias.

Moustakis (1998) points out that change in accession procedure in comparison to Eastern enlargement can tell of tales leading to the delays. Just like Pan (2005) he opines that in the case of Turkey’s EU enlargement, the negotiations preclude a guarantee of accession achievement; the opening of accession has led to the creation of emerging situations and expectations. However, the Eastern enlargement was under the presumption that opening accession negotiation implied a willingness to carry on with the discussion to conclusion. It is under this presumption that the Eastern enlargement Luxembourg European Council in 1997 and Helsinki European Council in 1999 were seen as decisive.

According to Moghadam (2005), in turkey’s accession procedures, a framework for negotiations had a condition of starting negotiations. Thus, Turkey’s first negotiation procedures in 2005 and a continuation for a number of years were not actual negotiations, but were negotiations whether they will commence actual negotiations on membership. He presents Turkey’s dilemma in that there is an open-ended process, and the outcome is not guaranteed. Clause 2 in the agreement stipulates that in the instance of Turkey’s persistent ignorance of respect, democracy, liberty, respect for human rights or the rule of law, of upon which the EU is founded, the EU has rights to delay or suspend the negotiation process until such a time that it will deem fit (European Commission, 2005c). Since such stipulations were not in the Eastern enlargement, Moghadam (2005) concludes that their existence in Turkey’s case implies an ambiguity in the accession process. Thus, the provision plus the Copenhagen political criteria are offered as a justification for delay or lack of promotion of accession. This results in the delay and lack of agreement due to the complexity of the process and ambiguity since the start.

On the other hand, the argument by Sertoglu & Ozturk (2003) connotes that the delay, disagreement and differentiation in treating Turkey differently from previous enlargement are not limited to policy stipulations that do not favor Turkey alone. It extends to other aspects such as ideological discourses shaping thoughts regarding enlargements. First, they argue that Turkey is excluded in the discourse that advances the feeling that the EU owes some countries and should fast track their accession. This fast tracking is seen as an atonement for leaving them out in the Cold War (Sjursen, 2002). The created synergies allowed the Eastern enlargement in the 1990s as compensation to them at the end of the Cold War. The lack of Turkey’s enjoyment of this Post Cold War order marked with emphasis of joining EU as a return to Europe can explain the delay in comparison to the previous enlargement.

The last likely reason for delay and lack of agreement in Sjursen’s view, is the ‘otherness’ concept in the European zone. She strongly insists that in the concept of ‘Others for Europe’, there is a construction of Turkey as the most dangerous other. This strong otherness seems to take great root in the accession process. The most pronounced aspect of the Turkey’s otherness was Bolkestein Frits (Dutch politician) who stated that accepting Turkey in the EU would render the 1683 Vienna liberation as vein (European Commission, 2010).

In general the issues delaying agreement and accession can be concluded in terms of parties to the accession, historical considerations, conflict of interest and subjectivities within the process. Oymen (2003) argues that the world’s top geostrategic players are China, Germany, France, Russia and India. Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran are also key players. In this regard, he views Turkey as important since it supplies stability to the Black Sea, it is a cure to Islamic fundamentalism, and it controls the Mediterranean routes and is a strong support to the Ssouth East NATO wing. However, he sees its accession as being affected by its geography, which is surrounded by warring neighbors since 1979. Thus, he concludes that its delay results from geography, culture, economy, religion, population (it would make it the biggest state within the EU) and human rights.

The Economics of Turkish Accession

According to the Center for European Reform, countries that request to join the union must fulfill four major requirements; this are political criteria, EU law compliance and the other two pertain to economic criterions . At the current state of affairs Turkey has made significant strides on the political and legal requirements, but still lags behind on the economic conditions. The Copenhagen accession criterion names these economic conditions as, a functional market economy and an ability to compete in the European Market. According to the European Commission’s assessment of Turkey, it has yet to come close to the required economic form. The EU also imposes vague economic requirements that allow its influence in virtually many areas of an aspirant’s economy (Barysch, 2005).

Barysch (2005) of the Center for European Reform argues that the economic consideration will be the key area of focus on all future negotiations regarding Turkey. It also contends that this could be a possible area of delay given the complexity the discussion since it is difficult for both Turkey and EU to make economic compromises. It states that Turkey stands to benefit economically from accession, however, it also states that its benefits are much lower compared to the 2004 entrants; this is because Turkey has already benefited from the Customs Union with the EU and because it is more challenging for Turkey to anchor its reforms externally on the EU.

The EU seems to view Turkey’s economic benefits to itself skeptically. According to Hughes (2004), the nature of Turkey as a large population and a small economy is a major concern. He indicates that by 2015 when Turkey might join the EU it will have a population slightly below Germany’s (at 82.1 million). He projects that by 2025 it would be the largest member with over 15% of the total population. On the flip side, its economy accounts for only 1.9% of the EU GDP comprising of 25 countries. Even if Turkey were to experience a growth of 5% annually, it would stand at 2.9% of EU’s GDP by 2015. Its GDP per head averages at 27% to the EU and faces massive regional inequalities (low employment level for women, youth unemployment and labor disturbances). Hughes argues that the EU considers this and might delay its accession given the little benefits. However, the EU might only benefit from Turkey’s accession by 0.1 to 0.3 % if Turkey’s different demographic profile migrates to the other EU states. This is because the older EU members will begin to experience negative impacts of its aging population and might require Turkey’s young, growing and relatively cheap workforce (Hughes, 2004).

Lastly, the economics of Turkish accession will continue to dominate the talks given that both EU’s and Turkey’s agricultural policies will need huge reforms. There are questions of Foreign Direct Investments which is low in Turkey and the budget transfers; upon accession, Turkey will qualify as a poor country and will be eligible for budget transfers of over 45 billion Euros. Its net budget contributions will be almost equal to that of the ten new members combined. These economic considerations will continue to play (Barysch, 2005).