Established in the wake of the Second World War, the European Union (formerly the European Economic Community) is a supranational multilateral organization which generates an estimated 30% of the world’s total Gross Domestic Product. In addition to being an economic powerhouse, the European Union (EU) represents near total European integration in the political, judicial, social and economic spheres. Accordingly, the European Union has evolved dramatically in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and has recently undergone multiple stages of expansion (enlargement in EU parlance).
Expansion has largely been carried out in the countries of the former Soviet Union and this organization continues to come under pressure to expand eastward. Accordingly Turkey, a predominately Muslim country straddling the border between Europe and Asia, is seeking membership into one of the most exclusive multilateral clubs in the world. Undertaking an analysis the candidacy of Turkey for membership in the EU, the following will discuss the major obstacles to the inclusion of Turkey within this exclusive multilateral club.
This essay will begin with a concise overview of the European Union and will address the evolution of the EU following the collapse of state-led communism in Eastern Europe. This led to an increased desire for the EU to expand and the ramifications of this incredible and for some, unimaginable, fact will be analyzed with respect to the EU. We then turn to an analysis of enlargement, the ever-increasing demand for growth, the trajectory in which the EU has grown and finally, the reasons why Turkey is not a suitable candidate for membership in the European Union.
We will explore the domestic and historical factors which make Turkey a poor candidate for EU membership and will conclude with a broad overview of our overall analysis. A Brief History of the EU The European Union (EU) is a supranational body composed of constituent member states, found largely on the European peninsula. Democracy, negotiation, and collective decision-making through multilateralism are all inherent attributes of the modern EU.
Today, membership in the European Union is actively sought by nearly all countries on the European peninsula as well as by one country straddling both Europe and Middle Asia (Turkey). Although not all countries of the EU are continental Europe, all certainly self-identify as European and are regarded as such. Countries currently seeking membership in the EU include parts of the former Federal State of Yugoslavia as well as Turkey. Accordingly, Turkey is hoping to become the first Muslim-majority state to join the EU as a full-member.
Although it has not always been the case, modern-day Europe is characterized by a unifying democratic political culture. While the concept of democracy originated on its shores, the philosophy of democratic governance was challenged in 20th century Europe by authoritarian political movements, including fascism (expressed by Nazi Germany & Mussolini’s Italy), and communism (as exemplified in Eastern Europe during the Cold War). With Allied victory in World War II and the recent collapse of the Soviet Union, democracy – in varying degrees– is now a universal trend amongst European states.
In fact liberal democracy, best expressed by the states of Western Europe with entrenched democratic traditions, is quickly becoming the standard for the continent. Democratic norms and rules have subsequently been established through a pan-European legal framework, the European Union (Rumford 2001). Ascension is how new membership into one of Europe’s most exclusive and sought-after multilateral organizations, the European Union, is described. Ascension is the process by which enlargement occurs and where new members are admitted into the EU club.
Although the precursor to the European Union started out with only 6 states, there are now 27 member states – more countries are in the arduous ascension process to one day obtain full membership – and as a reflection of the diversity within a United Europe, there are presently 23 official languages of this multilateral body. Turkey in Europe? As the former seat of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Republic remains a potential candidate for membership in the European Union. There are many obstacles to Turley’s candidacy and they relate to history, geography, religion and politics.
The last point is the most pressing and due to a variety of internal/domestic political factors, Turkey faces important challenges in its quest to be admitted to the European Union. Seeking to establish obstacles to Turley’s candidacy for European Union membership, the following will provide a concise yet comprehensive overview of the reasons why Turkey’s membership request is unlikely to succeed. We will explore the research of contemporary scholars and compare and contrast their perspectives on the future EU enlargement possibilities for the Turkish Republic.
Seeking to explore the future possibilities for the inclusion of Turkey within a united Europe, Ali Tekin takes an enlightened view of Turkey today and argues that the relationship will be mutually beneficial for both parties. While emphasizing the positive attributes of Turkey’s membership on the respective countries of Europe, in “Future of Turkey–EU relations: a civilizational discourse”, Tekin does admit to a few obstacles facing Turkey today.
In fact, when looking at the history and geography of Turkey, this country has never been apart of the European community nor does it reside on the European peninsula. Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey encountered Islam more than twelve hundred years ago and he reports that 99. 8% of Turks self-identify as Muslims. Europe has historically been the seat of Christianity (including the Papal, Anglican and Orthodox branches) and home to a diverse Christian tradition.
A majority Muslim state – although proudly secular in its institutions of governance – would severely upset the delicate religious balance with the European Union – and Turkey would remain a very different domestic country relative to other EU states. Turkey would then become the only Muslim-majority state in the EU, a region which has struggled with Islamic fundamentalism in recent time, including the post-9/11 London bombings perpetuate by homegrown Islamic terrorists and the Madrid train bombings of 2003 in which Moroccan extremists carried out the most deadly terrorist attack since fateful morning on September 11th 2001.
In addition, Turkey’s recent challenges with its devout Muslim population, including the widely-reported headscarf affair, show just how precarious the introduction of a Muslim-majority country would be to the overall coherence of the EU. Despite these obvious shortcomings, the author of this study sees positives aspects with Turkey’s admittance, most assuredly through a civilizational dialogue between the Christian countries of the West and the Muslim world. Turkey, he argues, can be a catalyst for such a dialogue (Tekin 2005).
Although there are a variety of historically reasons for denying Turkey’s membership in the European Union, its candidacy may be denied on the grounds that its culture is politically incompatible with that of the current member states of the EU. In “Human Rights and Democratization in Turkey in the Context of EU Candidature” Rumford explores the challenges facing Turkey in fully integrating the important traditions of the West into its political framework. These traditions include democratic governance, the protection of human rights, freedom of speech, assembly and the rule of law.
Although Turkey is a democratic country with a strong secular traditions since the days of the founder of the Republic, Attaturk, democracy in Turkey has had to deal with an interventionist and activist military which has consistently over the years stepped into the political arena and undertaken political coups. Accordingly the first military coup by the armed forces took place in 1960 against the Democratic Party and another coup against the Party was undertaken in 1980. After this second coup, martial law was imposed and there were reports of flagrant human rights abuses at the hands of the armed forces.
In addition to a legacy of military intervention in the political sphere, Suleyman Demirel first became Prime Minister in 1965 and went on to hold this position a total of seven times. This is hardly representative of a fair and competitive political process. Seeing human rights protection as a European value with broad implications for the admittance of Turkey in the EU, Rumford argues that incompliance with the protection of this right is a major hindrance to Turkey’s full inclusion within the European community (Rumford 2001).
A lack of respect for the democratic norms of modern society is an important obstacle for Turkey and an issue which is explored by authors Schimmelfennig, Engert and Knobel in “Costs, Commitment and Compliance: The Impact of EU Democratic Conditionality on Latvia, Slovakia and Turkey”. Using a cross-comparative analysis, these authors weigh the pros and cons of democratic conditionality on introductory members of the EU.
The challenges associated with maintaining these democratic standards are great and Latvia, Slovakia and Turkey must each overcome significant domestic hurdles in order to fully integrate themselves into the European Community of nations. As mentioned earlier, a respect for the democratic rules of the game has been noticeably lacking and Turkey has been subject to frequent armed forces intervention in the political process. As an example of the military’s strong arm in the politics of the nation, in 1998 the Welfare Party, the largest party in the Turkish parliament at the time, was banned.
The military forced this party out of office and was responsible for the ban. This event was described as a “soft coup”, thus bringing the total of military-inspired coups in the country over the past forty years to three (Schimmelfennig, Engert and Knobe 2004). In addition to a democratic culture argument, from a human rights standpoint abuses have also been alleged with respect to the military’s response to the Kurdish insurgency led by the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) as well as in its role in the domestic conflict of recent EU inductee Cyprus.
Addressing these concerns and exploring the challenges Turkey presently faces with respect to the Kurdish insurgency, the treatment of former PKK head Abdullah Ocalan and its response to terror Ersel Aydinli explores the internal challenges Turkey has experienced in combating terror. How can the need to fight extremism and violence be reconciled with a need to promote democracy and human rights? This balance, the author argues, is difficult to achieve and Turkey’s treatment of alleged terrorists has presented an important obstacle to future EU membership.
In addition to relatively recent human rights concerns, in May of 2001 the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of violating the rights of Greek Cypriots during its occupation of northern Cyprus more than three and a half decades ago (Ersel Aydinli 2002). Concluding Remarks As a growing multilateral organization with increasing influence on the international stage, the European Union has established itself as itself as a key player in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 world. The EU has sustained the collapse of state-sponsored communism in Europe and has remained resilient in the face of tremendous geopolitical chance.
While reinventing itself in the post-Cold War world and integrating former members of the Soviet block into its ranks, the EU has demonstrated a strong and sustained trajectory for growth. Will the EU continue to expand eastward and include Turkey into its ranks? As has been shown, the democratic credentials of Turkey pose serious obstacles in its quest to achieve eventual EU membership. In addition to being a Muslim majority state, the former seat of the Ottoman Empire and having a very different history from the rest of Europe, Turkey also lacks the necessary political requirements for membership.
A legacy of military involvement in the politics of the nation, coups and political repression thus make Turkey an undesirable candidate for eventual EU membership. Additionally, gross human rights violations, including against its Kurdish minority as well as against the Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus, solidify the argument that Turkey is a very poor candidate future EU membership. Annotated Bibliography Aydinli, Ersel. “Between Security and Liberalization: Decoding Turkey’s Struggle with the PKK. ” Security Dialogue, 33, 2 (2002): 209-225.
Turkey’s domestic terror challenge predates its relatively recent attempts to gain admittance into the European Community and Aydinli charts the evolution of this challenge. Arguing that national security is a paramount concern for any state but that it must be properly weighted against other considerations, this article argues that the PKK/Turkish struggle has entered a new – post Ocalan – phase and new concerns must be addressed. Importantly, Turley’s ability to tackle these challenges are very important with respect to its relations to the West, NATO and the EU.
This article provides an excellent historical overview of the challenges Turkey faces with respect to the PKK and does an excellent job of situating the conflicting goals the Turkish Republic faces with respect to this insurgency. Schimmelfennig, Frank, Engert, Stefan, Knobel, Heiko. “Costs, Commitment and Compliance: The Impact of EU Democratic Conditionality on Latvia, Slovakia and Turkey. ” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 41, 3(June 2004): 495-518. Seeing cultural and normative integration as important aspects of European Union growth, this article undertakes a cross-cultural analysis of three countries.
Are human rights and democratic standards integral to the conception of EU identity and necessary prerequisites for EU membership? Democratic conditionality is explored with respect to the domestic antecedents of potential members. By raising two important issues and discussing them in depth, this article seeks to understand how democratic perquisites for European Union membership are applied in a cross-comparative perspective. This provides an excellent overview of the Copenhagen conditions for membership and is a worthy addition to the analysis. Rumford C.
“Human Rights and Democratization in Turkey in the Context of EU Candidature. ” Journal of European Area Studies, 9, 1 (1 May 2001): 93-105. Seeing a direct link between human rights – or the lack thereof – in Turkey and its EU membership process, this article explores the important challenges Turkey faces in fully embracing the Copenhagen Criteria and one day achieving full member status. Democratic shortcomings are the major hindrance to Turkey’s presumptive membership and respect for minority rights also poses a significant hurdle to full EU inclusion.
The Kurdish minority in Turkey must accordingly be fully integrated into Turkish society in order for Turkey to demonstrate its democratic and pluralist credentials. Human rights are at the forefront of the Turkish membership campaign and democratic and rights reforms will play an important role in determining whether or not Turkey is one day admitted to the EU. Tekin, Ali. “Future of Turkey–EU relations: a civilisational discourse. “ Futures37, 4 (May 2005): 287-302. Seeking to explain how Turkish membership in the EU can be mutually beneficial, Tekin emphatically argues that this union provides many excellent opportunities.
By embracing Muslim-majority Turkey, the Europe is demonstrating its good faith to the Muslim world and thus contributing to civilizational dialogue. Europe can learn much from the Muslims and vice versa and this article makes the assertion that the relationship can help both parties become stronger and better informed of each other. By embracing Turkey, the EU will be taking an important step in seeking to understand the Muslim world as well as the Muslim minorities within many EU countries themselves.