Turkey And The European Union – A Unique Case In The Process Of Enlargement The European Union, formerly known as the European Community until the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, has undergone massive changes since its inception. The European Community was an institution primarily designed to achieve Franco-German reconciliation, but has since grown to become a powerful economic and political bloc worldwide, with a diverse range of member states and objectives. The project of the European Community changed dramatically after the demise of the USSR, with the establishment of policy favouring the accession of the Central and Eastern European States. Fundamentally, for accession to the EU, this new wave of applicant states had to possess a European Identity, be able to maintain a stable Democracy and market economy. At this point, it is interesting to introduce the question of Turkey. Turkish involvement with, and desire to join, the European Union is a long-running episode in the history of post-war Europe.
However, it was only this year that the EU attributed Applicant State status to Turkey. The issue of Turkey as possessing a European Identity raises various doubts; due mainly to Turkeys predominantly Muslim population, and its geopolitical position. The EU insists that various issues require resolution before Turkish accession can take place. Such issues include Turkeys unsatisfactory human rights record, such as the treatment of the Kurdish minority and the undemocratic penal system. The issue of Turkish accession is thus proving to be a unique case in the process of EU enlargement.
It is necessary, if Turkish accession to the EU is to take place, for Turkey to be seen as possessing a European Identity . Although it has never been stipulated in any of the agreements formed between Turkey and the European Community, it is vital that the present constituency of the EU regards this as so. It is therefore necessary to look at the strength of Turkeys relations to Europe in recent history. The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 from Turkish remnants of the Ottoman Empire, which in turn created the only Muslim State with a secular democracy. The Ottoman Empire was a key player in the Concert of Europe, and in the aftermath of World War II, Turkey albeit mainly in an attempt to guard itself against an invasion from the USSR became eager to anchor itself in various European institutions. Turkey has since built a diverse network of bonds with Europe, and regards these ties as signs of a European Identity. Turkey was included in the post-WWII Marshall Plan, holds Association Status in the WEU, is a founder member of the UN, holds NATO membership, and is a member of the Council of Europe.
Relations between Turkey and the EU are governed by the Ankara Agreement of 1964; which envisaged the establishment of a Customs Union, and eventual Turkish membership of the Community. This Agreement got off to a shaky start, but since January 1996 there has existed a Customs Union between Turkey and the EU. However, very few citizens of the EU are aware of such ties , so it is necessary for both Turkey and the EU Member States to educate their respective constituencies of the extent to which such mutual ties expand if integration of Turkey into the EU is to take place. Another reason for the lack of faith in Turkeys Europeanness is its geography. Turkey lies at the southeastern periphery of Europe, and is part of both the Asian and European Continents, the major part of which lies in Asia . Its neighbour states include Greece and Bulgaria to the West, Cyprus to the South, as well as Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria to the East. It is nonetheless situated on all major trade routes, and during the Cold War, Turkeys geopolitical position meant that she played a great role in countering the strategic threat from the East, which as a result strengthened her ties with the USA, and in turn NATO.
In spite of Turkeys numerous ties to Europe and the USA, opponents to Turkish accession contend that Turkeys close proximity to other Muslim countries is a security concern. A closer analysis of Turkeys relations with its neighbours can deem this argument as inaccurate. At the time of the Gulf War, in remaining a loyal ally to NATO, Turkey took part in sanctions against Iraq, which ended up in billions of dollars of losses to the Turkish economy. Turkeys influence upon Turkic and Islamic peoples of the former USSR has led to the establishment of common economic aims in the former eastern bloc, such as the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Project (BSECP) . Turkey is also a major contributor of aid to the Central Asian Republics , and claims her involvement with these states is to provide a model of modern, Western secular democracy and a market economy . Through her mediative role in processes of democratisation and economic modernisation with her neighbour states, it is quite clear that Turkeys interests lie ultimately with the security of Europe.
Although Turkey has proven her allegiance to Europe in her foreign policies, there exist serious internal impediments to Turkish accession. It was only at the beginning of March in 2001 that the EU entered into accession negotiations with Turkey. Before she is allowed in, Turkey needs to bring her legislation into line with the EU ‘s three basic principles – human rights, democracy and market economics. The EU is critical of Turkeys human rights record, especially their penal system and the treatment of minorities. The Turkish Government has recently been condemned for their crackdown on those seeking to expose torture, beatings and other police abuses during a violent raid of Turkish prisons on December 19th 2000.
A military prisoner transfer operation took place in twenty Turkish prisons; in which thirty prisoners and two police were killed . Turkey has repeatedly been criticized for their use of soldiers to guard prison perimeters and suppress prison protests, and statistics show that since 1995, Turkish soldiers have beaten, shot or tortured to death twenty-eight prisoners . In September 2000, Journalist Nadire Mater was made to stand trial for charges of insulting the military, and although she was acquitted, those who criticise the Turkish Government still risk imprisonment. Political prisoners demanding reform of the inhumane conditions of the Turkish penal system are presently carrying out hunger strikes in Turkish Prisons, and although some of such protesters have died, the Turkish Government still refuses to publicly investigate their allegations. This refusal is clearly undemocratic, and an obvious violation of human rights on Turkeys behalf. Turkeys treatment of minorities is another major issue that has attracted worldwide concern. It is thus necessary to introduce the Kurdish problem at this point. Approximately one fifth of Turkey’s 63 million people are of Kurdish ethnicity, yet they are denied minority status and language rights.
It was claimed in the Governments response to the Morillon Report of 2000 that, There are no minorities in Turkey except those described in the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, and in our constitution all Turkish citizens, including minorities, have the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities . However, many attempts to assert political or cultural rights based on Kurdish identity are regarded as treason and punished accordingly, due mainly to Turkeys attempt to suppress Kurdish separatist elements such as the PKK . Reforms are albeit very slowly – being made, such as Foreign Minister Ismail Cems 1999 statement that Everyone in Turkey should have the right to have television broadcasts in their own language . It is felt however, that EU membership would initiate an end to violations of human rights in Turkey, in areas such as their undemocratic penal system and treatment of minorities. For if Turkey were made to stand before the Court of Justice on such matters, they would inevitably be penalised.
Turkey is keen for both economic and security reasons to gain accession to the EU, so although a change in attitudes towards human rights and minorities is urgent, EU membership would act as a step in the right direction. There are numerous reasons in favour of Turkish accession to the EU. It is clear from the state of Turkeys foreign relations Politics Essays.