Turkey's Entry into the EU: Asset or Liability?
Moustakis, Fotis, Contemporary Review
In the light of Turkey's recent rejection for entry into the European Union (EU) it will be appropriate to assess the validity of Turkish application by analysing the potential costs and benefits for the EU and Turkey.
Of the many current applicants for EU membership Turkey has been waiting the longest since 1963, but is potentially the last country expected to gain membership. Since the accession agreement signed in 1963, Turkey's declared goal has been full EU membership and in 1987 she applied for this. The wording of the 1963 agreement explicitly gives Turkey the legal right to expect to become a full member; that she has not done so is perhaps a result of doubt within the EU of whether Turkey is really European. The EU claims economic and political reasons why Turkey remains outside, but the reality may be that the EU does not agree with Ozlem Sanberk, Turkey's permanent delegate to the EU, whose opinion of the 1987 application was: 'Turkey confirms its traditional goal which is to align itself with Europe that is politically plural, economically liberal, rich in cultural diversity and strategically necessary to the defence and security of the West'.
Whilst, the EU views Turkey as a primarily Asian nation, Turkey views herself as an estranged European one. History in many ways backs her up. If Europe were to be defined purely by geography then Turkey, who lies southeast of the traditional borderline of the Dardanelles-Bosphorus ribbon of water linking the Aegean and Black Seas, would not be included. Turkey is however part of the Europe of ideas. Brian Beedham points out in The Economist that for two-thirds of the last 2500 years Turkey has been a political, economic and cultural extension of Europe. After 1453 contacts with Europe continued, often in the form of clashes between European states and the Ottoman Empire. In 1856 Turkey was welcomed as a European Power when it fought alongside Britain and France in the Crimean War, and was brought into the Concert of Europe. So even if in this period Turkey was domestically Asian, her foreign policy was directed at Europe.
The greatest change occurred in the 1920s with the westernisation of Turkey as a formal and fundamental policy under Kemal Attaturk. From this point on Turkey has directed her energies towards 'Europeanisation' of which membership of the EU would be the climax. Attaturk's reforms were widespread, the Latin alphabet was adopted as was the European calendar and the Christian Sunday as the day of rest. The fez and other headgear was banned and woman discouraged from wearing the chador and were given the right of suffrage not long after British women were (1922). The penal code was adopted from that of Italy and the civil code from Switzerland. Highly important was the removing of the political power of Islam by the abolition of the religious court and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Turkey thus became a secular state just like any other European country, the difference being the population is predominantly Islamic rather than Christian. Despite Turkey being secular and the Treaty of Rome not saying anything about members being Christian, this seems to be one reason why Turkey is excluded from full membership. The fact that it is the ruling class of Turkey, the educated elite, who push for European integration and not the Islamic masses is not a reason to decline Turkey's membership, but one for its acceptance. As one Turkish diplomat stated 'the policy of economic re-orientation and political and social modernisation might succeed so that the Turkish people might know in what direction the efforts demanded of them were leading'.
After World War II Turkey was welcomed into the West due to her strategic importance at the cross-roads of three continents. She was an early member of the Council of Europe in 1949, a significant and important NATO member since 1952 and an associate EC member since 1963. Now after the end of the Cold War it is easy to claim that Turkey's strategic importance instead of declining has increased. …