Turkey as a potential candidate country to the European Union

written by Adriana KARBANOVA, assisted by Morgan PETEUIL, M1 AlterEurope 2013-2014

Students from Altereurope Master’s degree had the chance to visit the Turkish delegation to the European Union (EU) in Brussels. This conference was a perfect occasion to learn some facts about Turkey’s candidature to the EU and to think about the pros and cons of its admission. The aim of this article is to summarize the content of this conference and to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of Turkey’s admission to the EU.

1)   Why Turkey wants to join the EU?

Turkey would benefit from being part of the EU for several reasons. First of all, it would be an opportunity to further develop the country. It would be a good way to boost their economy and export, as there would be no tariff barriers. Also, it would allow them to ensure the security and defence of the country in general. The country would benefit from its geographical position to supply oil and gas to the EU. Finally, Turkey would like to become an example of the first well-functioning country in Europe, where the main religion is Islam. Therefore, it would allow Europe to become more multicultural and open-minded and overcome the stereotypes linked to other religions different from Christianity. Moreover, Turkey’s neighbours are rather unstable countries, such as Syria, Iran and Iraq. The integration of Turkey would allow the EU to play a bigger role in the Middle East, and thus to improve its external policy.

2)   What are the arguments for Turkish admission?

Turkey seems to have a good potential from the economic point of view. It is the 6th European economy and the 16th economy in the world. The country’s growth rate is much higher than the EU’s one (around 4%). Therefore, it is often called the “Turkish tiger”. Furthermore, Turkey is ranked as the 6th most visited touristic destination in the world. It is also the 5th commercial partner of the EU. Moreover, Turkey has a good state of its financial situation. The country meets the Maastricht requirements and in 2013, it paid off its debt taken from the International Monetary Fund.

As far as demography is concerned, Turkey has an important number of inhabitants with a lot of young people. Therefore, it could become the 5th work force in the EU. It is also the 3rd most populated country in Europe after Russia and Germany.

From the geostrategic point of view, Turkey is a strategic territory, because it is the centre of oil and gas pipelines coming from the East.

As for security and defence issues, Turkey has the 2nd most powerful army from NATO.

3)   What are the arguments against Turkey’s admission?

Firstly, any country that would like to be part of the EU should recognize all the other members of the EU. This makes the admission difficult for Turkey, as the country doesn’t recognize Cyprus due to their former political disputes.

Secondly, not all member states agree that Turkey is situated in Europe, and question their European identity. Generally speaking, the EU members do not have a unified opinion about Turkey’s admissions. The original 6 founder members are rather against its admission to the EU, while some new members support Turkey to join the EU.

The demographic situation has also a negative side. There is a high level of unemployment and the work force is not enough qualified. Also, women are not sufficiently involved in the Turkish economy. If it joined the EU, it would be one of the most populated countries of the EU with one of the lowest GDP per capita. At the same time, they would have a lot of members in the parliament and EU institutions. Last but not least, the migration flow could also become an issue.

Religion is also a problem. Turkey is officially a laic country, but in practice Islam is still a matter of importance and the freedom of religion is limited. Some 95% of the population is Muslim and they practically recognize only a few minorities (Jews, Greek and Oriental Orthodoxy and Armenian Apostolic).

From the economic point of view, the country does not produce enough high-tech goods and is specialized rather in low-cost production. Also, Turkish regions do not have the same level of development; for example the region of Marmara produce 45% of the GDP and 31% of the population live there. Some regions, such as Anatolia are extremely poor. This is an important argument against the admission of Turkey, as this would cause problems for the EU Regional Policy: Turkey would contribute to it, but it would make much more benefit of it for its own regions. Thus, some countries like France, Belgium and Germany would not benefit from the EU Regional Policy at all.

4)   What to conclude from this situation?

As you can see from these arguments, Turkey’s admission to the EU is a very controversial topic. The country has made a lot of progress and its economic growth is extraordinary. But is it sufficient to become a member of the EU? Would the admission be advantageous for both sides?

Even EU members do not have the same opinion concerning this topic. We could say that there are rather groups of countries that have similar interests, but there is definitely not only one opinion for the whole EU.

In the past, some countries had to meet the Copenhagen criteria to be able to become members of the EU. But today some countries don’t even meet them anymore. Turkey does meet some criteria, especially those concerning the financial health of the state. Economically speaking, the country is more important than some of the latest EU members. Then, you may ask why it shouldn’t be part of Europe…

But should EU continue to expand continuously without having a more unified strategy concerning its neighbourhood? Before admitting new members, the EU should definitely determine its objectives as far as neighbourhood relations and geo-strategy are concerned. Also, the difference between its members should be reduced and maybe the efforts should be concentrated rather on this issue than on the continuous expansion.

This would mean that it is maybe not the right time for admitting new members, but rather on developing more cooperation with the neighbourhood. Turkey deserves admiration for its development, but Europe is not ready to accept new members until it is more unified and cohesive.

 

 

This article is written by Adriana Karbanova, assisted by Morgan Peteuil.

Adriana is a first-year student of Altereurope Master’s degree (school year 2013/2014). She has a background in Economics and International Affairs. She is from Czech Republic. She lived and studied in France and worked in Canada and Switzerland. At the moment, she is an intern at the UN agency for the development of information and communication technology – ITU in Geneva, Switzerland.

Morgan is also a first-year student of Altereurope Master’s degree (school year 2013/2014). He belongs to the Economics major. He is from France. He studied in Finland and did his internship at the Chamber of commerce in Moldova.