Issue of Turkey Joining the EU Research Proposal

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Turkey EU

In December 1999 at the Helsinki European Council, Turkey became a candidate country for EU membership. The prospect of Turkey joining the EU is one of the most ambitious -- and contentious -- moves that the Union has made. Negotiations began in 2005 and have proceeded at a relatively slow pace. There are a wide range of issues that need to be addressed before Turkey can be accepted into the EU. The issues are not simply practical. Turkey's status as a Muslim country, albeit a secular one, is of concern to many in Europe. As well, Turkey's poor relations with EU member Greece in the past century and a half threatens negotiations. Furthermore, instability in the country, in particular with respect to the Kurdish situation, is an issue unrelated to fundamentals that contributes to the complexity of the negotiations regarding Turkey's accession to the EU. This paper will analyze these issues and attempt to shed light on the workings of the EU and what it might take for Turkey to join.


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In recent years, the European Union has expanded significantly. Once a trade union between Western European nations, the EU has become a pan-European governmental force. In 2004, the Union admitted ten new nations, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe and in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania joined. Enlarging the EU is seen as a foreign policy tool. By admitting members on its periphery, Europe extends its sphere of influence, and stabilizes not only Europe but its immediate surroundings as well (Champion, 2009). In addition to Turkey, Croatia is negotiating to join and one more, Macedonia, has been declared an official candidate. Iceland, Albania and Montenegro are not official candidates but have initiated the accession process.

Turkey's particular relationship with the union dates to 1959, when Turkey applied for associate membership in the European Economic Community (EEC) (European Commission, 2009). It was not until forty years later, however, that Turkey was named as an official candidate country. Since then, negotiations have been stop and start. Of the 35 points of negotiation, only 11 have been opened and just one thus far has been closed (European Union, 2009).

Research Proposal on Issue of Turkey Joining the EU Assignment

Also in the broader context is the fear of Islam that is a major social undercurrent in Europe. Political parties that stand for a strictly Judeo-Christian view of Europe are gaining in popularity, which creates a political imperative for the rejection of Turkey as a European Union member. While there is a small portion of that country within Europe, most of it is in Asia. While the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts were once part of the Greek world, that era ended definitively in the early 20th century. The region that is now Turkey may once have been part of Europe, but today those linkages are more tenuous. Turks migrants have immigrated to European countries such as Germany by the millions, creating the impression that the Turks are taking over certain parts of Europe. They build mosques and minarets, which some take as signaling Islamic dominance of the area. Thus, there are many who believe that fear of Islam in general and Turks in particular is contributing to keeping Turkey out of the EU (Ramadan, 2009).

The Issue

Accession to the European Union traditionally requires that candidate nations align their laws and economies to European standards. These nations must have, for example, a certain degree of economic stability in addition to robust legal systems in order to receive full membership. Political stability is also an antecedent to accession.

With respect to the economy, Turkey has a per capita GDP of $11,900, putting it just below recent EU members Romania and Bulgaria, but well below the other EU states. Its GDP overall, however, is at $903.9 billion the 17th largest in the world, and would be the 6th largest in the EU if it joined (CIA World Factbook, 2009). Although a significant number of Turkish citizens work in agriculture and certain regions of the country remain in poverty, Turkey is clearly close in economic terms of EU qualifications.

The Turkish legal regime derives from a number of European systems. The nation is a member of the European Court of Human Rights, although the country is not fully congruent with European law. Some of Turkey's reluctance to adopt European standards comes from internal politics concerning the Kurdish minority.

The Kurdish problem is one of the main issues of political instability in Turkey as well. Ten years ago when Turkey was named a candidate for EU accession, the far southeast and east of the country were essentially out of control of the central government. This situation has changed, but the Kurdish minority in the region seeks independence and can be militant at times.

There are other issues with respect to Turkish political stability. Turkey has a long-running dispute with Greece over the island of Cyprus. Turkey controls the northern portion of the island while the south is a Greek-aligned independent nation. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, which gives it veto power over issues of foreign policy. One ongoing dispute with respect to the blocking of ship traffic around the island has resulted in the stoppage of negotiations on 8 of the 35 negotiating subjects between Turkey and the EU (Earth Times, 2009). There are other tensions with Greece, including Turkish military flights over Greek territory and illegal immigration from Turkey into the EU via Greece (EurActiv, 2009).

The border issue is one of the most important practical matters that Turkey must address as part of the accession process. Europe is already concerned about Islam's growth and waves of illegal immigrants. The Turkish frontier is considered porous even where it already borders the EU in Greece and Bulgaria. On the other sides, along the borders with Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia and Georgia the border is even more porous. If Turkey were to join the EU, these borders would become the gateways for illegal immigration into Europe. For an EU already concerned with illegal immigration, the lack of Turkish control over these remote frontiers is of grave concern (EU Business, 2009).

Workings of the EU

Several of the issues surrounding the accession of Turkey into the EU shed light on how the organization works. The incident with Cyprus illustrates a key point. The first is that EU nations can block the accession of candidate nations over foreign policy grounds. This shows the degree to which broad-based cooperation and consensus-building is a part of the EU. It could reasonably be argued that the reason for the sluggish pace of Turkish accession relates in part to the country's reluctance to accept the high degree of consensus building, not just on the Cyprus issue but for example also with human rights.

The issue with regards to immigration highlights another key point about the workings of the EU. The EU is currently working with Turkey, as well as another transit country Libya, to stem the tide of illegal immigration to the EU. This shows that the EU is active outside of its borders. The EU views expansion as the key to political stability not just in Europe but in the entire area around Europe. It is interesting to note that discussions with Turkey on this issue have apparently been decoupled from the official Turkey accession talks. Although the immigration issue is not explicitly a part of the accession talks, clearly cooperation from Turkey on a variety of EU-related issues is required as the EU seeks to meet its objectives of controlling its expanded sphere of influence. Also decoupled is the issue of energy. The EU has an interest in Turkey as a transit point for Caucasian natural gas. The issue is treated by the EU as a separate matter, although Turkey would like the issue to be part of the talks.

One of the traits of the EU most in evidence during the Turkey accession talks is that the EU operates as a singular entity, and expects all of its members to conform to a wide range of norms. The Union demands that Turkey enact democratic reforms in order to bring its political system in line with European standards. Other changes demanded including changes to the Constitution, safeguarding free speech, granting more rights to minorities and curbing the power of the military. These demands reflect Europe's cultural values. The promotion of these values is deemed essential by Europe as a means to expand Europe's foreign policy influence. Turkey's progress on many of these issues has stagnated in recent years -- the country banned YouTube, for example -- and this has harmed its accession bid (BBC, 2009).

The influence of European cultural values on the EU and its accession process is also revealed. The slow pace of Turkish negotiations reflects both Turkey's distraction with domestic issues (BBC, 2009) but also European concern over what the accession of Turkey might to do the Islamization of Europe.


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APA Style

Issue of Turkey Joining the EU.  (2009, December 8).  Retrieved October 24, 2020, from

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"Issue of Turkey Joining the EU."  8 December 2009.  Web.  24 October 2020. <>.

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"Issue of Turkey Joining the EU."  December 8, 2009.  Accessed October 24, 2020.