12 Ocak 2011 Çarşamba

Turkish-European Union Relations

Turkey’s application to accede to the European Union was made on 14 April 1987.[1] Turkey has been an associate member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessors since 1963. After the 10 founding members, Turkey was one of the first countries to become a member of the Council of Europe in 1949 and was also a founding member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1961 and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 1973. Turkey has also been an associate member of the Western European Union since 1992, and is a part of the “Western Europe” branch of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) at the United Nations. Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and was officially recognized as a candidate for full membership on 12 December 1999, at the Helsinki summit of the European Council.[2] Negotiations were started on 3 October 2005 but the membership bid has become a major controversy of the ongoing enlargement of the European Union.[3]
As Turkey takes steps towards full membership to the European Union, skepticism of the EU countries about Turkish membership -due to historical, cultural, economic, political and psychological reasons- and the political conditions determined by the EU contribute to a growing ambivalence towards the idea of integration in Turkey. According to nationalist political/intellectual circles, the EU is seen as the contemporary version of European imperialism which covertly aims to weaken, divide and rule Turkey. Specifically, EU’s perspective on the Cyprus issue, the Armenian problem and the Kurdish question increases the uncertainties about European countries’ intentions and sincerity about Turkey’s accession. The rise of nationalism and “Islamophobia” as well as the takeover of right wing political parties instead of social democratic parties in Europe strengthen the current trend. The German chancellor Angela Merkel’s statements about “privileged partnership”[4] and the French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s insistence on a “Mediterranean Union”[5] also contribute to the emerging downward trend in Turkish-EU relations. Turkish public opinion about EU membership seems to be focused on two extreme poles, which constantly degrade or ignore each other. Polls made in the recent years show that support for Turkey’s accession to the European Union has been decreasing dramatically and Turkish people have begun to lose their faith in the success of this project. A poll conducted by a respected inquiry company KONDA in 2007 shows that only 39 % of Turkish people think that “Turkey should absolutely become a full member of EU”, whereas 24 % of Turkish people are “extremely against EU membership”. The other 37 % of Turkish people think that “full membership to EU does not matter for them”.[6] Another poll by A&G Company verifies KONDA’s results and shows that Turkish people who think that “Turkey should absolutely become a full member of EU” fell from 56.5 % to 30.1 % between 2002 and 2008.[7]
The future of the Turkish-EU relationship does not seem bright in the short term because of the complexity of the problems between two sides and the loss of Turkey’s earlier energetic and hopeful position about full accession to EU. In recent years, Justice and Development Party government seem to neglect Turkish-EU relations and to give more emphasis on Turkey’s relations with the Islamic world as a response to prejudiced rhetoric and double-standard practices of some EU countries towards Turkey. Republican People’s Party recent ideological rapprochement with EU under its new and social democratic leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu could be the only positive development about Turkish-EU relations in the recent years.

[1] For the chronology of Turkish-EU relations see; Özgül Erdemli. 2003. “Chronology: Turkey’s Relations with the EU” in Ali Çarkoğlu and Barry Rubin (ed.) Turkey and the European Union: Domestic Politics, Economic Integration and International Dynamics. New York: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.
[2] For details about Helsinki Summit and afterwards see; Gamze Avcı. 2003. “Turkey’s Slow EU Candidacy: Insurmountable Hurdles to Membership or Simple Euro-skepticism?” in Ali Çarkoğlu and Barry Rubin (ed.) Turkey and the European Union: Domestic Politics, Economic Integration and International Dynamics. New York: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. Also see; Ziya Öniş. 2003. “Domestic Politics, International Norms and Challenges to the State: Turkey-EU Relations in the post-Helsinki Era” in Ali Çarkoğlu and Barry Rubin (ed.) Turkey and the European Union: Domestic Politics, Economic Integration and International Dynamics. New York: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd.
[3] For details see; EurActiv - European Union information web site, retrieved on 14.06.2010 from http://www.euractiv.com/en/enlargement/eu-turkey-relations/article-129678.
[4] German chancellor Angela Merkel has been promoting the idea of privileged partnership for Turkey for a long time. But after coming to power, she “pledged to abide by commitments Germany had made for Turkish membership.” Turkish Daily News, retrieved on 23.05.2008.
[5] Before being elected the President of the Republic of France, Nicolas Sarkozy in a televised debate with his socialist rival Segolene Royal few weeks before the elections, stated that if elected president, he will start a debate on Turkey's EU membership and he will be against such membership. He also for the first time said that Turkey could only be a part of the Mediterranean Union. Turkish Daily News, retrieved on 22.05.2008.
[6] Tarhan Erdem. “Yeni Türkiye’yi Anlamak (Understanding New Turkey)”, retrieved on 09.05.2008 from http://www.konda.com.tr/html/dosyalar/yeni_turkiye.pdf.
[7] A&G Araştırma Şirketi, “AB’ye Üyelik (Membership to EU)”, retrieved on 10.05.2008 from http://www.agarastirma.com.tr/.

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