My take on why Turkey has not become a part of the EU

 Although the EU may not have a set definition on a European identity, Turkey will not be admitted into the union for four reasons: economics, politics, cultural differences and security. Throughout the history of enlargement, Europe has maintained a common set of norms and values – politically, economically and culturally and throughout the timeline of enlargement Turkey has yet to be approved of its requests from the 1980’s. 

It’s first request for the EU came in April of 1987 and was denied and explained, “it would be inappropriate for the Community…to become involved in new accession negotiations and it would not be useful to open accession negotiations with Turkey.” Turkey was denied again in 1997 and has remained a potential member since.

 The European Union is not read to expand or embrace Turkey as of 2013 and will not join the EU in the next ten years because Turkey’s admission would change the EU’s geographical and cultural bases of European identity.  While many may argue culture has nothing to do with Turkeys acceptance, the EU spends approximately 400 million Euros on cultural activities “aim to promote awareness and preservation of cultural goods with European significance.” Thus, there is an effort to create a cultural European Identity and Turkey has not fit this entire time. Identity shapes policy options available to state leaders and this is exactly the case with Turkey’s different identity. There are competing sources of identity for the nation of Turkey. Turkey’s problem is being defined a different identity based on a nation state, ethnicity, and religion which in turn creates a block in achieving state legitimacy.  It is a state defined by a different religion. Eastern and Western Europe both hold a large population of Christians and in Turkey’s case – a large state with an Islamic majority provides a cause for concern when looking for common ground.   

Another factor that will continue to influence Turkeys request into the EU is its politics.  The treaties of the European Union second article claims that the union is founded on “the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the persons belonging to minorities.” Human Rights violations have been a large factor weighing against Turkeys entry into the EU. However, a step in the right direction would be the fact that the Turks have removed politics from the military budget, which “is now subject to parliamentary scrutiny” and the national Security Council is a consultative body. Furthermore, Turkey had an authoritarian government up until 1950 and was still a new multiparty democracy at the time it submitted its request. Turkey first requested to join when integration was still a relatively new concept and an unstable political infrastructure could not be an ideal fit. Although time has passed since then, recently, Turkey has been through civil unrest and protests in reaction issues of freedom of expression in the past year which also creates room for hesitation for the EU.

Former European commissioner Frits Bolkestein took the issue of Turkey and The EU and simply put it as “too big, too poor, too different.” If integrated, Turkeys open border would allow people to travel between Turkey and other EU nations and such immigration could create problems for member states. Turkey borders Syria, Iraq and Iran and also holds a large territory, which leaves the EU a sense of uneasiness with security. Turkey today is a population of 75,226,000 and is a large part of Europe. Allowing a state with such a large population to the EU would hand over a lot of strength and power away from the EU and create hegemony within the EU and European Parliament. To also keep in mind, Turkey has recently opened its borders to Syrian refugees in the wake of the civil unrest in Syria. This gives the EU room for concern with security issues resulting from all the violence in neighboring Syria and the large amount of refugees entering its borders that could spread to other parts of Europe.  

Political affiliation, religious and ethnic identity and security threats are all variables to consider when thinking of another enlargement in Europe’s time.  A common set of norms and values have already been established within the European Union with the past five enlargements and givens Turkeys consistent struggle with internal and external affairs, it may not see expansion in the next ten years. 


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