Table of Contents
1. Turkish Perspective
2. German Perspective
Turkey can be characterized by two contrasting images. On the one hand, the country has been a staunch member of NATO for over 50 years. It has a thriving democracy, a lively free press and a stable government with a big parliamentary majority. Although most of its people are deeply religious, Turkey is ferociously secular. Moreover, its economy is booming: during the past two years, the GDP has risen by an annual average of 8.4 percent and inflation has fallen by three-quarters, near to single figures (Economist 2004/9/18: p. 30). In contrast to the current EU, this country has a young and growing population. Its biggest city was a cradle of Christian (and European) civilisation. To sum up, with regard to the mentioned facts, Turkey seems to be a promising gain for the European Union.
But also the following aspects depict Turkey: it is situated mostly in Asia and it borders such worrisome countries as Iraq, Syria and Iran. The country’s economy has been a hopeless case for decades, its currency has been repeatedly devalued, many of its banks are ailing and it is one of the largest debtors of the IMF. Turkey is far poorer than even the poorest of the ten countries that joined the EU in May 2004. It has a history of military coups and its frightful human-rights record (Walker 1997) and the torture of prisoners are well documented. Its people, who are for the most part Muslim, could soon form the EU’s biggest population. Briefly, as far as these issues are concerned, Turkey seems to lose any attractiveness to join the Union.
This portrayal of Turkey in such utterly contrasting ways explains why Turkey presents such a critical question for the EU. No other country’s presumed membership has arisen such excitement and many several European commissioners have voiced their reservations against the joining of Turkey. In September 2004, a further controversy broke out over a Turkish government proposal to criminalize adultery, which was hastily abandoned after strong protests from Europe (Economist 2004/9/18: p. 31). Last year, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has become a central actor on the European agenda, urging the case for starting membership talks.
The question of Turkish membership of the European Union has been around for four decades. As long ago as 1963, Turkey was the second country that signed a European association agreement, which is normally regarded as an introduction of membership. It officially applied for membership only in 1987. The European Commission repudiated the application in 1989. During the 1990s, a period, which was characterized by preparations to admit the eight central European countries, which finally joined in May 2004, European leaders, avoided Turkey’s aspirations, though in 1996 an EU-Turkey customs union was formed. In 1997 an EU summit did not include the country in its list of candidates. This evasiveness caused irritations among the Turkish people. But Turkey’s instability during the 1990s, which led to the driving out of government of a mildly Islamist party in 1997, and the series of economic crisis caused a controversy about EU membership. Turkey’s war on Kurdish PKK terrorists in the south-east and its repeated human rights violations also disqualified it. Only in 1999, the EU summit in Helsinki formally agreed on Turkey as a candidate. In 2002 EU leaders went a step further and declared that if Turkey will satisfy the ‘Copenhagen criteria’, a date for opening negotiations would be fixed. Finally, in December 2004, the EU leaders decided to say yes and fixed October 3rd in 2005 for the start of negotiations (Hausmann 2004: p. 13).
This essay deals with economic, political as well as cultural consequences for Turkey and Germany if Turkey enters the European Union.
1. Turkish Perspective
One third of the Turkish population is engaged in farming. That aspect and the country’s poverty (Business Europe 1999) would imply big budgetary transfers from Brussels for many years: considerable support by means of structural funds would be necessary as well as rising subventions for the many agrarian regions. By joining the EU, Turkey aspires to attract more foreign investment. It has been moving towards free trade with the EU for the past 30 years. Even before it joined the customs union, it was sending more than half of its exports to Western Europe (Dowden 1996: p. 17). After 2001, Turkey’s economy has stabilised – mainly due to the IMF but also to the economic policies of the Erdogan government. Nonetheless, there are obstacles in the way: the current-account deficit stays huge and Turkey’s enormous debt requires constant refinancing, whereas foreign investment remains meagre: last year Turkey collected a plain one billion $ (Economist 2004/9/18: p. 32). Furthermore, local suppliers may find it difficult to compete with European makers. However, the fiscal policy is tight and inflation is under control.
With the prospect of EU membership, the Justice and Development party, a mildly Islamist party that assumed office in November 2002 and is led by Erdogan, has carried out a set of substantial reforms to meet the Copenhagen criteria. The reforms include three aspects of constitutional change. Moreover, the judiciary is going through transformations and efforts have been made to improve human rights. The death penalty has been abolished. Progress with regard to political and civil rights for the Kurdish minority has been remarkable (Economist 2004/9/ 25): teaching in the Kurdish language has been permitted in 2004, the Turkish state television began broadcasting in Kurdish for the first time in June 2004 and a Turkish court freed Kurdish parliamentarians. Also the Cyprus issue, which had long been an obstacle to Turkish membership (Kohen 1995), is now an argument in favour after the Turkish-Cypriots voted for a re-unified Cyprus in April 2004; this time it was the Greek-Cypriots who rejected (Economist 2004/9/18).
But are these changes sufficient? The economy remains weak; human rights need more protection. Beside the concession over adultery, women’s rights have not been enhanced much, as the cases of “honour” killings show. Furthermore, there is still local opposition to Kurdish rights. Religious freedom also remains restricted in Turkey: Christians and Greek Orthodox still report harassments. What proves to be crucial is the implementation. “It is one thing for a government to pass new laws; it is quite another for practice in local police stations, barracks and courtrooms to change.” (ibid.: p. 32)
- Quote paper
- Christiane Landsiedel (Author), 2005, The Possible Accession of Turkey to the EU. A Turkish and a German Perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/35502