Six good reasons for Turkey’s accession to the EU

Article published on Dec. 16, 2004
Article published on Dec. 16, 2004

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

At last it’s going to be decided: after forty years of going in circles, the EU has to define its position vis-à-vis Ankara. Good reason will speak in favour of opening membership negotiations

A Promise is a Promise

In 1964, the (then) European Economic Community placed an invitation of membership in Turkey’s sights. In the meantime, as 19 other countries acceded to the Union, the prospect of membership led to massive reform efforts on the part of Turkey. If Europeans cannot now keep their promise and open negotiations, it will send a clear message to Turks and all Muslims inside and outside of the EU that not matter how much effort they make, they will never be accepted.

Turkey belongs to Europe

The Ottoman Empire contributed to the European cultural framework. It was through learned Islamic scholars that medieval Europe had ancient philosophies conveyed to it. Moreover, the foundations of modern medicine and economy succeeded exactly because of the Bosporus exchange of things such as coffee. Turkey has had a European vote since 1949, has been a member of NATO since 1952 and has been associated with the EU since 1963. It is a member of the UEFA Football League and, to the joy of 3.3 million Turks inside the EU, won the 2003 Eurovision Song Contest on their home soil.

Turkey is young…

...and the EU is old. The number of pensioners and young people is becoming increasingly disproportionate. Turkey, with its current 68 million inhabitants, is proving itself to have a dynamic and ambitious young generation: fresh blood, that can only do “old Europe” good.

Turkey is a Muslim country…

...and also high in non-Christians. When Jews were exiled from Spain in 1942, they found refuge in Turkey. Tolerance and humanity is as dominant an aspect of Islam as it is of Judaism or of Christianity, with whom it shares historical religious foundations. Fifteen million Muslims in the EU are waiting for the important signal that will show them that the EU is not simply a “Christian Club”, and the Islamic world waits for the reply of reason, in this “Battle of Cultures”.

Turkey will modernise the EU

The structures of the EU have not reformed enough to allow Turkish accession, say the opposition. That is true. Therefore the European Union must, at last, reform in a profound and tangible way. Nearly one half of the EU budget of 48 billion Euros flowed into a ridiculous farming subsidies system, which not only produced mountains of surplus goods but also ruined millions of farmers worldwide who could not compete with the EU’s dumping prices. Turkish accession will force the Community – not only in agricultural terms – to profoundly shake up their outdated working methods and get fit for the 21st century.

There is no “Third Way”

The Opposition to Turkish membership promotes the idea of a “privileged partnership” as an alternative between rejection and accession. This is nonsensical because the EU and Turkey have already been privileged partners for over forty years. Furthermore, what this “Third Way” should entail (beyond the Association Agreement of ‘63, the free trade agreement of ‘95 and the European neighbour policy) has not been precisely defined. The only alternative to accession is a clear “No”, which the opposition does not dare to express.

With the opening of accession talks the EU will have to confront its responsibility, which goes beyond its borders. The peaceful model of the EU will, in this way, gain ground and make the EU into a positive example of dynamic integration which runs against the neo-colonialist Bush or Putin administrations. This is a chance which must not be missed.