Turkish membership in the European Union has been subject to discussion since October 2005. Many discussions have been held over how Turkey would become a member of EU and the debate has polarized the European nations into those who support its membership and those that do not. Turkish territorial region straddle from Europe to Asia and covers the whole of Anatolian Peninsula (Asia Minor).
There are a number of factors that in one way or the other complicates Turkey’s membership acquisition process and these are things like Turkish-Cyprus relations, Turkey’s geographical location, difference in values and cultures between Turkey’s and for the European nations’ and population size. The aim of this paper is to offer an in-depth analysis of the factors that prevent Turkey from becoming a member of the European Union member.Turkey’s membership in the European Union has been and is still the most contentious issue in the union’s agenda since 2005 when turkey declared its interest in joining the union. Since European Union was created, turkey has all along been interested in EU membership but the incompatibilities in its policies have been a major stumbling block that keeps it locked outside.
Turkey applied for EU membership for the first time in 1959 and three years later it went ahead to sign the Ankara agreement something that did not only confirmed its eligibility but also something that envisaged the possibility of its full membership in future. The current gridlock between the European Union and Turkey does not seem to color the future of the later becoming a member. This is an argument that has been supported by Arikan (1) who says that, “EU has always considered Turkey to be an awkward candidate for EU membership: Turkey is different, problematic and thus, by implication, a more difficulty case than any of the other applicants.”Lack of will by the European Union to accept Turkey’s membership has been evident in the policies that the union advances against Turkey in its bid union’s bid to strengthen and maintain the existing membership agreement.
Instead of the union streamlining how Turkey would join the union and acquire its full membership, the union developed an alternative approach that could only be described best as a containment strategy designed to malign the possibility of Turkey becoming a member in the near future (Arikan 2)Turkey has been trying hard for the past decades to gain membership in the union in fact; it restructured both its legal and economic systems to match with those of the European Union but to no avail. The division the issue it creates between its members does not do Turkey any good. Some members almost more than half of them according to polls that were done were in opposition and the argument was that Turkey is not a European country. Though this might not be a very big issue in itself, there are those who think that by allowing Turkey to become a member of EU it is like opening hell’s gate because the country is highly populated and to make the matter worse it is poor therefore, accepting its membership is creating an avenue for Muslim immigrant to the European countries (Smith).
Another thing that reduces the chances of Turkey gaining European Union membership is its huge population. Turkey’s ever growing population has been one of the issues that European nations have been concerned about. Not that a big population in itself is bad but the reason is that that would mean granting Turkey most of the seats in the European union’s parliament should Turkey become a member of the European Union (Carkoglu and Rubin 351).The policy hold that the country with the biggest population has more seats in the parliament and currently it is Germany which has about 80 million people and thus if Turkey which has more than 70 million people is to become a full member of the union, then European Union’s power balance would be altered as Turkey would scoop the second majority of seats in that parliament that is, should the occupation of parliamentary seat continue to be population based.
It is the fear of the European nations that there would be power balance shift that has been complicating Turkey’s situation (Rosenberg).Another reason why turkey cannot get in the European Union is the difference in values and culture between that of the European nations in the union and Turkey’s. According to the available statistics, 98 percent of Turkey’s populations are Muslims unlike in the European nations where majority are Christians. As per the European Union, the difference in religion is not an issue and they assert that the union is not religion based.
They claim that it is not because that Turkey’s majorities are Muslims that it is locked outside in fact, Turkey has a secular government but the thing is that Turkey has to improve and respect the rights of non Muslims to match with those of the nations in the EU. According to the European Union, geographical location of Turkey is also not a big issue but what is of prime concern is the values that EU cherishes. “The EU is based more on values and political will than on rivers and mountains” (Rosenberg)Turkey’s low per capita income is another thing that European nations are worried about. Turkey has a big population and to add salt to the injury, majority of its population are poor.
Already Turkey receives development funds from the EU so that if it will at all in the future join the union, they will have invested in a more economically stable nation. At the moment, its membership cannot be accepted as there are many foreseen negative consequences that would result (U.S. Library of Congress).
Turkey’s relation with Cyprus is another factor that complicates the matter. Many European nations hoped that Turkey would change its policies towards Cyprus if it was to be promised full membership. The failure of Turkey to make viable policy reforms in line with EU’s requirements has greatly undermined its membership acquisition process. There has been a territorial dispute and a conflict of interest over Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.
The right over who is responsible for oil exploration in the Aegean Sea has been controversial but according to the international law, a country should explore the mineral wealth that is on its designated shelf. According to NATO, Greece reserves the right to control the air over Aegean Sea, a right that has been hotly been disputed by Turkey. The question that arises over Turkey’s membership is whether it would join the union as a unified island or otherwise? Turkey was given a deadline by which they would have resolved their disputes for it to be accepted as a member of EU but this does not seem to be forthcoming (Carkoglu and Rubin 359).Indeed it has been Turkey’s endeavor to become a full member of the European Union for many decades but it has never succeeded.
Contrary to Turkey’s expectations, its membership acquisition attracted a lot of arguments that are geared to hinder its acquisition. Some of the factors that prevent Turkey from becoming a full member of the Union are; the fact that its big population would lead to power shift in the union as the country with the majority gets majority of the seats. Another reason is that its poor economic status is seen as a problem as its membership would turn to an avenue for its people to go to European nations for better opportunities. Still another reason that complicates the matter is that it is not ready to make reforms conform to the union’s requirements and finally it’s cultural and value difference has been a stumbling block to EU membership acceptance.
Works cited:Arikan, Harun. Turkey and the EU: An Awkward Candidate for EU Membership?2nd Edition Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006Carkoglu, Ali and Rubin, Barry M. Turkey and the European Union: domesticPolitics, Economic Integration, and International Dynamics.
Routledge, 2003.Rosenberg, M. Turkey in the European Union: Will Turkey Be Accepted for Membership in the EU? About.com.
Retrieved from http://geography.about.com/od/politicalgeography/a/turkeyeu.htm Smith C.
S. European Union Formally Opens Talks on Turkey’s Joining. 2005. Accessed from http://www.
Library of Congress. European Union. Accessed at http://countrystudies.us/turkey/89.htm
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