“For the 25 years I’ve been in Turkey, EU accession has been 10 years away,” said Hugh Pope, Turkey/Cyprus project director of Crisis Group. “At the moment, the process is dead in the water. That doesn’t mean it can’t be revived.”
Negotiations over Turkish E.U. accession were started on October 3 2005. However, Turkey has struggled with the “acquis” – the 35 chapters of EU law that Turkey must conform with before it is even eligible to become a full member. Even then accession would be no guarantee.
Each candidate country has to open the chapters, relating to everything from the environment to human rights, change laws, and government practice to match EU standards, and then agree with Brussels to close them. In the seven years since negotiations began, Turkey has opened only 13 chapters, and closed only one, on science and research. At this moment, no chapters have been opened for two years. Turkey also needs to normalize relations with E.U. member country Cyprus. Hence, there is still much work to be done but Turkey is recently showing a renewed level of interest in making the required changes.
The source of this renewed interest is partly due to the change of leadership within France. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was very much against Turkish membership. While the new president Francois Hollande’s views on the matter remain unclear, this still offers more hope than Sarkozy’s flat “no”. “With the coming to power of Mr. François Hollande, we are all hoping that a new course in the Turkish-EU relations will gain momentum,” Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said this week, during a joint news conference alongside German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle.
The benefits of membership for Turkey would be massive. Upon accession to the EU, Turkey expects to receive economic development aid similar to what Ireland, Greece, Spain, and Portugal received. Obviously the increased trading markets and foreign investment would be beneficial to the Turkish economy. The country would also take a higher global position and have more of a say in international affairs.
Turkish membership would have benefits for the Union too. Turkey is the sixth largest economy in Europe and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Already, trade and investment between Turkey and the EU is flourishing, creating jobs and bolstering industry. Many E.U. leaders also see Turkey as a potential diplomatic link to the Middle East.
Many E.U. citizens still don’t want to see Turkey in the Union. There are many reasons they point to for refusal. Some think Turkey is simply not part of Europe either culturally or geographically. Others believe that the E.U. should focus on deepening the ties between member states rather than widening them. The main anxiety among the E.U. citizens is the potential influx of thousands of Turkish refugees into their countries. However, this view seems outdated with Turkey’s growing economy and the Eurozone crisis. The reverse may actually be the case.