Why Europe Needs Turkey…

The political situation across Europe swings either to Turkey’s advantage or disadvantage…

Ending the accession process for any other reason than failing to fulfil the membership criteria, would also further reinforce the belief in the Muslim world that the European Union is an exclusive “Christian club”. This would inadvertently lead to the decline in the EU’s influence in global politics as well as negative feelings towards it from the Muslim world. After all, Turkey has pushed a number of reforms through in order to be able to enter the EU, including amendments to the controversial article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Closing that door in its face would seriously decrease Europe’s credibility in the Arab world.

Europe’s future clearly needs to include Turkey in it. However, that is not to say that EU membership should be granted unconditionally. Neither Turkey nor the EU should rush into the accession without both sides being prepared. On Turkey’s side, especially, there are still a number of reforms that need to be enforced. Concerns, particularly regarding freedom of speech, need to be addressed, if it is to be an EU member. The country ranks 138th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Press Freedom Index of “Reporters without Boarders” and, more alarmingly, Europe has last month once again seen Turkish journalists being arrested in an alleged plot to overthrow the government. Freedom of speech, equality rights, minority rights are amongst the many values of the European Union and Turkey would need to ensure that they are fully introduced, in order to have the EU membership within reach. One can also not forget the need for a solution to the Cyprus conflict and for gaining support in the member states which will require national referendums on Turkey’s membership. Turkey must also realise that it needs Europe as much as the European Union needs Turkey so it is necessary to put in the effort to be accepted, in the same way that Europe needs to make the effort to accommodate it. However, it is certainly not doing itself any favours with its wayward foreign policy. Its pursuit of close relations with Iran and its clashes with Israel will have to be reconsidered, as the fact that they are out of line with the EU’s foreign policy brings back doubts that Turkey might not fit in the Union.

With the upcoming elections in France, Turkey and Cyprus to take place this year, the political situation across Europe could swing either to Turkey’s advantage or disadvantage. Yet, recognising the geo-strategic advantages of Turkey becoming an EU member would facilitate the accession process and would encourage member states to work towards solving the obstacles on the way to achieving this. After all, geopolitics is in the very origin of the European Union.


( Full analysis )

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