Accuracy in Media

Should the European Union make way for Turkey to join its 25-member organization?  This is the question EU officials are dealing with as they decide whether or not to go forward with negotiations that would allow for this historical move to take place (actual accession would take place no earlier than 2014).  The European Commission must decide by mid December if and when to begin talks.

Turkey is a very unique country.  It is large geographically and has a foot in Asia and in Europe.  Accession of Turkey would bring many geopolitical advantages to the European Union.  It borders the Caucuses and the Middle East and could promise greater stability in that troubled region.  Turkey also has a large, overwhelmingly Muslim population.  Were it admitted to the EU, Turkey would be the most populated country and the first to be predominantly Muslim.  Though its accession would have little effect on the European Commission, it would dramatically affect the European Council. 

Turkey also has a dynamic economy. Though small in dimension, it has a high growth rate (higher than any other EU country).  Zeyno Baran of the Nixon Center argues that Turkey could be “an engine for economic growth.”  Another factor that helps the argument for Turkey’s inclusion is that it has rich reserves of oil.   Baran points out how “many are concerned about Russia’s control over gas and thus European countries.”  Turkey’s inclusion could solve many of Europe’s energy problems and help to stabilize its economy. 

Accession of Turkey, most importantly, could prove that Islam and democracy can work.  Joost Lagendijk of the Turkey Delegation to the European Parliament says the “strategic argument for [Turkey in the EU is that it would] prove wrong those in the east and west that there is an unbridgeable gap between the Islamic world and the West.”  “But,” he conceded, “Turkey is not a model for democracy in the Middle East.  It is too different. It is more a model for central Asian countries, but there is still high symbolism in it.”  Zeyno Baran argues that “Turkey can work to defeat radical Islam.”  Turkey’s strong military would also be a tremendous asset to a common security force in the region. This is why experts predict radical Islam will be against the move.

Despite these many positives, some negatives make many weary about Turkey’s inclusion.  Agriculture is a major concern of EU policy.  As Turkey’s inclusion would affect voting power, Turkish concerns could change the common agriculture policy.  Also, the European Union allows free movements of citizens among member nations.  “A free flow of [Turkish] immigrants could destabilize labor markets.  It would be impossible to predict exact outcomes,” says Lagendijk.

The question still looms, should the EU make way for Turkey to enter?

The bottom line is that Turkey has made “sweeping political reforms” over the past few years to meet the political criteria for a limited recommendation.  President Bush recently praised Turkey for “the example [they] have set on how to be a Muslim country [that] embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom.”  The European Commission’s recommendations for Turkey have found that the country “has substantially progressed in its political reform process.”  However, the Commission’s report also found that the “legislation and implementation needs to be further consolidated and broadened.” 

Lagendijk makes the argument that Turkey should be included.  “There has been progress, but it’s not perfect.”  With human rights, for instance, “Turkey is at about 80 percent, but it needs to be at 100 percent.”  And “the way to ensure 100 percent, is to start the formal negotiations?Turkey should be rewarded for what they have done?discussions should begin next year and the goal should be full membership.”

Whatever happens, the stakes are momentous.  The impact so far of the initial talks on Turkey has been remarkable.  The “carrot the EU can [continue to] hold out can have a transformative effect in terms of political behavior.”  Turkey is on its way.  Should the EU deny Turkey it would seriously hinder Turkey’s progression and undermine everything the EU stands for, which is mainly the advancement of democratic principles.   Lagendijk warns, “after all we’ve asked the Turks to do, it would be very bad to say no.  The EU should stick to its promise.”

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