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Turkey’s EU Odyssey : 1964-? 24 mars 2007

Posted by Acturca in South East Europe / Europe du Sud-Est, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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CROSSROADS-The Macedonian Foreign Policy Journal, n° 02/2007, pp. 191-193

Seyfi Taşhan *

Since the end of the First world War Turkey considered itself a European country and as such took place in almost every European international organizations. It became a member of the Council of Europe almost together with its founders in 1949; it became a European member of NATO and took part in the activities of all international organizations as a member of the European geographic area. In the same spirit when the Rome Treaty founding the European Economic Community was signed in 1957, Turkey did not long hesitate to apply for membership in this new European venture and applied for membership in 1959. Taking part in this new organization would, not only contribute to Turkey’s economic development but would enhance its security by creating stronger bonds with European member countries and would enhance credibility of the North Atlantic Alliance in so far as European commitment was concerned.

A Treaty between Turkey and EEC was developed and signed in Ankara in 1963. This treaty termed as the Association Agreement comprised three phases for Turkey’s integration in the Community: The preparatory phase would last about ten year to be followed by a transition phase to be completed with a customs union and full membership. In fact with the signing of the Additional Protocols the transition phase began in 1973. During this period Turkey and European Union would reduce their customs duties to reach a Customs union in 22 years. In the meantime there would be progress in other areas of integration. For example free circulation of manpower and free circulation of services would have been completed by 1985.

Unfortunately, these targets except for customs union could not be achieved for various reasons. After the Middle East oil crisis in 1973 and Turkey’s military intervention in Cyprus in 1974 as a Guarantor Power for the 1960 Republic consisting of representatives of Turkish and Greek Communities in the island many things changed in Turkey-EEC relations. As a first step Germany and other EEC members stopped importing more manpower from Turkey, on the grounds that they had had to slow their economic development, resulting in the shelving of the free circulation of man power and services so much so that by 1980 Turkish citizens who would travel to EU countries would have to obtain visas.

Soon after Turkish intervention in Cyprus Greece applied for membership and became a full member on January 1, 1981. With Greek membership in the European Union Turkey’s relations were frozen. Every attempt to develop relations with Turkey was vetoed by Greece.

In 1980s, Turkey’s economy began to develop rapidly with the introduction of financial, fiscal and economic reforms introduced by the Government of Mr. Turgut Ozal and in 1987 Turkey decided not to wait until completion of the Customs Union but applied for full membership like Greece had done ten years ago. EU’s response that came two years later was cool and suggested that no enlargement could be envisaged before 1993. However, in 1992 EU decided to begin customs union negotiations with Turkey

There was practically no problem for the signing of the Customs Union agreement, but even for this agreement which Turkey considered as a first real step towards full integration, at the insistence of Greece membership with Greek Administration in Cyprus came into view. Following years were a real havoc. Few days after signing the customs union agreement EU included Turkey in the EU neighborhood policy as part of its Mediterranean program. It took a change of government in Germany and four years reciprocal posturing until Turkey became a candidate for membership in 1999 and six more years to begin negotiations. Each step was complicated with the question of Cyprus. The Greek Administration in that Country that had usurped power in 1964 in violation of 1959-1960 agreements was made a member of EU even though it refused to properly negotiate a solution to problem between the two Communities in the Island. There is now a grotesque situation, Greek administration that represents only two thirds of the island is a member as representing entire Island and the other part where there is a popularly elected government is excluded from EU and is under continued economic embargo, despite the fact that EU had promised to lift restrictions on Northern Cyprus if Turks had accepted the Kofi Annan Plan in a referendum in 2004. But when the Turks accepted the plan EU did not see any harm in accepting Greek Cypriots as a member of EU to represent the entire Island.

EU now wants Turkey to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriots as part of the EU-Turkey customs Union. Turkey will be willing to do so only if EU, fulfills its promise lift its embargo on Northern Cyprus. However Greek Cypriots have so far succeeded in blocking a move in that direction. Yet, EU has suspended negotiations on 8 chapters and the rest are blocked by Cyprus.

Turkey today with eleven years of experience of Customs Union with EU is more ready for membership in the European Union than the last batch of twelve new members. But the heterogeneous character of Turkey and historic prejudices further complicated by the archaic consensus rule in the EU hampers Turkey’s negotiation process.

It seems also that the founding objective of EU that brought together former enemies in a common European enterprise based on democracy, human rights, rule of law and market economy in a multi-national and multi cultural large community is gradually losing its original precepts. Recent developments in European societies indicate that instead of harmony in the social fabric of Europe is leading to growing trends of nationalism and xenophobia. These trends coupled with the pressure of smaller countries that are determined to use their position in the European Union to obtain concessions from Turkey is also creating a backlash of increasing nationalism in Turkey.

Today, Turkey is determined to carry out its reforms to bring the country up to the “level of modern civilizations”, the objective set for Turkey by its founding President Kemal Ataturk As a European country with important hinterlands and ever growing economy we will wait European Union to put its troubled house in order and either to return to the vision of its founding fathers for establishing a real multi-cultural society based on our common democratic value system or create something like a Commonwealth of nations with a customs union and something plus.

Europe is now facing a great challenge from newly developing countries around the world and is in danger of becoming irrelevant in the resolution of global issues that require something more than being a soft power.

Europe does not have a long time to wait. It must reinvigorate its drive to enlarge and deepen its integration of countries of Western Balkans with whom Turkey has historic ties. These countries must not be kept at purgatory too long; they should join our common defense system and integrate with the whole of Europe. As before, Turkey is poised to give every support to them and contribute to peace, development, and harmony in the Balkan countries.

* Seyfi Taşhan is founder and current director of Foreign Policy Institute from the Republic of Turkey.


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