12 October 2006
Until now, I have strongly defended Turkey’s EU membership bid. I have thought that this would significantly contribute to Turkey, the EU, the world peace, stability and economy. However, the recent developments make me question my thoughts on the issue. I can’t help but ask myself if I am wrong?
The EU says “you want to enter the EU. So, you have to do whatever we want you to.”
This is a sound approach at first glance. If you want to be a part of an establishment, you need to obey its rules.
But Turkey’s EU membership cannot be assessed just in this narrow context.
First and foremost, the EU doesn’t have predetermined criteria for Turkey’s membership. The recent developments clearly showed that the EU put forward different criteria for Turkey and other candidate countries. Let’s compare the Turkish and Greek cases: Turkey had almost an identical political structure and economy with Greece. In the past half century, Greece was able to enter the EU as a full member, but Turkey was excluded. Even the EU officials accept it now that the entrance of Greece was a political decision and the Greek economy or political system was not in a better condition than the Turkish one. Similarlay when the Cold War system collapsed, Turkey’s economy and political structure were far more better than the Central and Eastern European countries’. Even the Polish, Czech and other politicians used to come to Turkey to understand and take some lessons for their countries from the Turkish model in economic liberalization and democratization. All these countries are now EU members. On the other hand, there are still question marks regarding Turkey’s EU membership.
There are only the Copenhagan Criteria officially. But we all know that the EU’s demands are infinite. Nowadays, some EU members try to put the Armenian issue as a condition. Thinking that Turkey cannot be stopped by legitimate ways, some politicians such as French President Jacques Chirac are hitting under the belt. They endorse the Armenian claims as if they were the historical facts and proclaim Turkey as the perpetrator of so-called “genocide.” And the anti-Turkish groups in the European Parliament (EP), whatever nations they know of, claim that Turkish people committed genocide against all these nations. For now, Armenians, Pontus Greeks and Assyrians are on the so-called “genocide” list. There are Kurds and others on the line-up. Once there are a few drops of blood or a minor clash, someone says “Turks have commited genocide.” However, for the 1,5 million Algerians massacred by the French, they say “this is none of our business, let the historians decide on that.”
The play is getting really dirtier. If this is the way it is, Turkey should give up from its EU quest as soon as possible. Otherwise, there will be many “genocide” or "massacre" accusations for Turkey in near future. Some circles in the EU accuse Turkey of these acts with the aim of slandering. It’s hard for Turkey to cope with such strong, planned and organized assaults. It might be better to give up from the EU instead of being unjustly labeled as “murderer” or “perpetrator of genocide.”
Another point is the growing Turkish anger against the EU. The never-ending EU demands have caused mass anger among the Turkish public. The pro-EU politicians have been exhausted by trying to answer the rightful questions of the people. The EU has been demanding without contributing anything to Turkey. The burden is getting heavier and heavier for pro-EU Turkish politicians and the Turkish Government without receiving any gains. As the pro-EU Turkish politicians have just convinced the public in favor of the EU, the EU says something on the Armenian or Cyprus issues in an extremely inconsiderate and anti-Turkish way. As a result, all the Turkish efforts are going in vain. The anti-EU groups in Turkey, of course, abuse this situation as their mission. For these reasons, the EU process should be stopped in order to prevent a permanent hatred against the EU. By this way, the EU’s ‘absurd’ demands will stop, the Turkish politicians will not have to defend the EU membership, and the negative feelings among the public will have finished without growing into hatred and animosity against the EU.
The most important reason of the EU membership for the pro-EU politicians persistently defending it was the improvement in democratization and human rights. However, Turkey’s human rights situation has surpassed many EU member countries though Turkey is not a member. There has also been a noticeable improvement in democratization. The only problem for now is to decrease the army’s influence in the politics to a reasonable level. In other words, it is to cancel out the possibility for a military coup. The governments in Turkey have seen the EU as a natural ally against the militarist groups and have voiced the democratization argument for the EU quest. But the racist and even religionist statements and discriminatory acts from the EU circles against Turkey jeopardize the EU process as well as the objectives claimed. If there will be a military coup in Turkey, the most important reason for that will be the EU’s Turkey policies. The EU so crudely pressures and humiliates Turkey that the Turkish politicians cannot defend their pro-EU stances and the non-democratic forces are emboldened.
Turkey’s EU membership could have best contributed to the cessation of clash of civilizations. The Muslim communities in the world think that the West is not sincere in its struggle against terrorism and in its policies toward the Muslim world. There is a notable feeling of victimization among the Muslims. The peoples, whose natural resources (oil, natural gas etc.) have been taken from their hands, think that their autocratic regimes are collaborating with the West and they are paying the price for that. They trust neither their governments nor the West. In such a case, “people’s resistance” such as Hamas and Hizbullah or other extremities gain power. Despair leads to extremities. The expected ‘miracle’ could have been Turkey’s EU membership. Turkey’s participation could have proved that the West is not solely a Christian Club and that the West could have had a genuine cooperation with the Muslim world. That’s why many Muslim state declared their full support for Turkey’s EU membership. Saudia Arabia for example says "Turkey’s EU membership is strategically important for Saudia Arabia". Iran, syria, Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia and many others back Turkey’s EU bid and say that Turkey would b the true representative of their countries. However, the meaningless statements from the EU circles, which are almost racist and religionist, waste these hopes. The Cartoon Crisis, almost an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, and the Pope’s irresponsible statement are followed by excessive demands from Turkey. In Cyprus, the EU only blames the Turkish people. As the EU included the Christians of the Island as a full member, it excluded the Muslim Cypriots. Taking Armenian side in the historical disagreements between the Armenians and the Turks, the EU doesn’t even say a word for the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories, which is another Muslim Turkish state. The Armenians and Turks are so similar nations: Almost the only difference is their religions. All these developments are watched closely by the Muslim world of course. More than 1 billion Muslims witness the double standards on Turkey. To put it short, Turkey’s EU process does not ease the “victimization” of the Muslims, it consolidates “victimization”. In such a case, it might be meaningful for Turkey to end its EU process immediately.
We also know that Turkey’s alliance with the EU and the US in combating terror causes resentment among organizations like Al-Qaeda. The target of the bombs in Istanbul in November 2003 was the British bank HSBC, the British General Consulate and the synagogues. But the entire Turkey has paid the price. Turkey can reposition itself to a less visible point in the war between the West and the fundamentalist Islamists like Al-Qaeda so as not to be considered as a target. If full membership will never happen, why pay the price on behalf of the West?
For those who have favored Turkey’s EU process, one of the most important reasons has been taking the EU as a democratic model. Turkey would have been more democratic once it had entered the EU, according to the pro-EU groups. Ironically, those who voice anti-democratic demands in Turkey are inspiring from the EU now: The groups defending the extension of the detention period in Turkey for instance refer to the British anti-terror laws as examples. Both the US and the EU have turned out to be breaching the human rights in combating terror more than Turkey has done. In this case, Turkey’s EU quest pushes Turkey to a tougher point, not to democratization.
The most risky part is the Turkish economy. Countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal have used enormous funds from the EU budget so far. It is now Poland which seems a great burden for the EU. The French farmers, who have been subsidized from the EU funds for decades, were the group which prevented the approval of the EU constitution despite its financial contribution to them. Turkey, on the other hand, has been the country which contributed the most to the EU economy, leave alone being a burden. Turkey is the first and only country which entered the Customs Union without being an EU member. Turkey has given up billions of dollars of revenue from custom taxes in favor of the EU. Today, though ostensibly funded by a few EU funds, Turkey cannot even compensate for the contribution it has made to these funds. In short, Turkey hasn’t achieved anything thanks to the EU.
Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world and it has achieved this success despite the EU. Today, the Turkish businessmen are not expecting any assistance from the EU. Their only demand is stability and they anticipate that stability will more increase once Turkey enters the EU. However, it is quiet clear that the EU doesn’t want to see Turkey as a full member and that it only procrastinates Turkey. The EU gives promises to Turkey, signs agreements with Turkey and the Turkish economy adjusts itself accordingly. When the relations are good, foreign investments flow into Turkish economy. But the EU’s inconsistent policies seriously harm the stability of Turkish economy. The worst thing for an economy is these ups and downs. The best option is that French, Dutch, German or other politicians should declare that they will never accept Turkey as a member. By this way, the short-term cycles will decrease and Turkish economy will grow with stability. In short, it might be better for Turkey to stop the EU process for the sake of Turkish economy.
Another reason to end the EU process of Turkey is the burden incurred by the Turkish economy as a result of the EU regulations. Turkey is now even more advantageous than China. It is close to the EU, but still exempt from any disadvantages of the Union. In other words, it is a China in the close vicinity of European markets. After the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, Turkish economy will have no rivals in terms of competition. By now, many companies have dismantled their factories in Europe and moved them to Turkey. If Turkey disregards the EU process and only concentrates on the competitiveness of its economy, Turkish domination will be inevitable in the European markets. Moreover, it is also possible to increase foreign trade by making alliances with China and India. In the opposite case, the EU will continue to be a burden on Turkish economy. As the EU will not grant billions of dollars for customs, and will not channel $30-50 billion for agriculture, it is not wise to expect even one Euro from the EU. Instead of all these, it might be more beneficial to leave the EU process for larger gains in the economy.
Worse than all those above is the EU’s acts in international politics, which lacks the principles of even the simplest international actor has. Turkey definitely will have to fulfill the demands of the EU. But the EU should at least meet the basic principles such as pacta sund servanda and being honest. Turkey’s objective since 1959 has been full membership and the EU confirmed this in every agreement. But it failed to take action. For example, according to the documents approved by the EU, the Turks should have been granted the freedom of movement in the EU beginning from the early 1990s. If one checks the statements of the EU on Cyprus in 1994, the Greek Cypriots should have been punished and the Turkish Cypriots should have been saved from isolations. The EU insincerity list can be extended, but there is no need to do that. It might be profitable for Turkey to reassess its EU process as soon as possible.
If Turkey leaves the EU process, it will have the following advantages:
· It will no more be the target of organizations like al-Qaeda,
· Turkey will no more be the target in the transit point of the clash of civilizations,
· It will no more have to take the EU’s criticisms seriously,
· The EU will no more be an actor in the Armenian issue,
· It will be able to develop a policy independent from the EU in the Caucasus. It will be able to make alliance with Russia or any other country,
· The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus will be able to proceed for independence in an atmosphere of lack of solution. Turkey will relatively less consider the Grek Cyprus, Greece or EU’s Cyprus policy,
· The anti-EU sentiments, which have unnecessarily grown, will calm down in Turkey,
· The EU will no more be seen as the origin of all problems and more realistic assessments about the EU’s role in Turkey’s issues will be made in Turkey,
· More effective struggle can be carried out against the PKK terror without EU’s pressure and double-standart about terrorism.
It is now the time to be honest. I ask myself honestly: Will it be better not to enter the EU?
Sedat Laciner: Director, USAK (Ankara) & Davos Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2006
Trns. from Turkish language by Noyan Ozkaya, USAK