Accommodating Turkey in ESDP

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

1. Introduction

Can Turkey’s demands for equal treatment with EU
member states be reconciled with the EU’s demand for autonomous
decision capacity? This commentary analyses the Turkish position
and assesses the theoretical and practical possibilities for
accommodating Turkey’s demands in the European Security and Defence
Policy (ESDP).

Turkey is determined to participate in ESDP
decision-making procedures. Having been denied participation,
Turkey has vetoed the EU’s assured access to NATO planning
facilitiesfor crisis management, despite pressure from the EU and
the US. The EU announced it would reach Initial Operating
Capability (IOC) of its Rapid Reaction Capability by December 2001.
Yet finalisation hinges upon an agreement with non-EU NATO
countries. Turkey’s veto thus currently lies at a critical junction
in the realisation of the Union’s goal to develop an operational
Rapid Reaction Capability by 2003. Hence, the forthcoming
discussion of this crucial question during President George W.
Bush’s mission to Brussels on 13 June.

2. The EU’s institutional arrangements

  • In Nice the EU “took over” the WEU. This idea seems to be
    accepted as common knowledge. It is however not entirely true. It
    is true that the EU took over most of the WEU, but it did not take
    over the WEU in its entirety. The EU took over most of the WEU’s
    acquis (less Article V), most of its functions (less collective
    defence) and most of its procedures (less the role and rights of
    troop-contributing nations in decision procedures).
  • The future place of non-EU NATO members (Czech Republic,
    Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland and Turkey ” “the Six”); as well
    as that of the nine candidate member states that are not NATO
    members (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
    Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia ” “the Nine”) within the ESDP
    decision-making framework is one of the thorniest issues in the
    development of the ESDP. At the Feira Council meeting in June 2000
    the heads of state concluded that the EU would seek “a single
    inclusive structure in which all the 15 countries concerned … can
    enjoy the necessary dialogue, consultation and cooperation with the
    EU”. The EU proposed regular meetings between the EU and the 15
    non-member states (15 + 15).
  • The EU can engage in military operations in three different
    ways: 1) as a NATO-led operation, 2) using NATO assets and 3) as an
    EU-only operation if “NATO as a whole is not engaged”. In 2) the
    six non-EU NATO members would participate automatically in
    preliminary discussions “if they so wish”, whereas in the latter
    case they would simply “be invited” to be involved ” if the Council
    saw fit to issue to such an invitation.
  • The way an EU-only operation would begin:

    1. If a potential crisis situation arises, the
    political consultations with all partners involved will be stepped
    up (15+6) engaged in “deep consultations”).

    2. In a crisis situation, the Political and
    Security Committee (PSC) asks the EU Military Committee (MC) to
    issue an Initiating Directive to the Director General of the EU
    Military Staff (EUMS) to draw up and present strategic military

    3. The EU MC evaluates the strategic military
    options developed by the EUMS and forwards them to the PSC together
    with its evaluation and military advice.

    4. With a view to launching an operation, the
    PSC sends the Council a recommendation based on the opinions of the
    Military Committee in accordance with the usual Council preparation
    procedures. On that basis, the Council decides on the preferred
    strategic option and decides to launch the operation within the
    framework of a joint action. (“the autonomous capacity to

    5. On the basis of the military option selected
    by the Council, the EUMC authorises an Initial Planning Directive
    for the Operation Commander.

    6. The Operation Commander prepares the Concept
    of Operations and drafts an Operation Plan. These are evaluated by
    the MS, then sent on to the EUMC, which provides advice and
    recommendations to the PSC.

Stages 1, 2 and 3 are considered the
“decision-shaping” stages; stage 4 is the “decision-making” stage;
and stages 5 and 6 are the (operational) planning stages. An
additional institution that can be activated is the “Committee of
(troop) Contributors”. This committee will consist of “third
countries” and will play a key role in the day-to-day management of
the operation and will have consultations with the Operation
Commander, the EU Military Staff and the EU Military Committee.

3. What does Turkey want?

Perceptions of the Turkish demands differ
greatly, not only between NATO and the EU but also in diplomatic
and academic circles. The Turkish position and its ensuing veto
within NATO can be explained by the cumulative effect of three
factors: i) Turkey’s position in the WEU; ii) decisions taken at
the NATO Summit in Washington (1999), i.e. “what promises were made
by NATO”; and iii) the EU’s offer to Turkey. One has to view
Turkey’s position and veto in the light of the major discrepancy
between the net result of i) and ii) on the one hand and iii) on
the other.

i) Turkey and the WEU

In 1992, European members of NATO were invited
to become associate members of WEU in a way that would enable them
to participate fully in the activities of the Organisation. Turkey,
together with Iceland and Norway, became associate members at that
time. According to the minutes issued in connection with the
document on associate membership, signed in 1992, it was agreed

(…) associate members will take part on the same basis as full
members in WEU military operations to which they commit forces
(…). The right to speak brings with it the possibility to present
proposals. Full participation will include participation in
caucuses subject to the same rules as for participation in the
meetings of the WEU Council and other bodies.

What did this imply in practice? In general the
agreement allowed for a well integrated role of associate and
observer members into the WEU structure concerning non-Article 5
activities, although only the 10 member states had full
decision-making rights in WEU. First, both observers and associate
members could participate in Council meetings unless a majority of
the full members decided otherwise. Second, associate members could
participate in all working groups apart from the Security
Committee. Third, associate members Turkey and Norway and Denmark
as an observer could participate in Working Groups resulting from
the transfer of former EUROGROUP activities of 13 European allies.
Fourth, associate members could appoint officers to the Planning
Cell. Fifth, associate members could participate on the same basis
as full members in WEU operations. Finally, associate members had
full rights and responsibilities in WEU armament activities.

In addition, associate members were also
involved in side-institutions or activities of the WEU such as the
Parliamentary Assembly, the Institute for Security Studies or the
Satellite Centre. This prevented the creation and perception of
insiders and outsiders in the overall institutional set-up of the

ii) NATO’ s promises

A major NATO statement on the position of WEU
member states and associated members vis-à-vis the European Union,
and thus on Turkey’s position was made at the NATO Washington
Summit in 1999. The Heads of State and Government state in the

We acknowledge the resolve of the European Union to have the
capacity for autonomous action so that it can take decisions and
approve military action where the Alliance as a whole is not
engaged (…). NATO and the EU should ensure the development of
effective mutual consultation, co-operation and transparency,
building on the mechan isms existing between NATO and the WEU (…)
We attach the utmost importance to ensuring the fullest possible
involvement of non-EU European allies in EU-led crisis response
operations, building on existing consultation arrangements within
the WEU (…). (…) the concept of using separable but not
separate NATO assets and capabilities for WEU-led operations,
should be further developed.

Moreover, in the Strategic Alliance the Heads of
State agree that:

(…) on a case-by-case basis and by consensus, to make its
assets and capabilities available for operations in which the
Alliance is not engaged militarily under the political control and
strategic direction either of the WEU or as otherwise agreed,
taking into account the full participation of all European Allies
if they were so to choose.

The Turks clearly consider both documents
belonging to one package. Two salient points emerge: firstly, this
is an interesting example of inter-institutional behaviour, in that
NATO decisions are being made on behalf of the EU on the need for
the latter to arrange the involvement of non-EU European allies
based upon the “existing arrangements within the WEU”. The second
point is that at the time the EU did not (could not) signal to
Turkey that this format for the inclusion of non-EU states in ESDP
decision-making would be problematic.

iii) The EU’s offer

The EU has offered Turkey full participation in
the decision-shaping process and the operational planning, i.e. the
day-to-day management of an EU-led operation. The EU is willing to
engage in “deep consultation” with Turkey during the
decision-shaping process, although the latter’s position would not
be binding. In particular the EU draws a distinction between
operations using NATO-assets in which the six non-EU NATO members
would participate automatically in preliminary discussions “if they
so wish”, and EU-only operations when the invitation to participate
would be decided by the Council of Ministers of a case-by-case
basis. It is also willing to accept Turkey’s involvement in the
operational planning stage following a decision, provided it
assigns forces to the task force.

Turkey, as a non-EU member, has not been offered
participation in decision-making. Turkey would have no say at the
critical juncture in which the EU’s General Affairs Council would
decide on where, when and how to intervene. In particular, the EU
has rejected Turkey’s rights that it enjoyed as a WEU associate

  • Participation on the same basis as full members in EU military
    operations to which they commit forces;
  • the right to speak at General Affairs Council (GAC) meetings
    and with it the possibility to present proposals; and
  • full participation in caucuses subject to the same rules as for
    participation in the meetings of the GAC and other bodies, i.e.

The discrepancy is clear. Turkey had a certain
position within the WEU, allowing it to broker power. Turkey was
promised at the NATO Summit in Washington in 1999 that the EU
should build on existing mechanisms [consultation arrangements]
between the EU and WEU. In the process of building a credible Rapid
Reaction Capability, the EU stated its right to an “autonomous
decision capacity” and is thus not willing to go as far as the WEU
did in engaging its associated members. Turkey has pledged 4-5,000
troops to the Rapid Reaction Force and demands therefore inclusion
in ESDP decision-making procedures in the way it was included in
WEU decision procedures.

4. Why should Turkey be accommodated?

Four reasons can be given why Turkey’s concerns
should be taken into account and the EU should deal constructively
with this issue.

i) NATO countries such as Poland and the Czech
Republic, whose accession to the Union should occur over the next
three to four years, are in a relatively unproblematic position.
They will effectively begin participat ing in the Union’s ESDP in
its early days. However, countries like Turkey or Norway whose EU
accession lies either in the distant future or is not foreseen for
the time being are left in a more complex position. Hence, both
Turkey and Norway as NATO members and former WEU associate states
would prefer to be included in ESDP decision-shaping as well as

Moreover, Turkey, unlike Norway, lies in a
volatile and unstable geographical position. Although the future
ESDP is likely to take a global view of security issues, its major
theatres of operation are likely to be in problem areas in and
around Europe. NATO’s work on potential scenarios point to 16
potential areas for the deployment of the RRF. Thirteen of these
hot spots lie around Turkey and thus critically affect the
country’s security.

In particular, Turkey fears a European defence
involvement in Cyprus. Cyprus has historically been one of the top
foreign policy priorities in Turkey. Furthermore, over the decades
and in particular since the 1990 application of the Republic of
Cyprus to the EU, Turkey and the Union have increasingly taken
diverging positions on the conflict. Given opposing political
positions on this question, Turkey is adamant not to transfer these
political divergencies to the security domain, which could occur
with the creation of an ESDP from which Turkey is excluded.

The EU’s position not only presents important
security concerns to Turkey. The incomplete transfer of the WEU
institutional set-up to the EU also entails an effective
downgrading of Turkey’s status in European security affairs. Under
the ESDP Turkey would not be able to participate in European
military exercises and in the whole array of WEU institutions, such
as the Institute for Security Studies and the Satellite Centre.
Moreover, it would have to withdraw from several European security
activities such as MAPE policing in Albania, to which Turkey is an
active contributor. Withdrawal from such security initiatives in
the Balkans, an area of considerable security interest to Turkey,
would be clearly unacceptable to the latter.  

ii) The Turkish accession process needs a
credible complement.6 Turkey’s rapprochement to the EU and eventual
EU membership require considerable internal political
transformation in Turkey. The EU anchor could provide an effective
incentive for such a change. But given the ambiguity of the EU’s
position with respect to Turkey’s future EU membership and the
long-term perspective for Turkey’s accession, the incentive of
membership is not sufficient. Short-and medium-term EU policies of
inclusion towards Turkey are required as a complement to the
accession process.

Given Turkey’s pressing security concerns,
Turkey’s inclusion in ESDP would be an ideal element of such a
strategy. This is particularly the case in so far as it would
prevent an additional psychological feeling of exclusion in Turkey,
which would hinder all-encompassing reform. Given the
aforementioned mechanisms of inclusion under the WEU institutional
framework, failing to accommodate Turkish concerns in ESDP would
enhance such a feeling of rejection. If the EU is indeed serious
about its accession process towards Turkey, why does it insist upon
an ESDP institutional structure that moves away from the WEU
framework? In Turkey’s eyes the current EU position illustrates the
Union’s general lack of credible commitment towards this candidate

Accommodation into ESDP is thus not simply an
ideal candidate for an upgraded European Strategy for Turkey given
Turkey’s pressing security concerns. It is vital in so far as a
failure to accommodate Turkey would further weaken the EU’s
credibility in the eyes of this candidate member. Accommodation in
the European security sphere is imperative for a resolution of the
Union’s credibility problem. This in turn would both strengthen the
perceived commitment of the EU towards Turkey, and by encouraging
political change in Turkey , it would speed up Turkey’s full EU

iii) Continued deadlock would create
considerable tensions in transatlantic relations. On the other
hand, the EU’s ability to find a constructive solution for Turkey
would strengthen the transatlantic link. Turkey has a large Army
and many F-16 fighter planes, resources sorely needed by the
nascent RRC. Letting the US know that the EU can count on these
Turkish assets will assure Washington that the European allies are
indeed capable of endorsing their share of the burden.

In addition, such an agreement might contribute
to a new security deal for the Balkans or the Caucasus, that is,
contribute to regional stability. Particularly in the latter
region, the EU is aware of the need for its more active
involvement. Yet as of today it does not have sufficient resources
or time to play a substantial role. Turkey is keenly interested in
the Caucasus given its strong economic, linguistic, religious and
cultural ties with many of its states or regions. Yet its
unilateral security involvement is impeded by its partial position
and in particular its problematic relations with Armenia. The joint
security involvement of the EU and Turkey in the South Caucasus
thus appears an ideal combination, allowing Europe to contribute in
a meaningful way to the peace and stability of this strategic
region of considerable importance to all principal actors, Russia
and the US naturally included.

iv) The political capital invested in both ESDI
and ESDP is enormous. The geo-strategic impact of both projects
will shape the strategic environment for many years to come, and
time is running out. This puts enormous pressure on all
stakeholders “to get it right” because the Turkish problem will not
just “go away” but must be solved in a meaningful way.

5. Options

Which formula could both be acceptable to
European legal principles and address Turkish concerns? It is
unrealistic to expect that Turkey could be treated on a par with EU
members at the decision-making stage. However, the reasons outlined
above suggest it is necessary to devise a scheme to include Turkey
at the decision-making stage of ESDP. Four possible options are
explored: building upon the WEU framework, a conventional option,
the virtual veto, and a security agreement à la Schengen.

i) Building upon the WEU

The first most evident solution would be that of
accepting the WEU institutional set-up in its entirety. It was
noted above that the general framework of Turkey’s complaints
relates to the EU’s failure to endorse the WEU acquis and thus
assign Turkey as well as the other non-members the mechanisms of
inclusion of associate membership. The EU could thus accept the WEU
structure and in particular enable the European NATO members and
WEU associate members not only to take part on the same basis as EU
members in military operations to which they commit forces and when
NATO assets are used, but also to make proposals regarding future
operations and to participate in other caucuses subject to the same
rules as for participation in EU proper. Furthermore, Turkey could
participate in all working groups apart from the Security
Committee, could appoint officers to the Planning Cell and
participate on the same basis as full members in EU-led

ii) Conventional option

Another option would be to include Turkey and
the other European non-EU NATO members at the decision-making
phase, if the crisis concerns a region directly affecting the
country’s national interests and when a military intervention is
being considered. These regions or hot spots should be put in an
agreement. The point of demarcation after which Turkey would be
involved in decision-making would be when the PSC considers a hard
security action in the light of failure of civilian efforts in a
well-defined region. However this is a problematic option because
both Turkey’s national security i nterests and the location of hot
spots may change over time. Explicitly including specific regions
and hot spots in Treaty-like agreements would eliminate the
necessary flexibility in EU decision-making arrangements.

This option is conventional in so far as it
begins and ends with existing EU procedures. It would put Turkey in
the cockpit as if it were a full EU member state when the
considered operation would touch a geographical area in Turkey’s
national interests. However, Turkey would not have the right of
decision or veto. Following the stages of ESDP policy-making, we
would see the following Turkish involvement.

1) If a crisis is looming and the PSC engages in
“deep consultations” (15 + 6) and is about to ask the Military
Committee to issue an Initial Directive to the Military Staff, the
Turkish Ambassador would be invited to the relevant PSC

2) Senior Turkish military officers would be
seconded to the EU Military staff. They will assist and liase in
the process of drawing up the different strategic options.

3) The Turkish Chief of Staff would participate
in the Military Committee when this makes its technical military
comments and evaluations.

4) The Turkish Ambassador would be present again
in the PSC when it makes its ultimate recommendation and forwards
it to the GAC.

5) The President of the Council invites the
Turkish Foreign Minister to the GAC that decides upon the strategic
option and takes the decision to launch an operation. The Turkish
FM has no vote and no veto, but is allowed to speak.

6) When the EU MC authorises an Initial Planning
Directive the Turkish Chief of Defence Staff would be present to
assist in drafting this document.

7) Turkish military units and commanders are an
integral part of the EU chain of command, under DSACEUR’s
operational command.

iii) A “virtual” veto

The conventional option does not ensure that
Turkey’s concerns would be taken into account at the
decision-making stage. However, any formal arrangement requiring
Treaty changes is, for obvious reasons, not an option. Therefore a
solution must be found that may alter the behaviour/decisions of
the member states without legally forcing them to do so. This could
be achieved through a “virtual veto”.

A virtual veto is not a real or formally
accepted veto, but it has the appearance of a real one. The
virtuality of the veto is that the member states in the GAC can and
will not neglect the Turkish veto, they will act as if it were a
real veto. This may sound artificial but it is not. The Turkish
Foreign Minister would have the right to speak and the possibility
to present proposals. The effect and the consequences of this
spoken word are real, because they cannot be neglected. In order to
ensure non-neglect, the need to take into consideration the
positions of these non-members would be included in the GAC’s house

iv) A Security Agreement à la Schengen

The Schengen Agreement was an intergovernmental
agreement concluded outside the EU framework. In the 1997 Treaty of
Amsterdam, the agreement was included in the EU acquis. Its purpose
is to remove all controls at internal land, sea and airport
frontiers. In order to maintain internal security, a variety of
measures have been taken, e.g. coordination of visa controls at the
external borders of the Member States through a common approach to
visa policies and asylum procedures. On 26 March 2001, the five
Nordic countries (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland)
entered the Schengen Agreement and thus officially entered part of
the EU. This will enable these countries to maintain the Nordic
Passport Union, which allows their citizens to move freely across
their borders. However, Norway and Iceland remain non-EU members.
They are not allowed a veto within the Council of Ministers and if
a decision were taken by the Council that was then rejected by
their national parliaments, the agreement would collapse.

This model of an inter-governmental agreement
either outside or within the EU Treaties perhaps offers the most
interesting prospect. One could foresee a European
intergovernmental agreement on external security. Two variants are
possible: 1) EU member states engage in such an intergovernmental
agreement with Turkey, or 2) the EU itself agrees upon a bilateral
agreement with Turkey.

6. Conclusion

In Turkey there is a strong feeling that its
veto over European defence arrangements is a “card that can and
must be played” as The Economist reports (23 December 2000). “It is
the only way of asserting Turkish interests in the face of an EU
defence plan that might be harmless in the short run but could
seriously damage Turkey’s interests in a few years’ time.” The
initial question whether Turkey should be accommodated can not be
answered with a simple “yes” or “no” but depends entirely upon the
expectations the EU has of Turkey and the importance it assigns to
this candidate country. However, what all sides must understand is
the enormity of the stakes and that time is a critical factor. But
there is also much to win, for both sides.

If the EU and Turkey are able to find a
constructive solution ” possibly through an EU-Turkey Security
Agreement ” the result could contribute to the stability of a
volatile region; strengthening ESDP and ESDI; and speeding up the
accession process of Turkey. Finally, a meaningful EU-Turkey
Security Agreement can be an important building block in the
reorientation of the transatlantic link.

, Research Fellow, CEPS

, Research Fellow, CEPS

For an in-depth analysis, see CEPS


Subscribe to our newsletters