The cost of no Turkey

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

“When Turkey is admitted as a member of the EU, the new Union will be in a much better position to project open society values in the world,” writes Hakan Altinay, executive director of the Open Society Foundation, in a May paper.

Altinay is the editor of an Open Society Foundation booklet which saw four experts on EU-Turkey relations describe the costs for both sides of failing to integrate Turkey with the EU.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warns against failing to integrate Turkey into the EU. “I can’t see any valid arguments not to fulfill the EU’s obligations to Turkey when the reform process is concluded,” he writes.

“Turkey is today already the second most important strategic partner of the European Union after the United States,” he adds.

“The new modernised Turkey that will be fit for EU membership will have great opportunities to build a prosperous and free society,” Bildt writes.

He also warns that Europe’s capacity as a force for good in the world would be hampered by closing the door on Turkey.

“The question of admitting Turkey or not will boil down to whether we are to build a Europe truly open for cooperation with countries of other cultures or traditions […] or whether we will risk sliding into a long-term confrontation of cultures and – eventually – countries,” he concludes.

Norbert Walter, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, argues that Europe cannot turn itself into a museum. “The chief motivation to support Turkish EU membership is not just to make the EU more colourful or add to its variety,” he writes.

Walter calls attention to Turkey’s medium-term prospects for sustained growth. “If the political situation in Turkey remains stable […], Turkey’s economic potential opens the way for continued strong growth,” he says.

“The best thing for Europe and Turkey to do is to cooperate, learn from each other, and advance together,” he concludes.

Paulina Lampsa, the international relations secretary of Greek centre-left party PASOK  and a member of the Greek-Turkish Forum, underlines the costs to a stable and prosperous Eastern Mediterranean.

“Over the last ten years or so, it has become obvious that the continuation of the Greek-Turkish rivalry and the Cyprus problem have been real obstacles for Turkey’s European aspirations,” she writes.

“It took a lot of effort to rationalise Greece’s foreign policy and transform the worldview of the political elite,” she adds.

Thus “only a new strategic vision for the creation of a stable and secure Eastern Mediterranean could lead to a win-win scenario for Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and the EU,” Lampsa writes.

“A comprehensive solution for Cyprus will be a strong indication that co-existence in multicultural societies is not only possible, but essential for peace and stability,” she concludes.

Hakan Yilmaz, a political science professor at Bogazici University, claims that Turkey will miss out on a crucial opportunity to “re-synchronise” with Europe if EU-Turkey relations fail.

“The new Civil Code, the legal reforms of August 2002 and all other subsequent reforms, dubbed ‘harmonisation laws’, are the result of efforts toward fulfilling this said re-synchronisation, at least in the area of law,” he writes.

“Some cities, institutions, individuals and happenings of Turkey can certainly find their ways into this newly-emerging European space,” he adds.

“A distinct contribution of Turkey may be to deepen, diversify and truly enrich European culture,” Yilmaz concludes. 

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