Should Turkey become a member of the EU? (2/4)

This is the second part of a 4-part series, discussing the pros and cons of an accession of Turkey to the European Union from all angles. Check the blog regularly or sign up to our newsletter to be notified as soon as the following parts are available. You will find the first part here.

In the previous article, I tried to clarify why Turkey should become a member of the EU from the EU’s perspective. In the second part, I will look at the issue from Turkey’s perspective instead.

The Bosporus – Geographical Border of Europe and Asia (Flickr:sammsky/licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)
Promoting democracy in Turkey via EU reforms

Turkey has been transforming itself into a more democratic country. Throughout its political history, Turkish people have seen 4 military coups, which made Turkey weak, but for a long time, Turkey has been enjoying that there has been no possibility of a new military coup. To be honest, this is due to the EU reforms made by today’s government. For example, the National Security Council was at the centre of Turkish politics because it was clear that it was often acting above the Grand National Assembly. When the negotiations between Turkey and the EU started, this issue (power of the Council) was one of the arguments against Turkey. The EU was right because in EU member states there is no such an institution which has more power than the National Assemblies. Today, Turkey is more democratic. Furthermore, the human rights record is much better; women’s rights are discussed every day; children’s rights are daily life’s debates and indeed animal rights are more visible… Thus, today, if we talk about rights, freedoms and related topics, the positive changes are due to the EU reforms, so when Turkey is a member, these values will be upheld better.

Travelling Europe without any visa

The most important benefit of being a member of the EU is of course “travelling Europe without any visa”. I, as a university student, like seeing new places but unfortunately since Turkey is out of the EU, I have to get visa every time. This makes me unhappy because every time I have to pay money, I have to collect documents, and I have to wait. However, when Turkey becomes a member, from Istanbul, an impressive city in Europe, to London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and many other capitals in the EU member states, the Turkish people will be able to travel more…

Working together for global peace

“Turkey cooperates extensively with the EU on almost every policy field including foreign policy issues. Turkey’s contribution to the EU’s security and defence policy is really clear. The EU is Turkey’s main economic and political partner.  As a factor of stability in its region, Turkey’s membership to the EU would also contribute to regional and global peace and stability as well as the dissemination of universal values to a wider geography.” (1)

A greater voice in international arena
Turkey is the European Union’s gateway to Asia (The Emirr/licensced under CC BY 3.0)

When Turkey becomes a member of the EU, it will have a greater voice in the international arena because the EU as a whole would include 29 countries. Instead of being alone in issues, Turkey with its friends within the EU will rule with a common foreign policy. This will make Turkey stronger because the problems of Turkey will be shared by other members like the problems of the EU will be shared by Turkey.

Also, although Turkey is not a member of the EU, it is a member of the Customs Union. The EU is Turkey’s main trade partner. 40% of Turkey’s total trade is with the European Union. Every year, total trade between Turkey and the EU increases. This underlines the importance of the EU as a large and secure market for Turkey. By the way, Turkey as a member will have more shares in international trade.

All in all, Turkey has been a part of the European family for a long time. “Since the foundation of the Republic, Turkey has taken part in almost all European institutions, in most of them as a founding member. Turkey has made considerable contributions to the formation of the current European architecture through the constructive role it played within international organizations such as the Council of Europe, OECD, NATO and OSCE.” (2) So the membership of Turkey to the EU will be based on a “win-win” situation. Everybody will be more pleased…

  1. (20.20.2014)
  2. (20.20.2014)
About the author:

haci mehmetHacı Mehmet Boyraz (21) is a student of International Relations with Political Science and Public Administration at Gediz University in İzmir.

Should Turkey become a member of the EU? (1/4)

The flags of Turkey and the EU (Flickr:European Parliament/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This is the first part of a 4-part series, discussing the pros and cons of an accession of Turkey to the European Union from all angles. Check the blog regularly or sign up to our newsletter to be notified as soon as the following parts are available.

The relationship between Turkey and the European Union (EU) has lasted more than 50 years. Although in the past there have been ups and downs, Turkey is still interested in being a member of the EU. The possible membership of Turkey to the EU has many pros for both sides. Turkey’s geographical position as a bridge between Europe and Asia, its host of different cultures and its secular political and constitutional structure make it visible and important. In this paper, I will try to explain why Turkey should be a member of the EU from the EU’s perspective.

Promoting the motto “United in Diversity”

For many centuries, Europe has been home to many different cultures and civilizations. Like the EU, Turkey hosts many different cultures, such as Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Azerbaijan, Greek, as well as many religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and many others. All of these are in relative harmony with each other. This means that if Turkey becomes a member, the motto of the EU “United in Diversity” will be promoted. At that point, I have to remind you of something. It is known that Turkey is a secular and democratic country as well as the fact that its population is mainly Muslim. To be honest, in the Islamic world the EU is seen as the Union of Christians, so the most important impact of Turkey’s membership will be a signal that Europe is open to the Islamic world.

A stronger voice in international arena

With globalization, something happening in a part of the world can have an impact in other countries. For example, a change at the New York Stock Exchange can cause a disaster in London. Or a political crisis in the Middle East can easily make the USA to be worried about it. To eliminate the negative power of globalization, countries have to stick together. In Turkish there is an idiom about this issue: “One hand has a voice, but two hands have more voice”. So instead of alone or excluded from others, the EU should be closer to Turkey to be stronger.

“As a member of the EU, Turkey can re-invigorate Europe’s relations with fast evolving regions like the energy rich Caucasus and Central Asia, to the new Middle East that emerging from the new events. Turkey’s unique geo-strategic position, plus the strength of NATO’s second-largest army would greatly add to European security, too.” (1)

Demographic position

I, as a university student, have visited some countries within and beyond the European Union. During my trips, I realized that there is an aging population in member states, so of course the population of the EU is aging. At the same time, today’s Turkish population is very young and increasingly well-educated. The young population in Turkey is about 40 million. You cannot see this youth power anywhere else, so I think that the aging EU should consider this demographic aspect of Turkey as a soft power.

Dynamic economy

Unfortunately, the economic crisis at the beginning of 2010 has created economic recessions in some member states of the EU. If we look at, for example, Greece, Spain, Portugal and some others we can easily see this scenario. At the same time, for a long time, the Turkish economy has been growing and it has more stability. Today, Turkey is a part of G20 but hopes to be the G9 of G8 in a short time. Moreover, the membership of Turkey will add 75 million consumers to the single market. This indicates that if Turkey becomes a member of the EU, both sides will benefit economically.

Briefly, Turkey and the EU need each other politically, economically and culturally in today’s globalized world. When Turkey is a member, the EU and Turkey will share both happiness and sadness. Thus, if Europe is to become an active global player, rather than a museum, it needs the fresh perspective and energy of Turkey.

Continue to Part 2 of the series


1. (20.10.2014)

About the author:

haci mehmetHacı Mehmet Boyraz (21) is a student of International Relations with Political Science and Public Administration at Gediz University in İzmir.

Russia vs Ukraine

Ukraine is a country located between Russia and Europe. Since declaring independence in 1991, Ukraine has been a strongly divided country and this crisis is a result of major internal divisions. The population is divided between pro-Russian and pro-European. According to political scientist Leonid Peisakhin, Ukraine “has never been and is not yet a coherent national unit with a common narrative or a set of more or less commonly shared political aspirations.”
The crisis was initially an internal one, but then rapidly escalated to what is now the tensest situation between the US and Russia since the Cold War.

A look at the facts

In November 2013, President Viktor Yanukovych was offered a deal for a stronger integration with the EU, his rejection caused major mass protests, which he violently put down. Many Ukrainians wanted the deal, not only because they feel closer to Europe culturally, but mainly to save their weak and troubled economy. It was not only an economical deal, but also a political one. Protestors were mainly students and young people, trying to save their country, fight against corruption, make a change. This was the breaking point: Russia backed Yanukovych, while the US and EU backed the protesters. As protests continued and turned into anti-government protests, Yanukovych was forced to leave the country, seeking Russia’s support.

In the meantime, Russia wanted to reinforce its influence on Ukraine, so in March 2014 Russian troops slowly arrived in Crimea, a peninsula situated south of Ukraine and surrounded by the Black sea and the Sea of Azov, which used to be Russian territory.

A power struggle for Crimea

Crimea is in a strategical position, having 3 main ports on the Black sea and its territory has sparked fights for domination for centuries. On March 16, Crimeans voted for their region to become a part of Russia. Most of the world sees Crimea’s secession vote as illegitimate for various reasons: it was held under pressing Russian military occupation with no international monitoring and many reports of intimidation; it was pushed through with only a couple of weeks’ warning, and it was illegal under Ukrainian law. Still, legitimate or not, Crimea has effectively become part of Russia.

A draft UN investigative report found that critics of secession within Crimea were detained and tortured in the days before the vote; it also found “many reports of vote-rigging”.

US and EU united against Russia

The US and European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia to punish Moscow for this, but there is no sign that Crimea will return to Ukraine. Russia’s sanctions have hit many of the EU’s agricultural states, especially the closest ones.
The Netherlands – the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products – is set to lose 300 million euro annually from canceled business with Russia. Poland as well was hit hard by the Kremlin’s sanctions. Spain, a large exporter of oranges to Russia, is estimated to miss out on 337 million euro in food and agriculture sales, while Italy has estimated its losses at nearly 1 billion euro.

From the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Russia feared losing influence on Ukraine and that their neighbors would fall under what Moscow sees as a Western conspiracy to surround Russia with inimical governments. It’s very difficult for many Russians to untangle their own history from Ukraine’s and accept the equality and legitimacy of the Ukrainian culture parallel to their own. Since April, pro-Russian rebels have been colliding with Ukrainian troops in the eastern part of the country, taking over government buildings and cities. Several Ukrainian military planes have been shot down and a Malaysian Airlines flight as well, killing more than 300 civilians. Of course, neither Kiev nor Moscow admitted taking part in the incidents.
These deaths attracted major attention; the world could not stand back and ignore the conflict anymore.

The Ukrainian response, especially a youth response

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced the start of “Project ‘Wall” in September, the building of a wall along its borders is a strong statement. Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine should be clear about who its enemy is, the former Soviet neighbor has become an “aggressor”.

The US has provided non- lethal aid (food, body armors, etc.) instead of weapons to Ukrainian forces. This is a strong affirmation of the US to avoid any further worsening of the situation.

Since March 2014, the Ukrainian government has sent letters to young men to invite them to join the army. Surprisingly, many young Ukrainians joined without second thoughts. Mainly the reason they had was helping restore law and order in Ukraine. We should certainly learn from these motivated young people protesting and ready to fight for their rights.
Hopefully the youth will stop the conflict and save Ukraine.

About the Author:

APicture Alessandra Maffettonelessandra (22) is Chairwoman of the Youth Council for the Future (YCF). She is involved with the “My Europe” Initiative since 2012.