European dilemmas regarding Turkey

by George Kentas, Research Fellow


As the time of reckoning regarding Turkey’s bid for accession to the EU approaches, Union

member states are thinking harder about their final stance on the issue. The prevailing

trends are basically two: on the one hand, it is maintained that Turkey should accede

to the EU. The supporters of Turkish accession put forward four main arguments: firstly,

that Turkey is a European country, which, as long as it fulfills the Copenhagen criteria,

should start negotiations for accession to the EU. Secondly, during the accession

negotiations, there will be adequate time for dealing with all the problems that might

arise in the event of its accession to the EU. Thirdly, the harmonization process that

will be followed by Turkey will contribute to the further modernization and democratization

of the country, as well as to the stabilization and the development of its economy and

society. Fourthly, in the event of a negative decision in December, reforms will be frozen

and Turkey will face the danger of destabilization. Furthermore, a negative response would

be interpreted as a refusal on the part of the Europeans to co-exist with the Muslim world, thus

vindicating the “clash of civilizations” thesis.


On the other hand, some countries are skeptical regarding Turkey’s accession and maintain

that: firstly, in the event of Turkey’s accession to the EU, the population structure and the

political equilibrium in the Union will be changed. Turkey, which would represent 15% of

the population of the EU, would have the greatest number of seats (than any other member

country) in the European Parliament and a large percentage of the votes in the Council.

Secondly, the fact that Turkey perceives the EU merely as an intergovernmental

organization, together with its adherence to the principles of Atlanticism – rather than of

Europeanism – will bog down any plans for strengthening the EU as a political union and

undermine the role of the EU as a global actor. As the former French President and Head

of the European Convention, Valery Giscard D’ Estaing maintained, the accession of Turkey

to the EU will mean “the end of Europe”. Thirdly, Turkish accession would be particularly

costly, causing a heavy drain on the EU budgets for agriculture and regional development.

Fourthly, the huge Turkish population is a headache for the various member states of the

EU due to the possibility of waves of Turkish migrants moving into these countries.


Apparently, however, the view prevails among EU member countries that Turkey must be

granted a date for the start of accession negotiations, on the basis of a strict road map

and with the possibility of re-evaluating the prospect of accession itself after

the completion of Turkey’s harmonization with the acquis communautaire. On the other

hand, however, the concern is expressed that the beginning of accession negotiations

will lead, one way or the other, to the final accession of Turkey to the EU, since it will be

very difficult for accession to be denied when Turkey will have already been

harmonized with the acquis communautaire.


In one way or another, the start of accession negotiations between Turkey and the

EU will have a number of consequences. Perhaps the first casualty of such negotiations

will be the Constitutional Treaty. In France, for instance, serious concern about the

possibility of Turkey’s accession appears to be swaying Frenchmen towards rejecting the

Constitutional Treaty, without which there would be no institutional framework for

Turkey’s accession to the EU. It seems that President Chirac’s proposal to put Turkey’s

accession to a referendum has not calmed French fears.



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