Turkey European Union Obstacles To Critical Thinking

This article is about accession negotiations process. For the broad perspective on relations between the European Union and Turkey, see European Union–Turkey relations.

Turkish EU accession bid
Opened chapters16[1]
Closed chapters1
EU averageTurkey
PPP GDP ($M)552,7802,249,864 [2]
PPP per capita ($)40,60027,635[2]
Area (km2)165,048783,562
Population18,583,59880,417,526 [3]

Turkey's application to accede to the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union (EU), was made on 14 April 1987.[4] After the ten founding members, Turkey was one of the first countries to become a member of the Council of Europe in 1949. The country was also an associate member of the Western European Union from 1992 to its end in 2011. Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership on 12 December 1999, at the Helsinki summit of the European Council.

Negotiations for full membership were started on 3 October 2005.[5] Progress was slow, and out of the 35 Chapters necessary to complete the accession process only 16 had been opened and one had been closed by May 2016.[6] The early 2016 refugee deal between Turkey and the European Union was intended to accelerate negotiations after previous stagnation and as allow visa-free travel through Europe for Turks.[7]

Turkish accession talks came to a halt as a result of the 2016–17 purges in Turkey. On 24 November 2016 the European Parliament voted to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey over human rights and rule of law concerns,[8] though this decision was not binding.[9] On 13 December, the Council of the European Union (comprising the ministers of the member states) resolved that it would open no new areas in Turkey's membership talks in the "prevailing circumstances",[10] as Turkey’s path toward autocratic rule made progress on EU accession impossible.[11] As of 2018, and especially following the passage of the constitutional referendum, Turkish accession talks have effectively stopped.[12][13]



After the Ottoman Empire's collapse following World War I, Turkish revolutionaries led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerged victorious in the Turkish War of Independence, establishing the modern Turkish Republic as it exists today. Atatürk, President of Turkey, implemented a series of reforms, including secularisation and industrialisation, intended to "Europeanise" or Westernise the country.[14] During World War II, Turkey remained neutral until February 1945, when it joined the Allies. The country took part in the Marshall Plan of 1947, became a member of the Council of Europe in 1949,[15] and a member of NATO in 1952.[16] During the Cold War, Turkey allied itself with the United States and Western Europe. The Turkish expert Meltem Ahıska outlines the Turkish position vis-à-vis Europe, explaining how “Europe has been an object of desire as well as a source of frustration for Turkish national identity in a long and strained history”.[17]


The country first applied for associate membership in the European Economic Community in 1959, and on 12 September 1963 signed the "Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community", also known as the Ankara Agreement. This agreement came into effect the following year on 12 December 1964. The Ankara Agreement sought to integrate Turkey into a customs union with the EEC whilst acknowledging the final goal of membership.[14] In November 1970, a further protocol called the "Additional Protocol" established a timetable for the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods traded between Turkey and the EEC.[14]

On 14 April 1987, Turkey submitted its application for formal membership into the European Economic Community. The European Commission responded in December 1989 by confirming Ankara’s eventual membership but also by deferring the matter to more favourable times, citing Turkey’s economic and political situation, as well its poor relations with Greece and the conflict with Cyprus as creating an unfavourable environment with which to begin negotiations.[18] This position was confirmed again in the Luxembourg European Council of 1997 in which accession talks were started with central and eastern European states and Cyprus, but not Turkey. During the 1990s, Turkey proceeded with a closer integration with the European Union by agreeing to a customs union in 1995. Moreover, the Helsinki European Council of 1999 proved a milestone as the EU recognised Turkey as a candidate on equal footing with other potential candidates.


The next significant step in Turkey–EU relations came with the December 2002 Copenhagen European Council.[19] According to it, "the EU would open negotiations with Turkey 'without delay' if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfills the Copenhagen political criteria."[19]

The European Commission recommended that the negotiations should begin in 2005, but also added various precautionary measures. The EU leaders agreed on 16 December 2004 to start accession negotiations with Turkey from 3 October 2005.[20] While Austria and Germany initially wanted to leave open the possibility that negotiations with Turkey would lead to a privileged partnership, less than full membership, accession negotiations were ultimately launched with the "shared objective" of membership.[21]

Turkey's accession talks have since been stalled by a number of domestic and external problems. Both Austria and France have said they would hold a referendum on Turkey's accession. In the case of France, a change in its Constitution was made to impose such a referendum, but later another constitutional change has enabled the parliament (if a large majority of its members agrees) to prevent such a referendum.[22] The issue of Cyprus continues to be a major obstacle to negotiations.[23] European officials have commented on the slowdown in Turkish reforms which, combined with the Cyprus problem, led the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in March 2007 to warn of an impending ‘train crash’ in the negotiations.[24] Due to these setbacks, negotiations again came to a halt in December 2006, with the EU freezing talks in 8 of the 35 key areas under negotiation.[25]

In December 2009, the Republic of Cyprus blocked 6 chapters of Turkish accession negotiations, including those on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, Energy and Education and Culture, arguing that Turkey needs to first normalise relations with Cyprus.[26][27] As a result, no chapter have been opened since June 2010.[28][29][30] Hence, there is no chapter Turkey can open other than the difficult and economically detrimental chapters Competition Policy, Social Policy and Employment, and Public Procurement that most candidate countries open at the end of accession as all other chapters are blocked. In February 2013, Turkish Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry for EU Affairs, Burak Erdenir, claimed that the EU had yet to communicate to Turkey the benchmark criteria for opening chapters 23 and 24, Judiciary & Fundamental Rights and Justice, Freedom & Security, which was to be done after screening of the chapters was completed in 2006, thus making it impossible to comply with them. He also suggested this was a deliberate attempt to slow their accession process.[31]

Positive Agenda[edit]

After over 2 years of no chapter openings, the European Commission set up a "Positive agenda" designed to focus on common EU-Turkey interests. EU Commissioner for expansion Stefan Füle describes that the goal was "to keep the accession process alive and put it properly back on track after a period of stagnation which has been a source of frustration for both sides."[32] The EU Commission mentioned a broad range of areas as the main elements of the Agenda such as “intensified dialogue and cooperation on political reforms”, “visa”, “mobility and migration”, “energy”, “fight against terrorism”, “further participation of Turkey in Community programmes”, “town twinning”, “trade and the Customs Union” and “supporting efforts to align with the acquis, including on chapters where accession negotiations cannot be opened for the time being”. The proposal was considered favorably on the condition that it serves as an instrument in support of and complementary to the negotiation process with the EU.

In the framework of “Positive Agenda”, Working Groups were established on 8 chapters (“3-Right of Establishment and Freedom to Provide Services”, “6-Company Law”, “10-Information Society and Media”, “18-Statistics”, “23-Judiciary and Fundamental Rights”, “24-Justice, Freedom and Security”, “28-Consumer and Health Protection” and “32-Financial Control”). The “Positive Agenda” kick-off meeting was held on 17 May 2012 in Ankara with the participation of Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. As a result of the Working Groups meetings held so far, a total of four closing benchmarks were confirmed to have been met by Turkey in three chapters (Company Law, Consumer and Health Protection and Financial Control chapters).[33][34]

Recent developments[edit]

In 2007, Turkey stated that they were aiming to comply with EU law by 2013,[35] but Brussels refused to back that as a deadline for membership.[36] In 2006 European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the accession process will take at least until 2021.[37] In a visit to Germany on 31 October 2012, Turkish Prime Minister R.T. Erdoğan made clear that Turkey was expecting membership in the Union to be realised by 2023, the 100th Anniversary of the Turkish Republic, implying that they could end membership negotiations if the talks had not yielded a positive result by then.[38] Turkish President Abdullah Gül said that upon completing the accession process Turkey will hold a referendum for Turkish membership in the European Union.[39]

On 20 June 2013, in the wake of Ankara's crackdown on mass demonstrations in Taksim Square, Germany blocked the start to new EU accession talks with Turkey.[40] According to the Financial Times, one Turkish official said that such a move could potentially break off political relations with the bloc.[40]

A Eurobarometer poll in September 2013, which included EU countries and candidate countries as well, showed that 43% of Turks viewed the EU positively, as compared with 60% six months previously. In the same poll, 29% of Turks polled expressed support for an EU Constitution, the lowest level of support among EU countries and candidates polled.[41] Germany says that its reservation stems from a technical issue, but Angela Merkel, an opponent of Turkish entry into the EU, has described herself as "shocked" after Ankara's use of overwhelming police force against mostly peaceful demonstrators.[40] France stated that they would not waive their veto over unfreezing four accession chapters with Turkey until after elections for the European Parliament in June 2014.[42]

The crackdown following the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt by President Erdogan damaged relations with the EU. Erdogan has indicated his approval of reinstating the death penalty to punish those involved in the coup, with the EU suggesting that this would end its EU ambitions. Erdogan stated in November 2016 that he was considering putting Turkey's continued negotiations with the EU on membership to a referendum in 2017.[43] In November 2016, the European Parliament voted in favour of a non-binding resolution to request that the European Commission temporarily suspend membership negotiations due to the "disproportionate repressive measures" of the government to the coup.[44] On 13 December, the European Council (comprising the heads of state or government of the member states) resolved that it would open no new areas in Turkey's membership talks in the "prevailing circumstances";[10] Turkey’s path toward autocratic rule makes progress on EU accession impossible.[11]

In April 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted to reopen its monitoring procedure against Turkey. This vote is widely understood to deal a major blow to Turkey*s perspective of eventual EU membership, as exiting that process was made a precondition of EU accession negotiations back in 2004.[45]


31 July 1959 – Turkey applies for associate membership in the European Economic Community.
12 September 1963 – Association Agreement signed, acknowledging the final goal of membership.
1 December 1964 – Association Agreement comes into effect.[14]
23 November 1970 – Protocol signed providing a timetable for the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods.
1980 – Freeze in relations following the 1980 Turkish coup d'état.
1983 – Relations fully restored following elections.
14 April 1987 – Application for formal membership into the European Community.
18 December 1989 – European Commission refuses to immediately begin accession negotiations, citing Turkey’s economic and political situation, poor relations with Greece and their conflict with Cyprus, but overall reaffirming eventual membership as the goal.
6 March 1995 – European Union-Turkey Customs Union is formed.
12 December 1999 – European Council recognises Turkey as a candidate on equal footing with other potential candidates.
12 December 2002 – European Council states that "the EU would open negotiations with Turkey 'without delay' if Turkey fulfills the Copenhagen criteria."
24 April 2004 – Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus back the Annan Plan for Cyprus.
17 December 2004 – European Union agrees to start negotiations.
20 October 2005 – Screening started.
12 June 2006 – Chapter on "Science & Research" is opened and closed.
13 October 2006 – Screening completed.
11 December 2006 – Continued dispute over Cyprus prompts the EU to freeze talks on 8 chapters and state that no chapters would be closed until a resolution is found.[46]
29 March 2007 – Chapter on "Enterprise & Industrial Policy" is opened.[47]
25 June 2007 – Chapter on "Statistics & Financial Control" is opened, but the opening of the chapter on "Economic & Monetary Policy" was blocked by French PresidentNicolas Sarkozy.[48]
26 July 2007 – Chapter on "Financial Control" is opened.
19 December 2007 – Chapters on "Health & Consumer Protection" and "Trans-European Networks" are opened.[49]
17 June 2008 – Chapters on "Company Law" and "Intellectual Property Law" are opened.[50]
19 December 2008 – Chapters on "Free Movement of Capital" and "Information Society & Media" are opened.[51]
30 June 2009 – Chapter on "Taxation" is opened.[52]
21 December 2009 – Chapter on "Environment & Climate Change" is opened.[53]
30 June 2010 – Chapter on "Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy" is opened.
17 May 2012 – Launch of the "Positive Agenda" with Turkey.[54]
1 July 2012 – 31 December 2012 – Turkey froze relations with the European Union for the duration of Republic of Cyprus' rotating presidency.[55]
12 February 2013 – France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius announces that France has officially removed its veto over Chapter 22 ("Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments"), and will assist in the chapter's opening. This chapter is also unfrozen on this date.[56][57][58][59]
25 June 2013 – Chapter on "Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments" is partially opened, but negotiations on the chapter will not commence until after the annual Progress Report is published in October, due to Turkey's handling of protesters.[60]
5 November 2013 – Chapter on Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments is fully opened.
16 December 2013 – The EU launches the Visa Liberalisation Dialogue with Turkey.[61]
31 January 2014 – France officially removes its veto over Chapter 11 ("Agriculture & Rural Development"). This chapter was blocked by both Cyprus and France, so it can't be unfrozen until Cyprus removes its veto.
29 November 2015 – At the EU-Turkey Summit the EU welcomes Turkey's commitment to accelerate the fulfilment of the Visa Roadmap benchmarks in return for halting the flow of Syrian refugees from Turkey to Greece.[62]
1 December 2015 – France officially removes its veto over Chapter 17 ("Economic & Monetary Policy").
14 December 2015 – Chapter on "Economic & Monetary Policy" unfrozen and opened.
18 March 2016 – France officially removes its veto over Chapter 33 ("Financial & Budgetary Provisions"). This chapter is also unfrozen on this date.
30 June 2016 – Chapter on "Financial & Budgetary Provisions" is opened.
24 November 2016 – MEPs vote overwhelmingly to suspend negotiations with Turkey over human rights and rule of law concerns.

Negotiation progress[edit]

Table of chapters[edit]

To accede to the EU, Turkey must successfully complete negotiations with the European Commission on 33 of the 35 chapters of the acquis communautaire, the total body of EU law. (Two chapters do not require negotiation.) Afterwards, the member states must unanimously agree on granting Turkey membership to the European Union.

Acquis chapterEC Assessment At StartEC Assessment in 2015[63]EC Assessment in 2016[64]Screening StartedScreening CompletedChapter FrozenChapter UnfrozenChapter OpenedChapter Closed
1. Free Movement of GoodsFurther efforts neededGood level of preparationGood level of preparation16 January 200624 February 200611 December 2006[C 1]
2. Freedom of Movement For WorkersVery hard to adoptEarly stageEarly stage19 July 200611 September 20068 December 2009[C 2]
3. Right of Establishment For Companies & Freedom To Provide ServicesVery hard to adoptEarly stageEarly stage21 November 200520 December 200511 December 2006[C 1]
4. Free Movement of CapitalFurther efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared25 November 200522 December 200519 December 2008
5. Public ProcurementTotally incompatible with acquisModerately preparedModerately prepared7 November 200528 November 2005
6. Company LawConsiderable efforts neededWell advancedWell advanced21 June 200620 July 200617 June 2008
7. Intellectual Property LawFurther efforts neededGood level of preparationGood level of preparation6 February 20063 March 200617 June 2008
8. Competition PolicyVery hard to adoptModerately preparedSome level of preparation8 November 20052 December 2005
9. Financial ServicesConsiderable efforts neededGood level of preparationGood level of preparation29 March 20063 May 200611 December 2006[C 1]
10. Information Society & MediaFurther efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared12 June 200614 July 200619 December 2008
11. Agriculture & Rural DevelopmentVery hard to adoptSome level of preparationSome level of preparation5 December 200526 January 200611 December 2006[C 1][C 3][33]
12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary PolicyVery hard to adoptSome level of preparationSome level of preparation9 March 200628 April 200630 June 2010
13. FisheriesVery hard to adoptEarly stageEarly stage24 February 200631 March 200611 December 2006[C 1]
14. Transport PolicyConsiderable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared26 June 200628 September 200611 December 2006[C 1]
15. EnergyConsiderable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared15 May 200616 June 20068 December 2009[C 2]
16. TaxationConsiderable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared6 June 200612 July 200630 June 2009
17. Economic & Monetary PolicyConsiderable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared16 February 200623 March 200625 June 2007[C 3][33]14 December 201514 December 2015[65]
18. StatisticsConsiderable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared19 June 200618 July 200625 June 2007
19. Social Policy & Employment[66]Considerable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared8 February 200622 March 2006
20. Enterprise & Industrial PolicyNo major difficulties expectedGood level of preparationGood level of preparation27 March 20065 May 200629 March 2007
21. Trans-European NetworksConsiderable efforts neededWell advancedWell advanced30 June 200629 September 200619 December 2007
22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural InstrumentsConsiderable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared11 September 200610 October 200625 June 2007[C 3]12 February 20135 November 2013[67][68][69]
23. Judiciary & Fundamental RightsConsiderable efforts neededSome level of preparationSome level of preparation7 September 200613 October 20068 December 2009[C 2]
24. Justice, Freedom & SecurityConsiderable efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared23 January 200615 February 20068 December 2009[C 2]
25. Science & ResearchNo major difficulties expectedWell advancedWell advanced20 October 200514 November 200512 June 200612 June 2006
26. Education & CultureFurther efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared26 October 200516 November 20058 December 2009[C 2]
27. Environment and Climate ChangeTotally incompatible with acquisModerately preparedSome level of preparation3 April 20062 June 200621 December 2009[53]
28. Consumer & Health ProtectionFurther efforts neededGood level of preparationGood level of preparation8 June 200611 July 200619 December 2007
29. Customs UnionNo major difficulties expectedGood level of preparationGood level of preparation31 January 200614 March 200611 December 2006[C 1]
30. External RelationsNo major difficulties expectedWell advancedGood level of preparation10 July 200613 September 200611 December 2006[C 1]
31. Foreign, Security & Defence PolicyFurther efforts neededModerately preparedModerately prepared14 September 20066 October 20068 December 2009[C 2]
32. Financial ControlFurther efforts neededGood level of preparationGood level of preparation18 May 200630 June 200626 July 2007
33. Financial & Budgetary ProvisionsNo major difficulties expectedEarly stageSome level of preparation6 September 20064 October 200625 June 2007[C 3][33]18 March 201630 June 2016[70]
34. InstitutionsNothing to adoptNothing to adoptNothing to adopt
35. Other IssuesNothing to adoptNothing to adoptNothing to adopt
Progress33 out of 33[71]33 out of 33[71]17 out of 333 out of 1716 out of 351 out of 35[72]
  1. ^ abcdefghThe EU Council froze the opening of eight chapters over Turkey's rejection to open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus in 2006
  2. ^ abcdefSome of the chapters do not proceed to the next stage in the process, because they are blocked by Cyprus.
  3. ^ abcdFrance blocked some chapters from proceeding to the next stage of the process, but subsequently lifted their veto.

Timeline Chart[edit]

Pre-accession support to Turkey[edit]

See also: European Union–Turkey relations § EU pre-accession support to Turkey

Until the accession process is terminated, Turkey receives payments from the EU budget as pre-accession support, currently 4.5 billion allocated budget for the 2014-2020 period (about 740 million Euros per year).[73]

In June 2017, the EU's financial watchdog, the European Court of Auditors, said it would start to probe how almost 1 billion Euro EU funds which Turkey received since 2007 to support rule of law, civil society, fundamental rights, democracy and governance were actually spent.[74] Turkish media commented that "perhaps it can explain why this money apparently failed to have the slightest effect on efforts to prevent the deterioration of democracy in this country."[75]

Expected impact of joining[edit]

Effect upon the EU[edit]

Member countriesPopulationArea (km²)Nominal GDP
(billion US$)
Nominal GDP
per capita (US$)

The problem of Turkey's membership of the EU is compounded by conflicting views as to what the EU should ultimately become.[76] This has played a significant role in the debate, due in part to the Eurozone crisis and the fact that as a result of this the eurozone and the EU overall is more federalised on both fiscal, legal and political levels than it was at the time of Turkey's application or at the time that Turkey was accepted as a candidate.[77] Generally those members of the EU who support a rights-based free trade bloc do not oppose Turkey as adamantly as those who support a broader political union. The latter, in particular, are concerned that unification would be frustrated and the European project threatened by Turkey's inclusion.[78]

Proponents of Turkey's membership argue that it is a key regional power[80][81] with a large economy and the second-largest military force of NATO after the United States[82][83] that will enhance the EU's position as a global geostrategic player and its Common Foreign and Security Policy;[84] given Turkey's geographic location and economic, political, cultural and historic ties in regions with large natural resources that are at the immediate vicinity of the EU's geopolitical sphere of influence; such as the East Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, the Middle East, the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia.[85][86]

According to the former Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, "the accession of Turkey would give the EU a decisive role for stability in the eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, which is clearly in the strategic interest of Europe."[87] Two of Turkey's key supporters for its bid to join the EU are Poland[88][89] and the United Kingdom.[90][citation needed].

Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 76 million inhabitants would bestow the second-largest number of MEPs in the European Parliament.[24] Demographic projections indicate that Turkey would surpass Germany by 2020.[24] However, as a single country can only hold a maximum of 96 seats in the European Parliament, this would not give Turkey an advantage in the European Parliament.

Turkey's membership would also affect future enlargement plans, especially the number of nations seeking EU membership,[24] grounds on which Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has opposed Turkey's admission. Giscard has suggested that it would lead to demands for accession by Morocco. Morocco's application is already rejected on geographic grounds; Turkey, unlike Morocco, has 3% of its territory in Europe. The vast majority of its population lives in the Asian side of the country. On the other hand, the country's largest city, Istanbul, lies mostly in Europe. On the other hand, Cyprus, which is geographically located in Asia, joined the European Union in 2004. Former French PresidentNicolas Sarkozy stated in January 2007 that "enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept...I want to say that Europe must give itself borders, that not all countries have a vocation to become members of Europe, beginning with Turkey which has no place inside the European Union."[91]

EU member states must unanimously agree on Turkey's membership for the Turkish accession to be successful. In December 2011, a poll showed that as much as 71% of the participants surveyed in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom were opposed to Turkey's membership in the European Union.[92] A number of nations may oppose it; notably Austria[citation needed]; Germany (chancellor Angela Merkel has long rejected Turkey's accession bid, and has proposed a "privileged partnership" instead);[93] and France (where some[who?] are anxious at the prospect of a new wave of Muslim immigrants, given the country's already large Muslim community.)[94]

Negotiations to remove the French constitutional requirement for a compulsory referendum on all EU accessions after Croatia resulted in a new proposal to require a compulsory referendum on the accession of any country with a population of more than 5% of the EU's total population; this clause would mainly apply to Turkey and Ukraine.[95] The French Senate, however, blocked the change in the French constitution, in order to maintain good relations with Turkey.[96] The current situation according to the French constitution is as follows: if 3/5 of the delegates (from the Senate and the Parliament) agree to the accession of Turkey, there will be no referendum.

Benefits to Turkey[edit]

Upon accession to the EU, Turkey expects to receive economic development aid similar to what Ireland, Greece and Portugal received.[citation needed] There is also an expectation that there will be an increase in European foreign investment in the Turkish economy, further driving economic growth. Additionally, in times of economic crisis, Turkey could expect economic assistance from the EU,[citation needed] similar to what Ireland, Greece and Portugal received after the 2008 financial crisis.

Free movement of people across the EU will give many Turkish people the opportunity to easily migrate to other parts of Europe in search of work, or a higher standard of living. The option of migration out of Turkey will inevitably ease tensions in the east of the country, as the prospect of a better standard of living will tend to cool separatist tendencies. Some secularists in Turkey envisage that the accession of Turkey will contribute to the spread of secular western values in Turkey. Conversely, some non-secularists in Turkey envisage that accession will contribute to the further growth and acceptance of Islam in Europe. The EU accession bid has stimulated Turkey's political and legal reforms and intensified the democratisation process.[97]

Given Turkey's large and growing population, Turkey will have a correspondingly large representation in the European Parliament. This will give Turkey strong direct influence over EU policies. Membership in the EU will also increase Turkey's prestige regionally and internationally.

Turkish membership issues[edit]


Main article: Economy of Turkey

See also: European Union–Turkey Customs Union

Turkey has the world's 17th largest GDP-PPP[98] and 18th largest Nominal GDP.[99] The country is a founding member of the OECD and the G-20 major economies.

Turkey has taken advantage of a customs union with the European Union, signed in 1995, to increase its industrial production destined for exports, while at the same time benefiting from EU-origin foreign investment into the country.[100] In 2008, Turkey's exports reached 141.8 billion USD[101] (main export partners: Germany 11.2%, UK 8%, Italy 6.95%, France 5.6%, Spain 4.3%, US 3.88%; total EU exports 56.5%.) However, larger imports amounting to about 204.8 billion USD[101] threaten the balance of trade (main import partners: Russia 13.8%, Germany 10.3%, China 7.8%, Italy 6%, USA 4.8%, France 4.6%, Iran 3.9%, UK 3.2%; total EU imports 40.4%; total Asia imports 27%).[102][103]

According to Forbes magazine, Istanbul had a total of 37 billionaires in 2013, ranking 5th in the world behind Moscow (84 billionaires), New York City (62 billionaires), Hong Kong (43 billionaires) and London (43 billionaires).[104]

The opening of talks regarding the Economic and Monetary Policy acquis chapter of Turkey's accession bid was expected to begin in June 2007, but were stalled by France.[105]Turkey became the European Union’s fifth-largest trade partner in 2015 according to data released by Eurostat.[106]

Turkey is set to receive EUR 9.2bn from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, a funding mechanism for EU candidate countries.


Further information: Demographics of Turkey

As of 2005[update], the population of Turkey stood at 71.5 million with a yearly growth rate of 1.5%.[107][108] The Turkish population is relatively young, with 25.5% falling within the 0–15 age bracket.[109]

Turkey's large population would alter the balance of power in the representative European institutions. Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 80 million inhabitants would bestow it the second largest number of MEPs in the European Parliament.[110][not in citation given] Demographic projections indicate that Turkey's population will surpass Germany's by 2020. This means Turkey would get the maximal number of representatives in the European Parliament, equal to Germany's.[110][not in citation given][dubious– discuss]

ISTANBUL —  European Union foreign ministers have green-lighted the resumption of membership talks with Turkey. Negotiations have been stalled for three years by political tensions and, more recently, the Turkish government's violent crackdown on protesters this past summer. Still, despite efforts to restart the accession process, questions remain over how much influence Brussels has over Ankara.

The EU meant to restart membership talks with Ankara in June. But the decision was delayed due to the Turkish government’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protests led by what became known as the “Gezi Park Movement.”

According to Kadri Gursel, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet and website Al-Monitor, those protests played a key role in Brussels deciding to reactivate the talks.

“The Gezi Park agenda is simply the EU agenda; liberties, rights, civil society, having a say in the future of the country. It was a European type of protest, and this encouraged the EU to keep the accession process alive," said Gursel.

The EU’s annual membership report on Turkey strongly condemned the government's crackdown on the protests.

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed Brussels’ decision to reopen talks, he dismissed EU criticism of his government's crackdown on the opposition, saying no one other than the Turkish nation has a right to issue what he called “school reports” on Turkey.

Semih Idiz, a diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf and Al-Monitor website says the prime minister's tough stance towards Brussels is a sign he is concerned about possible future unrest.

“Turkey is under the projector as far as human rights is concerned. No doubt the EU will continue to try to apply what pressure it has. And perhaps this is why Erdogan is angry," said Idiz.

Even though the EU's membership talks with Turkey have reopened, observers say Brussels' influence on Ankara will be limited.

Out of 35 membership chapters Ankara has to complete to join the EU, after eight years, just 14 have been opened and only one has been completed.

And, according to opinion polls, public support for the EU membership bid has plummeted over the past three years, falling from over 70 percent to less than half.

Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist and columnist for Taraf, says deep skepticism now exists both among Turkey's people and politicians about whether the bid will ever succeed. Aktar argues that unless this changes, there is little hope Brussels can persuade the government to address human rights concerns in the coming years.

“Without a clear pronunciation by the EU member states of a clear date for Turkey to join the EU, I don’t think we will move forward and it's highly improbable that this government led by Prime Minister Erdogan will take more reformist action between now and the election cycle which will end in 2015," said Aktar.

Erdogan is courting nationalist voters, who, observers say, are the most skeptical about EU membership and human rights reforms. Until recently, Ankara had argued that Turkey’s interests extend far beyond Europe, a policy buoyed by the Arab Spring.

But growing turmoil in the region has resulted in Ankara becoming increasingly isolated, says political scientist Aktar. And that means continuing the EU membership talks is becoming increasingly important to the Turkish government.

“The government’s foreign policy has no correspondent anymore in the world and I think at the end of the day what remains in terms of foreign policy bonds is the EU relationship and the NATO relationship, full stop," he said.

Observers say with a general election due in 2015, Erdogan is likely to face the balancing act of keeping the EU talks on track in the face of increasing pressure from Brussels over human rights, along with possible further civic unrest.

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