Why Ankara hasn't abandoned its European dream

#CriticalThinking

Picture of Volkan Bozkir
Volkan Bozkir

Minister of European Union Affairs, Turkey

The view of 19th Century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that we take the limits of our own field of vision to be the limits of the whole world was arguably refuted by European visionaries like Monnet, Schuman and Spinelli; they extended their fields of vision far beyond that of the post-war world by initiating the ever-closer union of Europeans after the worst conflict mankind had known.

Europe’s political and economic integration was built as a peace project, but now the peace of Europe has become more and more dependent on external factors. Europe therefore needs to articulate a new raison d’être by determining a fresh and ambitious vision of how to face the challenges ahead.

The crises of much of the last decade have shown the EU’s serious shortcomings in updating a vision for a united Europe as well as for shaping the future of international politics. European leaders must bear a responsibility for revising outdated policies and implementing an assertive new agenda capable of bringing prosperity, peace and socio-economic dynamism to the EU and its neighbourhood.

Turkey’s EU accession process is not proceeding as it ought. The process has been facing resistance, led particularly by certain member states

That’s why the potential benefits of Turkish accession have become larger and more significant than ever. Turkey and the EU together have the weight to influence the big picture, and the contributions that Turkey and the EU could make to one another range widely from economics to politics and from culture to foreign policy.

Turkey’s close historical ties and its active present-day foreign policy in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East are assets that can make a vital contribution to EU policies in the region. The dramatic changes we have seen in Syria and Ukraine, from the Middle East to North Africa, all mean that Turkey and the EU should act jointly against the global and regional threats.  Civil wars, conflicts and the threat of terrorism in our region attest to the fact that for the EU Turkey is a key country in terms of securing political and economic stability in the neighbourhood.

In a region beset by crises and turmoil, Turkey stands stubbornly as an island of security and stability. The messages of reform, modernity, coherence and integration that would be represented by Turkey’s EU accession would echo widely throughout the region.

Turkey’s EU membership would do much to increase Europe’s energy security by providing alternative routes for energy supply. Turkey’s own energy strategy overlaps with the EU’s policy of diversifying energy supply routes, for it is a natural energy bridge between the EU and the energy-rich countries of the Caspian Basin and the Middle East. Over two-thirds of the world’s energy resources are to the south and east of Turkey, while Europe as the world’s largest energy consumer lies to Turkey’s west. Turkey’s geographical position is therefore critical to the security and sustainability of the EU’s energy supply.

The stalled negotiations do not a result from Turkey’s technical shortcomings, but from the political stance of some of the EU’s members

Another compelling reason for Turkish accession is economic; as the sixth largest European economy, and the 17th in world ranking, Turkey has much to contribute to the EU’s economic power at a global level. Turkey’s large and growing domestic market, its dynamic private sector, a liberal and secure investment environment, and a high quality and cost-effective labour force add up to a considerable economic gain for the EU. Our young and dynamic population and rapidly developing information society, mean that Turkey would inject powerful new energy into the European internal market and would significantly increase its size and competitiveness.

In other words, Turkey is an excellent practical model of Europe’s “unity in diversity”, having as it does a heritage of many centuries of peaceful co-existence of different cultures, identities, languages and religions. Sadly, though, Europe is meanwhile seeing increasing support for racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant parties, with the rise of the far-right threatening the universal values the EU was founded on. The Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris underlined the importance of different cultures’ co-existence, and the need to stand against extremism in defence of the values we all believe in.

A multi-cultural Europe should seek greater interaction and exchanges between cultures, and this cultural diversity must be perceived as an opportunity, not a threat. For if Europe fails to achieve cultural pluralism, then social conflicts would seem a very real risk.

The crises of much of the last decade have shown the EU’s serious shortcomings in updating a vision for a united Europe as well as for shaping the future of international politics

Turkey is unique, in that secular democracy has taken hold within a predominantly Muslim population. It is a particularity that underlines the compatibility of Islam and democratic values, making Turkey’s membership proof of the EU’s multicultural identity and its universal values. The successful incorporation of Turkey into the EU would send the message that cultural or religious differences do not prevent societies from embracing each other and building a common future. Our prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently made the point that if Turkish accession to the EU had not been so long delayed, Europe would not now be experiencing the same cultural and religious tensions.

Membership of the EU is a strategic objective for Turkey. And carrying the accession process forward is also in our common interest. But although we are committed to accession and to the reform agenda it entails, it is vital that the EU should respond properly to our determination. As the European Commission has itself put it, “the full potential of the EU-Turkey relationship is best fulfilled within the framework of an active and credible accession process”. Regrettably, that picture is in reality quite different; Turkey’s EU accession process is not proceeding as it ought. The process has been facing resistance, led particularly by certain member states. So far, 14 chapters have been opened, with only one chapter temporarily closed. The stalled negotiations do not result from Turkey’s technical shortcomings, but from the political stance of some of the EU’s members.

Europe’s founding fathers were convinced that their countries had first to define their common interests and shared perspectives if they were to overcome their culture of conflicts and mistrust. They made no reference in those days to religious beliefs or cultural notions, not least because the European project’s motto, and its genuine ideal, was to make “unity in diversity” a reality. Today, it is looking more like a challenge. The first step towards meeting that challenge is arguably that the European Union should reassess its handling of the accession talks with Turkey and adopt a firm but fair approach that demonstrates the Union is still capable of constructing a wider vision for Europe and for the world

Insights

view all insights

Next Event

view all events
Track title

Category

00:0000:00
Stop playback
Video title

Category

Close

We use cookies to improve your online experience.
For more information, visit our privacy policy

Africa initiative logo

Dismiss