Abstract

The relationship between Turkey and the EU entered a new phrase on October 3, 2005 with the opening of Turkey’s accession negotiations. This paper proposes that the specific juncture that European integration finds itself in and the perceptions of Turkey’s fit into Europe are the main variables around which member states’ preferences and the European public’s position on the Turkish accession are shaped. This is different from arguing that Turkey’s adoption of the EU acquis would determine its accession. Turkey’s adoption of the EU acquis/criteria is necessary but not sufficient on its own, as other factors will shape Turkey’s accession. These factors are the convergence of member states’ interests, the public approval and the EU’s internal dynamics. This paper concludes by arguing that the interplay of the utilitarian concerns, the ideational factors and the EU’s internal dynamics is the key to understand the conditions under which Turkey’s accession talks will proceed.

In a historic moment, on October 3, 2005, Turkey began its accession negotiations1 with the European Union (EU). Even though all EU member states unanimously approved the Negotiations Framework Document in 2005 that stated that “the shared objective of the negotiations is accession,” there is still an ongoing debate as to whether Turkey will ever become a member of the EU. This debate has taken a new turn with the French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s declaration that “Turkey’s place is not in Europe.”2

There are several factors that one needs to take into account in an analysis of Turkey’s accession to the EU. First, Turkey’s accession ultimately depends on its ability to adopt fully the EU acquis in its entirety and to remain committed to democratic principles and procedures that the EU stands upon. Second, the European Union’s internal dynamics play an equally important role, critical in that aspect is the ability of the EU to adopt institutional reform that would enable it to enlarge. Third, the European public is opposed to Turkey’s membership where opposition is highest in Austria, France, and Germany. This is especially important because the European integration has reached a stand still in 2005 with the European public highly critical of the Constitution and further enlargement (Sedelmeier and Young 2006; Taggart 2006; Jones 2005). Unless this hurdle is overcome, further enlargement might be problematic.

This paper proposes that the specific juncture that the European integration finds itself in and the debates on Turkey’s fit into Europe are the main variables around which member states’ preferences and the European public’s position on the Turkish accession are shaped. This is different than arguing that Turkey’s adoption of the EU acquis would determine whether Turkey accedes to the EU or not (Schimmelfennig, Engert, and Knobel 2003; Carkoglu and Rubin 2003). Turkey’s adoption of the EU acquis/criteria is necessary but not sufficient on its own, as there are other factors at play in shaping Turkey’s accession. These factors could be listed as the convergence of member states’ interests, the public approval and the EU’s internal dynamics. Accordingly, Turkey’s accession talks are complicated by the current problems in the EU, particularly important here is the deadlock that the EU finds itself in with respect to the Constitution and the discontent among the European public. Some scholars call the current deadlock a major crisis in the EU; however, there is not an agreement among the EU policy makers and/or scholars as to whether there is a crisis (Jones 2005; Eriksen and Fossum 2002; Sedelmeier and Young 2006). There seems, however, an ongoing debate over democracy in the EU and the need to overcome the current hurdle by winning the people over to European integration. One could argue that the public’s preferences did not ultimately shape the government policies at the supranational level, however, this might not hold true in the Turkish case because of the magnitude of public’s opposition to Turkey and because of the current deadlock in the EU. The French and Dutch rejection of the Constitutional Treaty and the budgetary crisis in 2005 indicated that the EU is in need of sorting its own house prior to further enlargement (Taggart 2006). The timing of accession talks has been unfortunate for Turkey since it coincided with a major turning point for European integration, with the 2004 enlargement and the Constitutional Treaty.

This is probably why Turkey’s accession to the EU is a major challenge for the EU because of Turkey specific factors and the EU’s own internal dynamics. There is no question that Turkey needs to fully comply with the accession criteria and become fully democratic in order to accede to the EU. However, even if Turkey fulfils all the accession criteria in its entirety, its accession will be ultimately decided by the EU’s internal dynamics. Critical in that aspect is the absorption capacity of the European Union. This is a new development in the EU’s enlargement process as previously the candidates’ adoption of the acquis was sufficient for the Accession Treaties to be signed and ratified (Emerson et al. 2006).

The recent emphasis on the EU’s absorption capacity is based on the notion that the institutional and budgetary impact of a candidate on the EU would ultimately be the criteria for its accession. In the light of these developments, Turkey’s accession becomes a serious challenge precisely because of its size and its perceived cultural differences from other European states. The French and the Austrian governments’ decisions to hold referenda on Turkey’s accession after the Accession Treaty is signed are crucial for this reason. The referendum decision represents a radical departure from the dominant strategy of enlargement so far, where the national parliaments and the European Parliament’s ratification of the Accession Treaties would be sufficient. This is why the European Commission President Barroso declared: “Turkey must win the hearts and minds of European citizens, they are the ones who at the end of the day will decide about Turkey’s membership.”3 The referendum decisions might be seen as further proof that the Turkish accession talks come at a time when the limits of European integration as an elite project has been reached (Sedelmeier and Young 2006; Eriksen 2005), and the governments are trying to appease their constituents.

The EU progressed as an elite project and it has, of course, always decided behind closed doors and as a result of rational bargains between its members within the preset boundaries of the EU institutional set-up (Eriksen and Fossum 2002; Moravcsik 1998). This might not be feasible anymore, as the EU needs to convince the European public on Turkey’s accession. This does not mean that the EU governments are all convinced on the Turkish accession and the public is hesitant; on the contrary, there is also hesitation among the EU governments with France and Austria leading the way. However, the opening of negotiations by unanimous decision of the EU member states indicates a relative consensus among the EU governments and the Commission on the prospect of Turkey’s membership. Nonetheless, one needs to note that there are significant differences of opinion between the EU governments and variation among the publics in different member states on Turkish accession. The EU is not a monolithic entity, however; precisely because of these fault lines among the members, the public and the crucial juncture within which the EU finds itself in, Turkey’s accession becomes highly political going beyond the technical process of the adoption of the EU acquis. This is why this paper argues that Turkey’s accession to the EU goes beyond the Turkish ability to meet the accession criteria but will be determined by the public support to its accession and the EU’s internal dynamics, notably the EU’s absorption capacity of Turkey as a full member.

Turkey and the European Integration Process

Turkey’s accession to the EU could be analyzed from utility-based and norms-based models of integration, and one could conceptualize a norms-based model in two different formats, the value-based and rights-based models (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2002; Sjursen 2007). The utility-based models emphasize the material costs and benefits of Turkey’s membership, that is, the logic of consequentiality, and norms-based approach stress the collective identity of the EU and the moral duty towards one’s own kind, that is, the logic of appropriateness (Risse 2000). The rights-based approaches stress the ability of the candidate to meet the political criteria and the expansion of the EU on democratic credentials, that is, the logic of justification. For enlargement, the EU governments need to have utilitarian based considerations and a moral duty-based argument around which the EU governments’ preferences would converge and the public approval generated (Sjursen 2002; Schimmelfennig 2001; Müftüler-Baç and McLaren 2003).

In the Turkish case, the utility-based arguments are not as strong, and there does not seem to be a moral duty to accept Turkey, thus the magnitude of the other factors—the enlargement fatigue, hurdles in the integration process and the public’s discontent—becomes substantial. This might be why the Turkish accession is different from other enlargements of the EU. At the same time, the governments and the European public are divided on the utilitarian and on the identity dimension of Turkey’s accession. There is no consensus on the benefits of Turkey as a EU member nor is there overwhelming public support; this is partly why the internal dynamics of the European integration plays an influential role in Turkey’s accession to the EU. This would be the conceptual linkage between the utility- and identity-based explanations and the EU’s internal dynamics. As a result, the EU’s absorption capacity is put forth in order to decide on Turkey’s accession even if Turkey successfully concludes negotiations in all 35 chapters of the acquis.

There are several propositions one could develop from the existing literature on the EU enlargement. From the utility-based models, the way to conceptualize Turkey’s position in the EU passes through the material benefits and costs of Turkey’s membership. This perspective focuses on the EU actors, mainly its member states and their power to translate their preferences into EU policy (Moravcsik 1998). The rationalist, utilitarian-based explanations of enlargement argue that EU governments make their decisions based on the material costs and benefits of the candidates, (Moravcsik 1993) in the Turkish case, the material costs of membership has so far dominated the debate on Turkey’s accession to the EU (Öniş 2003; Dervis et al. 2004; Müftüler-Baç 2007). The EU member states would support Turkey’s accession to the EU if their expected utilities were maximized (Müftüler-Baç and McLaren 2003). The proposition from the rationalist intergovernmental framework is that:

Proposition I: The Material Benefits and Costs of Turkey’s Membership Will Determine Turkey’s Accession to the EU

These material costs and benefits could be grouped as security and/or economic interests. An equally important cost/benefit related to the Turkish membership is the institutional balances in the EU after Turkey’s accession, particularly important here is Turkey’s size. Turkey’s impact on the EU is mainly elaborated in terms of its role in European security, the decision-making procedures, the economic dynamism and the EU budget (Öniş 2003; Baldwin and Widgren 2005; Dervis et al. 2004). These material costs and benefits of Turkey’s accession provide us with a picture from the logic of expected consequences.

On the other side of the theoretical literature, the logic of appropriateness prevails. The member states’ preferences and public position are not solely shaped by their material interests but are also influenced from the idea of a European community and its values (Sjursen 2007; Sedelmeier 2000; Risse 2000). Thus, equally important as utility-based explanations are the norm- and identity-based explanations from the sociological institutionalist perspective. The sociological school bases its propositions on the perceptions of identity and “kinship based duty” (Sjursen 2002) with the member states looking favorable to a country’s membership if that country is considered part of the European identity. Viewed in this light, EU enlargement becomes a normative decision, because “actors who can justify that interests on the grounds of Community’s standard of legitimacy are able to shame their opponents into norm-conforming behaviour”(Schimmelfennig 2001:48). Thus, a proposition based on constructivism, sociological institutionalism, is that:

Proposition II: Perceptions of Its Europeanness Will Determine Turkey’s Accession to the EU

These two propositions could be perceived as complementary in the sense that both EU governments and the public would perceive costs and benefits associated with specific countries differently when these candidates are seen as part of the larger European identity. Since norms are the main elements in determining actors’ behavior within the logic of appropriateness, they also shape their preferences. In other words, the logic of expected consequences prevails within a predefined world determined by the logic of appropriateness (Sjursen 2002, 2007; Manners 2002). These two propositions complement one another in terms of determining the nature of Turkey’s relations with the EU. Sedelmeier (2000) emphasizes the role of norms in shaping the EU’s enlargement policy with the European Commission acting as the leading actor, but states that these norms had an uneven impact on different member states. This is how one could construct an understanding of Turkey’s accession, as the most interested and active player is most notably the European Commission, with uneven support across individual states and within the public. This is also how one could assess the variation among the member states and the level of public support, as there are significant differences from the elite to public levels with respect to Turkey’s instrumental value and European identity. The timing of accession talks with Turkey brought an additional complication to Turkey’s accession: the EU’s internal dynamics.

This paper argues that the internal dynamics in the EU with regards to further enlargement act as an additional factor that shapes actors’ preferences. This is particularly important given the deadlock in the EU following the 2004 enlargement and the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005. Prior to further enlargement, the EU needs to settle down with the new members, establish an efficient working order with respect to its institutions and consider the budgetary implications before it could take upon new countries. One could label this as a crisis, but there is no full agreement among EU scholars as to whether the EU faces a crisis (Jones 2005; Sedelmeier and Young 2006; Eriksen 2005). One could argue, then, that “the permissible consensus” (Taggart 2006) on which the elites relied on to push integration forward has reached its limits. Nonetheless, crisis or not, the timing of accession talks is crucial. This is why this paper suggests a third proposition on that issue:

Proposition III: The Internal Dynamics of the EU Will Determine Turkey’s Accession to the EU as a Full Member

The next question to pose here is what kind of internal dynamics are important in that aspect. Two major issues stand out in that fashion; “the absorption capacity” of the EU and the diverging positions between the EU governments and their public on the merits of Turkish accession, the so-called elite and masses divide in the EU (Nicolaidis 2004). These two dimensions are interlinked, as unless the Constitutional Treaty is ratified, the EU will not be able to enlarge, as the Nice Treaty is operational until 2009.4 One could claim that there is a “crisis of representation” (Hayward 1995) in the EU or a “crisis of solidarity” (Jones 2005) or a “crisis of legitimacy” (Eriksen 2005). However, the main assumption in all these different definitions of a crisis is that the European public is demanding more participation in European policy making and the EU institutions. The fact that the electoral participation in the European Parliament elections in June 2004 was at an all time low demonstrates that it might not be the lack of channels of democratic participation that lies at the root of the problem but the lack of solidarity and identification of the European public with the EU. This is reflected in Laffan’s work as “shared values and even identities matter if the Union is to become a focus for legitimacy in the new Europe” (Laffan 1996:83). There seems to be a crisis of ratification as the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty is complicating institutional changes in the EU. However, even in that aspect, there is some significant variation with the Spanish public ratifying the Treaty in a referendum with an overwhelming majority whereas the French and Dutch public did not. What seems certain is that the EU members and the public are divided on the specific direction the EU integration is going; specifically with respect to the elitist push for integration, these divisions are then reflected onto the negotiation talks with Turkey and its accession.

This is important to note because the public’s reluctance constrains the governments in their policy choices on the EU bargaining table (Putnam 1988), similar to how dominant norms constrain and set boundaries for possible courses action for state leaders. A major concern here is whether the elites and the public see differently on the issue of Turkey’s accession. The empirical evidence on that regard is provided by the European Elites Survey 2006 conducted by the Centre for the Study of Political Change at the University of Sienna. According to the survey, 60% of the European Commission indicated, “Turkey’s membership in the EU would be a good thing, compared to 47% of the MEPs and 23% of the general public.”5 What is acceptable at home determines the EU governments’ positions towards Turkey even if the governments think that the material benefits of Turkey’s accession outweigh its material costs and at the same time, the public’s resistance narrows down the win-set of the governments and shape their preferences. That is how one would form a conceptual linkage between propositions I, II, and III. In addition, the internal dynamics of the EU could act on its own shaping the member states’ preferences and enable a conceptual linkage between propositions I and III. In short, Turkey’s possible accession is impacted by the debates concerning European integration, the budgetary problems, the future of the European Union, rather than shaped and determined only by Turkey’s ability to adopt the European acquis. This is theoretically important because it provides us with further proof that accession negotiations are not technical and that there are significant political concerns that one needs to keep in mind.

Turkey’s Accession to the EU

Turkey’s membership perspective was clearly set with the 1999 Helsinki summit where the European Council declared “Turkey is a candidate country destined to join the EU on the basis of the same criteria as applied to the other candidate states.”6 Accordingly, for accession negotiations to begin, Turkey had to meet the political aspects of the Copenhagen criteria. In its 2002 Copenhagen summit, the European Council decided “If Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen criteria, the European Union will open accession negotiations without delay.”7 This was a clear signal from the EU demonstrating its commitment to Turkey on the one hand, and legitimizing its position that Turkey will be judged on the basis of objective criteria on the other. These declarations demonstrate that Turkey is indeed a part of the enlargement process and the EU has committed itself to a clear goal of membership with Helsinki and Copenhagen decisions.

The EU’s commitment serves as a benchmark for its credibility and that seems to be the dilemma that some of the EU leaders found themselves in. Even though some EU governments are reluctant to negotiate with Turkey, an outright rejection is not possible because of EU’s commitments and Turkey’s ability in meeting the accession criteria. This dilemma is reflected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The CDU (Christian Democratic Union) will keep pursuing the ideal of privileged partnership although they are bound by the signed treaties’ and that the principle of ‘pact sund servanda’ applied to Turkey’s relationship with the EU.”8 This also reflects on the argument that there is no uniform position among the EU governments despite the unanimous decision to open negotiation talks with Turkey. The logic of justification would basically indicate that as long as Turkey fulfils the democratic criteria, then accession negotiations would commence and remain on track. Thus, the only possible way out for EU members would be if Turkey does not fulfill its obligations.

However, since 2001, Turkey has adopted a rigorous political and economic restructuring (Öniş and Alper 2003; Cizre 2004; Carkoglu and Rubin 2003). The reform process began immediately after the financial crisis of February 2001, with the economic restructuring in Turkey. A major step was taken in August 2002, the coalition government at the time adopted a political reform package that abolished the death penalty in Turkey and made significant improvements in human rights situation. The AKP (Justice and Development Party) government that came to power in November 2002 made EU membership a priority and for that purpose adopted breakthrough packages for fulfilling the political aspects of the Copenhagen criteria (Müftüler-Baç 2005). As a result of these reform packages, the European Commission in its Progress Report on Turkey in October 2004 noted that “Turkey was sufficiently fulfilling the political aspects of the Copenhagen criteria” and accession negotiations could commence with Turkey. The report and the recommendation to the European Council were milestones for the Turkish bid to become a EU member. As a result, on October 3, 2005, the Council unanimously decided to open accession negotiations with Turkey.

However, there is still substantial division among the EU members and variation among the European public with respect to Turkey’s accession on utilitarian and ideational concerns. A further complication in these aspects is posed by the uncertainties with regards to the integration process and the democratic deficit in the EU. Thus, the member governments are therefore constrained by their constituents; that does not mean that the elites are collectively in favor of Turkey’s accession and the public is against it. There are elites in certain member states, such as France, Austria and Germany, that are highly against Turkey’s accession but their skepticism is heightened in response to the severe opposition in their constituencies. One could argue that the governments do not always pay attention to what their public feels, especially in terms of supranational policies. However, this is no longer feasible because of the internal problems in the EU such as economic slowing down, the Constitutional debates and the inability to build a common European public sphere. According to the Euro barometer 63, the opposition to Turkey’s membership in France is 70%, in Germany 74% and in Austria 80%. Table 1 summarizes public support to enlargement in general and to Turkey’s accession in particular.

Table 1

A Comparison of Public Support in the EU to Enlargement and Turkey’s Accession

Member States Support to Enlargement (%) Support to Turkey’s Accession (%) Opposition to Turkey’s Accession (%) 
Slovenia 79 53 40 
Poland 76 54 31 
Slovakia 73 37 50 
Cyprus 70 16 80 
Lithuania 69 42 32 
Czech Republic 66 37 51 
Hungary 66 51 38 
Latvia 64 36 44 
Malta 63 43 39 
Greece 60 26 74 
Italy 59 33 52 
Spain 56 42 33 
Portugal 56 43 33 
Estonia 56 27 56 
Ireland 52 38 34 
Sweden 51 50 40 
EU–25 50 35 52 
Belgium 50 36 61 
Denmark 48 30 62 
United Kingdom 48 45 37 
The Netherlands 45 39 53 
Finland 45 31 66 
Germany 33 21 74 
Luxembourg 33 22 72 
France 32 21 70 
Austria 31 10 80 
Member States Support to Enlargement (%) Support to Turkey’s Accession (%) Opposition to Turkey’s Accession (%) 
Slovenia 79 53 40 
Poland 76 54 31 
Slovakia 73 37 50 
Cyprus 70 16 80 
Lithuania 69 42 32 
Czech Republic 66 37 51 
Hungary 66 51 38 
Latvia 64 36 44 
Malta 63 43 39 
Greece 60 26 74 
Italy 59 33 52 
Spain 56 42 33 
Portugal 56 43 33 
Estonia 56 27 56 
Ireland 52 38 34 
Sweden 51 50 40 
EU–25 50 35 52 
Belgium 50 36 61 
Denmark 48 30 62 
United Kingdom 48 45 37 
The Netherlands 45 39 53 
Finland 45 31 66 
Germany 33 21 74 
Luxembourg 33 22 72 
France 32 21 70 
Austria 31 10 80 

Source: EuroBarometer 63.4, 2005, QB2.12.

With the public so much opposed, the governments need to justify their positions in a clear fashion and this fits well with Eriksen and Fossum’s arguments on deliberative democracy (Eriksen and Fossum 2002). That is exactly what Helmut Kohl warned about that if the elite governments support Turkey’s accession to the EU in spite of their public’s opposition then they risk losing the support of their constituencies when he claimed that “Schroeder and Chirac opened the door to Turkey, one is ousted from power and the other is about to.”9 Of course, this does not mean Chirac and Schroeder lost power because of Turkey but the statement is important in terms of reflecting a position about the dangers of not listening to the public.

These being said, their relationship with one member state, Cyprus, further complicates the Turkish accession talks. Since 1974, the Cyprus problem has posed itself as a major intransigence conflict in Europe (Müftüler-Baç and Guney 2005; Diez and Stetter 2006). When Cyprus acceded to the EU in 2004, it brought significant challenges to the EU’s internal dynamics (Yesilada and Sozen 2002). The EU membership was hoped to bring a settlement to the island divided since 1974. For that purpose, the UN devised a plan and submitted to a referendum on both sides in April 2004. However, the Greek Cypriots voted no by 75% to the Annan Plan—the UN plan for the reunification of the island—whereas the Turkish Cypriots voted yes by 65%. Despite the Turkish and Turkish Cypriots’ wish and endorsement of the UN plan, since the Greek Cypriots refused the plan, it was only the Greek Cypriots that joined the EU in 2004.10

The Cyprus problem poses additional complications for Turkey’s accession since the negotiations need to proceed by unanimity at every stage; the possibility of Cyprus’s veto blocks progress. Prior to opening of the accession negotiations, Turkey accepted the EU demand to extend its Customs Union Agreement to the new members and signed a legal document that would open its ports and harbors to vessels from Cyprus in July 2005. However, Turkey did not implement the document and refused to open its ports to Cyprus unless the EU lifts the isolations to Northern part of the island as it has agreed to in April 2004. EU commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn stated “Turkey is expected to ensure full implementation of the [customs union] and remove obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions of transport.”11 It is for this reason that in its December 2006 summit, the European Council upon the Commission’s recommendation decided to suspend the opening of eight chapters with Turkey and agreed on a solution to the Cyprus problem as a precondition for the provisional closure of all the chapters negotiated.12 Thus, Turkey’s accession became ultimately tied to the solution of the Cyprus problem. Even though this paper is not on Cyprus, one needs to note that the Cyprus issue will be one of the most decisive factors in determining Turkey’s membership as it stalls the negotiations. On the other hand, one could think of the Cyprus problem as a cover behind which some EU member states would hide rather than dealing with the main issues of Turkey’s accession.

Utility-Based Explanations

The rational calculations of utility as the main driving force for public support and government preferences is emphasized by Matthew Gabel (1998), Richard Eichenberg and Russell Dalton (1993), Karl Kaltenthaler and Chris Anderson (2001) and Andrew Moravscik and Milada Vachudova (2003). In addition, EU enlargement is thought to be the mechanism to promote European stability and security (Smith 2004; Manners 2002). From the perspective of the utility driven theories of enlargement, the material costs and benefits of Turkey’s membership are what will determine Turkey’s accession to the EU. The utility-based arguments on Turkey’s membership and the material costs and benefits for the future of Europe can be grouped as (i) its impact on European security; (ii) its impact on the EU institutions; and (iii) its impact on the EU budget and economy. However, there is a difference in terms of how the governments and the citizens perceive and evaluate the material implications of Turkey’s accession. Member states’ positions revolve around the population, geographical borders of the European Union, the European identity, and the compatibility of Turkey’s political culture with the European values. United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Ireland are the main supporters of Turkey’s membership; France and Austria totally oppose; Germany, and Denmark have serious reservations; and the Netherlands is also lukewarm, at best.

Enlargement is a tool of foreign policy making in the EU, used mainly to bring stability to the border regions of the EU and this is why the main rationale for enlargement has been put forth as security related concerns. (Smith 2004) This is not only specific to Turkey but was an important factor in the Central and Eastern European cases as “enlargement was seen as a necessity to maintain peace and stability in Europe” (Diez 2004:326). In line with this reasoning, it would be expected that EU member states that are geographically closest to Turkey or states with a security driven agenda are more favorable to Turkey’s accession and we would also expect to see a marked difference between how the elites and the public evaluate the security benefits of Turkey’s accession.

In an analysis of elite and public preferences towards Turkey in the light of security concerns, Turkey’s internal role in European security since 1945 remains central. Turkey’s geographic location in the crossroads of the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus is of utmost strategic importance to the EU. It has a sizeable military presence in the region and its military capabilities would strengthen the EU’s military muscle (Cayhan 2003; Müftüler-Baç 2007). Turkey, as an active member of NATO, contributed to European security since 1945. In the post–Cold War security environment, it participated in EU-led peacekeeping operations and was very active in the NATO campaign in Afghanistan. Turkey’s unique character as a secular democracy with a Muslim population serves as a factor of stability in Europe. In addition, it has the capacity to control the energy flow from the Middle East and Central Asia into Europe through the multiple energy routes that pass through Turkey.

In terms of elite version of Turkey’s instrumental value, the security related material benefits come to the forefront of the debate as reflected in the former German Foreign minister, Joschka Fischer’s words “In order for the EU to be powerful and for our children and grandchildren to live in peace, Turkey needs to be a member in the EU.”13 Similarly, the former German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, claimed that Turkey’s accession to the EU “would show the world that it is possible for Muslims and the West to live together on the basis of the values of enlightenment and the UN Charter of human rights.”14 Former French President, Jacques Chirac claimed that Germany and France shared the same objective that is “to get Turkey into the EU, because it is in everyone’s interests to have an strong, solid Europe which is sure of its borders.”15 It is for these reasons that Jack Straw, British minister of foreign affairs, declared that “We owe this to Turkey . . . It’s going to be a long road ahead but bringing Turkey into the EU is a prize worth striving for.”16 However, the extent to which the public shares this conception is questionable.

In Table 2, there is an analysis of how the European public perceives the material costs and benefits of Turkey’s membership from the security perspective. What is striking is that the new member states tend to view Turkey’s impact to be substantial in security. This also lends empirical support to our proposition that the member states that are geographically close to a candidate country seem to evaluate and support their membership from a security driven perspective.

Table 2

Utility-Based Questions-Security

Member States Agree (%) Disagree (%) 
QB 3.3 Turkey’s accession to the European Union would strengthen the security in this region? 
Sweden 63 26 
Poland 50 29 
NMS 45 36 
Denmark 45 47 
Italy 44 37 
Hungary 43 42 
Portugal 43 26 
Slovenia 42 47 
United Kingdom 40 35 
The Netherlands 40 52 
Spain 39 29 
Estonia 39 44 
Greece 39 55 
Lithuania 38 29 
EU-25 38 45 
Czech Republic 37 51 
Latvia 36 41 
Slovakia 36 49 
Finland 36 60 
Ireland 34 34 
Malta 33 38 
Belgium 33 62 
France 32 57 
Cyprus 29 66 
Germany 28 64 
Luxembourg 26 68 
Austria 20 71 
Member States Agree (%) Disagree (%) 
QB 3.3 Turkey’s accession to the European Union would strengthen the security in this region? 
Sweden 63 26 
Poland 50 29 
NMS 45 36 
Denmark 45 47 
Italy 44 37 
Hungary 43 42 
Portugal 43 26 
Slovenia 42 47 
United Kingdom 40 35 
The Netherlands 40 52 
Spain 39 29 
Estonia 39 44 
Greece 39 55 
Lithuania 38 29 
EU-25 38 45 
Czech Republic 37 51 
Latvia 36 41 
Slovakia 36 49 
Finland 36 60 
Ireland 34 34 
Malta 33 38 
Belgium 33 62 
France 32 57 
Cyprus 29 66 
Germany 28 64 
Luxembourg 26 68 
Austria 20 71 

Source: EuroBarometer 63.4, 2005, QB3.3.

One could claim that for EU governments, Turkey’s value lies significantly in terms of its impact on security and the public in member states that is closest to Turkey shares this view, but this does not seem to be case with the public in member states which are farther away from Turkey. Thus, it seems like with respect to the utility-based value of Turkey, there seems to be a divide between the governments and public.

On the other side of the utility coin is the economic impact of Turkey’s membership. In terms of the economic impact of Turkey’s accession, a major step was taken when the Commission declared Turkey a “functioning market economy” in its Progress Report of November 200617, which meant that Turkey was meeting one of the accession requirements of the Copenhagen criteria. The economic-based benefits of Turkey’s accession are the dynamic Turkish market with its huge consumer potential and the large labor force from Turkey which help ease the labor market problems in the EU with its declining population growth rates. Turkey is the EU’s sixth largest customer and seventh largest supplier. What is more, the 1996 customs union for industrial products between Turkey and the EU increased the economic dynamism on the continent. Turks in Europe act as an engine of growth in their host countries. In Germany, there are 60,000 Turkish-German entrepreneurs with Sahinler Holding, for example, “controlling 7,5 billion euros in investments, sales of 30 billion euros, and a workforce of 350,000 people… the French-Turkish Business Council co-president Louis Schweitzer claimed that ‘the European business backs Turkey because of Turkey’s strong economic growth’.”18 Since it is one of the most dynamic economies in the OECD with a yearly growth rate of about 8%, according to some econometrical studies, the EU stands to reap significant economic benefits from Turkey’s dynamic economy (Lejour and de Mooij 2005).

In terms of the material costs of Turkey’s membership, what is mostly stressed in the public debate is the possible burden on the EU budget, because of structural funds and the possible flow of migration from Turkey. Since Turkey has a substantial agricultural sector, the European Commission has calculated that in case of Turkey’s membership, 8 billion euros per year might be needed for supporting Turkey’s agriculture (European Commission, 2004:33). As for structural funds, since member states could only receive at most 4% of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as structural funds, if Turkey becomes a member today, with its 200 billion euros of GDP could receive at most 8 billion euros annually (Dervis et al. 2004:2). With the agricultural funds, that would total to around 16 billion euros; with its possible contribution of 1% of GDP that comes to 2 billion euros annually. Turkey’s membership to the EU would then cost around 14 billion euros annually if it acceded to the EU today. However, the net contributors to the EU budget like the Netherlands and Germany are wary of the costs of enlargement. It is for this reason that according to the Negotiations Framework for Turkey, the financial burden of Turkey’s accession will be “fairly shared by all the member states.” According to a EU official, “these costs would be easily shared by the member states once they are convinced that for the future of Europe, Turkey’s accession is highly beneficial.”19 However, these arguments do not mean that Turkey has no economic problems, just the opposite Turkey still needs to overcome its regional disparities, catch up with the core European economies in terms of its GNP (Gross National Product), deal with the problems of unemployment it faces.

A second possible economic cost of Turkey’s accession is the flow of migration to Europe from Turkey. The possibility of migration from Turkey is a major concern for the publics of the European Union, as highlighted by the Polish plumber incident after the 2004 enlargement.20 Contrary to expectations and the public fear, the recent enlargement did not lead to a decrease in welfare because of increased migratory pressure, but just the opposite: “Migratory flows from east to west have been overwhelmingly beneficial to those such as Britain, Ireland and Sweden that opened their doors without restriction.”21 In addition, Turkey’s membership might be needed for labor markets in the EU in the next 10 years precisely because significant parts of Europe have declining population rates. However, since Turkey is a relatively poor country with a large population, this does not look well in the eyes of the European public, as summarized in Table 3.

Table 3

Utility-Based Questions: Economy

 EU 15 NMS 
Turkey’s accession would favor the rejuvenation of an ageing European population 
Agree 29 29 
Disagree 50 48 
Turkey’s joining could risk favoring immigration to more developed countries in the EU 
Agree 63 64 
Disagree 29 21 
To join the EU in about 10 years, Turkey will have to significantly improve the state of its economy 
Agree 75 79 
Disagree 11 
 EU 15 NMS 
Turkey’s accession would favor the rejuvenation of an ageing European population 
Agree 29 29 
Disagree 50 48 
Turkey’s joining could risk favoring immigration to more developed countries in the EU 
Agree 63 64 
Disagree 29 21 
To join the EU in about 10 years, Turkey will have to significantly improve the state of its economy 
Agree 75 79 
Disagree 11 

Source: Standard Euro barometer 63/Spring 2005: Public Opinion in the European Union. September 2005, European Commission.

Similar to the security benefits of Turkey’s accession to the EU, in terms of economic benefits, there is a difference between the governments and the masses as the public tends to find the economic costs of Turkey’s accession high which is illustrated by their answers to economy related questions of the Eurobarometer on Turkey. But, the divide between the governments and the public is less wide in comparison to the security dimension. All in all, from the economy-driven perspective, one could argue that there are potential benefits of Turkey’s accession coupled with some material costs. It is important to note that some recent works emphasize that the future of European economic competitiveness vis-à-vis the United States and China might be enhanced by Turkey’s accession (Yesilada, Efird, and Noorjik 2006).

In addition to security and economy-related implications of Turkey’s accession, the third dimension that plays a significant role is the Turkish impact on the functioning of the EU. This dimension is important because of its instrumental impact, that is, it determines the member state preferences and has a direct connection to Proposition I, while at the same time it ties back to Proposition III because of its impact on the EU’s internal dynamics. The “absorption capacity” of the EU is critical here. Absorption capacity of the EU has already been mentioned in the 1993 Copenhagen criteria as a precondition for accession for any candidate. “The Union’s capacity to absorb new members while maintaining the momentum of European integration, is an important consideration in the general interest of both the Union and the candidate countries.”22 However, with the Turkish negotiations, there is renewed emphasis on the EU’s absorption capacity to be the determining factor for Turkey’s accession. This is reflected in the Negotiations Framework for Turkey and in the June 2006 meeting in the European Council, with the Council underlining the fact that “the pace of enlargement must take the Union’s absorption capacity into account.”23 Under the new institutional reforms brought by the Constitution, Turkey’s size matters in terms of increasing its weight in the Council and the Parliament. If Turkey becomes a member, then the current member states of the EU will have to give up seats in the Parliament to accommodate for MEPs from Turkey. More importantly, Turkey’s impact on EU decision-making under the double majority voting system in the Council will be substantial. Under double majority voting, a proposal would be adopted in the Council if at least 55% of the member states representing 65% of the EU population approve. Since Turkey has a population of 71 million, predicted to increase to 83 million by 2014, it would make Turkey the most powerful country in the voting system. Interestingly, Giscard D’Estaing claimed, “This is a rule we can’t change. With accession, Turkey would become the most populous country in the EU with the greatest voting power in the Council.”24 Turkey’s impact on the EU’s institutional functioning is, therefore, perceived as a substantial cost of its membership.

This is why increasingly after October 2005, the debate at the European Union level began to revolve as to whether the EU is ready for Turkey rather than whether Turkey is ready to assume membership obligations. According to Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, “his government achieved a fundamental change in EU policy… that will give EU countries extra power in rejecting new countries if they believe the EU is not ready to absorb the candidate country.”25 At the same time, the absorption capacity is vaguely defined and pushed forth to deal with the public’s discontent. The institutional impact of Turkey’s accession is particularly critical because it acts as one of the most important utility-based concerns directly shaping the internal dynamics in the EU. Thus, there seems to be empirical support for the correlation between Proposition I and Proposition III. The debates on the absorption capacity reflect also the fault lines between the member states over Turkey’s accession. The UK, for example, repeatedly underlines the candidate country’s ability to meet the accession criteria as sufficient and opposes the public involvement and the Constitutional revisions and ratification to become preconditions of accession for a country that would meet its obligations under the acquis. France, on the other hand, stresses the institutional and budgetary implications as the key to accession going beyond the candidate’s ability to meet the accession criteria.

As a result, based on the governments’ positions and the Eurobarometer surveys, one could assess to a certain degree the variation between the elites and the masses on the Turkish question. On the one hand, the European Commission, and some governments such as the UK are in favor and on the other hand, the French and Austrian governments are in opposition. One could, then, argue that the French government and the public as well as the Austrian government and the public speak with a similar voice, whereas the British government and public do not necessarily do so. In the new member states in Central and Eastern Europe, the public and the governments are in favor of Turkey’s accession. However, what if the material costs and benefits of Turkey’s accession have little impact in determining the member states’ preferences and public’s position? Is it possible that the EU governments and the public’s opposition are not related to the utility-based considerations but to questions of identity? This takes us to an analysis of norm-based explanations for Turkey’s EU accession.

Norm-Based Explanations

How the EU governments and the public perceive the material costs and benefits are greatly determined by whether the candidate is seen to belong to Europe from the norm-based theoretical perspectives on the EU (Sedelmeier 2000; Diez 2004; Sjursen 2002; Rumelili 2004). The member states which are against Turkey’s membership center their opposition around the argument that Turkey is not part of Europe. Proposition II is empirically supported by the French President, Sarkozy’s claim: “I am against Turkey’s integration into Europe. Turkey is a small Asia. And there is no reason for it to be a part of Europe. Turkey is a great civilization; but not a European one.”26 Similarly, when Helmut Kohl declared that “We cannot over expand the European Union. Europe has natural frontiers based on history,”27 he was basing his opposition to Turkey’s membership to the limits of EU expansion on the one hand, and borders of the EU on the other hand. The borders are of course not necessarily geographical but they depend on history and values as reflected by Edmund Stoiber, chair of the Christian Social Union, “Turkey was a country outside Europe with different history and traditions.”28 Similarly, Frits Bolkestein, former EU Commissioner, declared that if Turkey accedes to the EU, then this means that the efforts of the German, Austrian and Polish troops that resisted the Ottoman Turks’ siege of Vienna in 1683 would be in vain.29 These declarations sum up the central positions of those who are against Turkey’s membership on the basis of Europeanness, and to a large extent also reflect the European public opinion. However, government preferences are not uniform in the identity dimension nor are the public’s perceptions. It is for this reason that member states that support Turkey’s accession for its material benefits have also stressed that Turkey is part of Europe and that accession negotiations with Turkey prove that Europe is based on values, not on history. The British Foreign minister Jack Straw’s declaration is particularly telling in that regard: “If we believe, as I strongly do, that Europe’s strength lies not in a Judaeo-Christian club but in a diversity of traditions underpinned by common and universal values, then we must fulfil our engagements to Turkey.”30

The key question here is whether a final frontier for the EU exists, and whether there is a geographical basis for EU membership. The two questions on Turkey from the Eurobarometer 2005, whether Turkey belongs to Europe by its history and by its geography are important in assessing the public’s views on Turkey’s European identity. The majority of the European public, 55% of the EU-25, believe that Turkey belongs to Europe by its geography, whereas only in Spain, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, does the majority believe Turkey to belong to Europe by its history. Most Europeans, however, think that Turkey’s membership is problematic because of large cultural differences.

In Table 4, it is apparent that the new member states perceive Turkey as part of Europe by its history and by geography more than the EU 15, probably because of the common history that the Central and Eastern European states share with Turkey. The more critical questions on the Turkish fit into Europe are whether Turkey’s membership would enable a mutual comprehension between Islam and European values and whether the cultural differences in Turkey are too large. On these questions, the new member states agree more than the EU 15 that Turkey’s accession would lead to a mutual comprehension between Islam and Christianity, but only in Poland, Sweden and Hungary, this perception is relatively strong. However, the norm-based proposition is empirically supported as most of the European public agree that the cultural differences between Turkey and the European Union are too significant to allow for its accession. Thus, even though Turkey belongs to Europe by its history and geography, culturally it is perceived to be too different. These results lend empirical support to Proposition II.

Table 4

Norm-Based Questions

 EU 15 NMS 
Turkey partly belongs to Europe by its geography 
Agree 52 70 
Disagree 36 19 
Turkey partly belongs to Europe by its history 
Agree 39 61 
Disagree 45 25 
The cultural differences between Turkey and the EU Member States are too significant to allow for this accession 
Agree 55 47 
Disagree 32 37 
Turkey’s accession to the EU would favor the mutual comprehension of European and Muslim values 
Agree 39 50 
Disagree 46 35 
 EU 15 NMS 
Turkey partly belongs to Europe by its geography 
Agree 52 70 
Disagree 36 19 
Turkey partly belongs to Europe by its history 
Agree 39 61 
Disagree 45 25 
The cultural differences between Turkey and the EU Member States are too significant to allow for this accession 
Agree 55 47 
Disagree 32 37 
Turkey’s accession to the EU would favor the mutual comprehension of European and Muslim values 
Agree 39 50 
Disagree 46 35 

Source: Standard Euro barometer 63/Spring 2005: Public Opinion in the European Union. September 2005, European Commission.

What is interesting is that those groups that have serious doubts on Turkey because of ideational factors do not raise the culture flag but base their opposition by linking Turkey’s accession to the integration process. For example, when the Convention President Valerie Giscard d’Estaing’s remarked in November 2002 that “Turkey’s membership would spell the end of the European Union,”31 he was reflecting the fears in various European quarters precisely on that issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position is similar: “A Europe with Turkey as a fully fledged member won’t be a Europe that is fully integrated.”32 This is interesting in the sense that it provides a linkage between Propositions I, II, and III, that those who oppose Turkey based on identity concerns voice their opposition not on a normative basis but by stressing a cost of Turkey’s accession; namely the loss of a federal Europe.

The elites who are against Turkey’s membership stress material considerations and the EU’s internal dynamics as the key to their reluctance—despite their unanimous approval of opening negotiations—and the public opposition is most apparently based on ideational considerations, while they are also not convinced on the material benefits of Turkey’s membership. One should also note that the member states, which are against Turkey’s accession to the EU, legitimize their own opposition to Turkey by arguing that they are representing the public fears. Since the rules and norms of the EU would validate Turkey’s accession to the EU if and when Turkey meets the accession criteria, those who are sceptical to Turkey’s accession would face a legitimacy problem if they oppose Turkey on the EU rules. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, stressed that the EU citizens should not feel that they are being pressured for Turkey’s membership.33 According to the former French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, “public opinion is overall against enlargement.”34 Thus, bringing in the public is an attempt to legitimize their opposition to Turkey’s accession.

This is particularly important to understand the decision to hold referendums in certain member states to ratify Turkey’s Accession Treaty. In January 2005, the French National Assembly adopted a Constitutional amendment to allow for referendums on EU enlargement. Austria followed suit, as the Austrian Chancellor declared on December 17, 2004, that “the people must have a say, not only the Parliament”35 on the Turkish accession, thereby opened the road for an Austrian referendum on Turkey at the end of the negotiations. Thus, there is now a distinct possibility that Turkey would all fulfil membership requirements but still might be left out of the EU.

Conclusion

This paper argued that Turkey’s accession to the EU goes beyond the Turkish ability to meet the accession criteria but depends on the EU’s internal dynamics and the EU’s readiness towards Turkey. The public debate on the impact of Turkey’s membership on EU revolves around integration, the borders of the EU and the European identity. Interestingly, the question of Turkey is important for the EU governments and their public’s interactions over the integration process. On the one hand, the accession negotiations with Turkey are challenging particularly because of the divided opinion among the EU members, on the other hand, because of the very high public opposition to Turkey’s membership in some EU members. Nonetheless, the prospect of Turkey’s membership in the EU is disturbing to many in Europe. The following factors determine both the EU member states’ positions and the EU public’s resistance to Turkey’s membership, the cultural differences between Turkey and the EU, the security impact, the cost of Turkish membership, and its institutional impact, related to that Turkey’s size.

What carries greater weight is whether the EU is capable of digesting a large and culturally different country as Turkey. It is within this respect that the EU’s internal dynamics play a very important role. This is particularly important because the EU has completed its largest enlargement. The EU is now suffering from “enlargement fatigue” and at the same time is trying to overcome the institutional failures over the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty. It is the contention of the paper that the public debate needs to be reformulated by stressing the dimensions where Turkey, indeed, is part of Europe because it seems that the European public opposes Turkey’s accession mostly on ideational grounds. This is why the public’s resistance to the idea of Turkey’s membership becomes significantly important. There seem to be significant differences between EU members on that issue as well, but the supporters of Turkey’s membership stress that Turkey should be judged in terms of its ability to meet the accession criteria and not with respect to the internal problems of integration. This is why the UK opposes absorption criteria to be the decisive factor, whereas those Member States who are in opposition for ideational factors stress the internal dynamics as the key to Turkey’s accession. In short, Turkey’s ability to meet the EU accession criteria is only one aspect of the Turkish accession; even if Turkey meets the accession criteria, there is a probability that it might not accede to the EU, because of the internal dynamics in the European integration process.

The interplay of the utilitarian concerns, the ideational factors, and the EU’s internal dynamics is the key to understand the conditions under which Turkey’s accession talks will proceed. At the same time, it is obvious that a new public debate needs to emerge over the Turkish issue and the public needs to win if Turkey is going to become a EU member. However, the debate has to be formulated in such a manner that it would have to respond to the people’s concerns, simply emphasizing the material costs and benefits of Turkey’s accession will not suffice.

Footnotes

1
The negotiations are currently in progress with the EU acquis communaitaire divided into 35 chapters. Since the opening of accession talks in 2005, the screening process is complete, one chapter—Chapter on Science and Research—has been opened and provisionally closed, and one chapter—Chapter on Industrial Policy—has been opened in March 2007. Four more chapters were opened in June and December of 2007.
2
“Turkiye’nin yeri Avrupa Degil” (May 23, 2007) CNN Turk.
3
Graham Bowley (October 5, 2005) “2 EU Leaders Raise Red Flags on Turkey.”International Herald Tribune.
4
Author’s interviews with the Commission officials, Brussels, April 17–19, 2007.
5
“Unprecedented Survey Finds Deep Divides Between European Leaders and Public,” Centre for the Study of Political Change, University of Sienna, Compagnia di San Paolo, September 2006, p. 3.
6
Council of the European Union, Presidency conclusions, Helsinki European Council, December 10–11, 1999, paragraph 12.
7
Council of the European Union, Presidency Conclusions, Copenhagen European Council, December 12–13, 2002. Paragraph 19.
8
“Angela Merkel: Berlin Won’t Stand in Way of Turkey’s EU Bid” (November 28, 2005) Euactive.
9
“Kohl’un hedefi yine Turkiye-Kohl targets Turkey again” (January 14, 2006) Radikal.
10
Cyprus Politics: Pride and Prejudice, EUI News Wire, The Economist Intelligence Unit, May 3, 2004.
11
Nicholas Watt (November 9, 2006) “Turkey Given Cyprus Deadline to Avoid Crisis in EU Accession Talks.”The Guardian.
12
“Turkey: Merkel, Chirac back suspension of EU talks” (December 6, 2006) Wall Street Journal Europe, p. 8.
13
Hürriyet, (September 2, 2004).
14
“Charlemagne: How Terrorism Trumped Federalism” (October 2, 2004) The Economist, p. 31.
15
Richard Carter (December 3, 2004) “Germany and France to Take Common Position on Turkey,”EU Observer.
16
Mark Beunderman (October 3, 2005) “EU Opens Historic Accession Talks with Turkey,”EU Observer.
17
European Commission, Progress Report for Turkey, November 2006.
18
Brian Childs (November 9, 2004) “A Membership Issue: Billions in Purchases: Turkey’s Economic Attraction to the EU,”International Herald Tribune.
19
Author’s Interview, European Commission, Brussels, April 17, 2007.
20
Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah (May 2, 2007) “How the Flood of European Migrants Is Receding,”Financial Times, p. 15
21
Quentin Peel (February 8, 2006) “Enlargement: An Unsung Success,”Financial Times.
22
European Council Presidency Conclusions, June 1993, SN 180/1/93, p. 14.
23
European Council, Presidency Conclusions, 15–16 June 2006, p. 18.
24
Katrin Bennhold (September 13, 2004) “Will Turkey Join the EU Club?”International Herald Tribune.
25
Graham Bowley (October 5, 2005) “2 EU Leaders Raise Red Flags on Turkey,”International Herald Tribune.
26
“Sarkozy: Turkey Is Not European” (May 23, 2007) Sabah.
27
Brian Groom (November 21, 2004) “Kohl Voices EU Expansion Fears Over Turkey’s Entry,”Financial Times.
28
Hugh Williamson and George Parker (December 8, 2004) “German Opposition Confident on EU Fall-Back Offer to Turkey,”Financial Times.
29
“Turkish Accession: Why Frank Discussion Is Vital” (September 9, 2004) European Voice, 10 (30), p. 9.
30
“Turkey Is Acid Test For Europe” (March 23, 2004), BBC Monitoring.
31
Gareth Harding (November 14, 2002) “Bordering on the ridiculous; Why Turkey is not a European country,”European Voice, 8 (41).
32
Hugh Williamson (December 6, 2004) CDU Leader says “multiculturalism has failed,”Financial Times.
33
“Merkel:Uyelik Garantisi Yok: No Guarantee for Membership” (December 1, 2005), Radikal.
34
Brelfini O’Rourke (June 20, 2005) “ED: Crisis Casts Long Shadow Over Further Enlargement,”Free Europe/Radio Europe.
35
Honor Mahony (December 17, 2004) “Austria Says It Will Have Referendum on Turkey,”EU Observer.

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