I just finished reading the Independent Committee on Turkey’s report on Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. The Committee consists of European elder statesman who support Turkey’s membership and are alarmed by the “vicious circle” of events that is jeopardizing Turkey’s EU prospects.
The term “vicious circle” is meant to capture how European opposition to Turkey’s membership has led to a slowdown in Turkey’s reform program, which in turn has led to further opposition within Europe.
Overall, the report makes a compelling, balanced case for why it is in Europe’s interests to do everything it can to move the negotiations along and eventually accept Turkey’s full membership.
The Committee demonstrates the hollowness of French and German calls for a “privileged partnership,” noting the fact that Turkey is already as integrated with Europe as any other non-member, and thus already enjoys a privileged partnership.
The report also correctly identifies the Cyprus, Kurdish, and Armenian conflicts – along with the ongoing struggle to reform Turkey’s democratic institutions – as the primary obstacles to Turkey’s membership.
Missing from the report, however, is a compelling, imaginative vision of what Europe is likely to look like in 15-20 years, and how incorporating Turkey’s young population, dynamic economy, access to energy resources, and large, professional army will strengthen Europe’s position. The authors make each of these points separately, but I would have liked to have read a concluding chapter that paints the picture a bit more clearly.
Another quibble is that the report does not mention the Turkish army, save for in the context of Turkey’s domestic political struggle. Turkey possesses the second largest army in NATO, a fact that should not be overlooked when making the strategic case for Turkey’s EU membership.
I understand that the European Union likes to think it makes its decisions based on democratic principles rather than strategic calculation – but Paris and Berlin think strategically, and it is Sarkozy and Merkel who are Turkey’s most significant opponents.
The essential point that the authors certainly understand – but that must be made explicitly – is the fact that Europe is stuck with Turkey no matter what. Whether or not the accession process moves forward, Turkey will be a large, influential country on Europe’s borders. Europe’s best chance to shape Turkey’s trajectory is to keep the negotiation process alive.
— Ben Katcher