In today’s Guardian, Tariq Ramadan argues that Europe must develop a unified policy of inclusion with regard to Turkey’s EU membership bid.
I agree with the thrust of the article, which makes many of the same arguments I put forth in my article in World Politics Review last week.
Ramadan’s most compelling argument is that Turkey isn’t going anywhere. Europe is stuck with a large, influential Muslim Turkey on its borders whether or not it is included in the Union. Therefore it is in Europe’s interests to use the carrot of membership in its club to shape Turkey’s future.
The only point on which I disagree with Ramadan is when it comes to the time horizon for Turkey’s membership. Ramadan implies that Turkey should earn membership soon when he says that “The only criteria to membership should be those of Copenhagen (1993) – and a European commission report (2004) mentioned that Turkey is very close to satisfying them.”
But this analysis overlooks the fact that Turkey’s reform program has slowed to a crawl since the European Commission report to which he refers was published in 2004. The Kurdish issue remains unsolved (despite the government’s announcement this month of a “new plan” to resolve it.) The Constitution remains unreformed, and civil-military tensions remain unhealthily high. A better reference is the European Commission’s 2008 report, which identifies these problems and more.
As the Romanian and Bulgarian cases demonstrate, quicker is not always better when it comes to joining the EU. The accession process provides a powerful incentive structure for potential members to reform. Once membership is granted, Europe loses a lot of its leverage.
For Turkey and for Europe, Turkey’s EU membership is a means to an end. That end is a liberal, democratic Turkey that is at peace with itself and enjoys a healthy strategic, political, and economic partnership with Europe. This will require a long, deliberate accession process that only ends when Turkey has truly met the criteria of EU membership.
— Ben Katcher