10 May ’14
Since 1987 Turkey has been fighting for full membership to the European Union. Accession into the EU would give Turkey financial stability and economic benefits as well as the acceptance and status of being a Western, modern state. It’s been seen that “new members to the EU gained the benefits of rising investment and rising trade, leading to ‘improved living standards for their citizens, accelerated economic growth and substantial financial transfers’” as well as “annual GPD gains of an extra 1.5-2.0 percent.”1 Although Turkey’s bid still sits on the table, under Prime Minister Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey’s chance for acceptance is slipping. An offer to the EU is conditional, meaning you have to adopt certain policies of democracy and human rights in order to be accepted into the Western club. Recent hindrances to democracy in Turkey are hurting its chances for accession. The recent corruption scandal, censorship of the Internet, convictions of journalists, and last year’s police brutality against protestors have put Turkey into “a probationary period [for] how it handles basic rights for citizens, how it handles the right to demonstrate and the right to free speech.”1 Turkey can only expect to gain accession to the EU if it fixes its violations of freedom and democracy.
Other continuing issues that will affect Turkey’s EU bid are the ethnic minority and civil rights issues as well as the Cyprus conflict. Turkey’s continued repression of the Alevi and Kurdish minorities will prevent it from gaining full membership to the EU. In fact, any progress that has been made on these civil rights issues has been driven by the desire to join the EU.2 The continuing conflict over Cyprus is also a condition that Turkey must fix in order to join the EU. Turkey still claims ownership of northern Cyprus since the island was divided in 1974. The island has repeatedly been pulled in different directions between Turkey, Greece, and Cypriots fighting for independence.
Turkey’s best chance for gaining full membership to the EU would be for it to fix its current human rights violations and to increase freedom. Under the current leadership, progress seems to be going in the opposite direction, toward more autocratic rule. The road toward EU membership has been a long one for Turkey, and it seems that it will continue to be.
2 Ruhaak, Anouk. 2013. “Turkey: political and social situation.”Rabobank Economic Research Department.