Take the 2-minute tour ×
Politics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people interested in governments, policies, and political processes. It's 100% free, no registration required.

So, Turkey has applied for membership in the EU several times, but unlike Greece, it never seems to get in. What are the reasons that the EU has given for denying membership to this large and influential country?

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Turkey has a population of 75+ million and if the country entered the EU today, they would be the second largest member state behind Germany. This would mean an instant shift of power in almost every EU institution, more notably the European Parliament where seats are distributed to member states according to population. Turkey would instantly become a key player in European politics and would have more influence than the traditionally core countries, France, Italy, and the UK. Even if we don't consider anything else, it's understandable that Europeans would be wary of a membership that would significantly alter the EU's political and demographic map, and Turkey's massive population is often quoted as the key political reason the country's accession process is under such heavy scrutiny.

Furthermore Turkey is not generally considered a part of Europe. It's the spiritual successor to the Ottoman Empire, an empire that was traditionally adversarial towards Europe, and its population is predominantly Muslim, while Europe's population is overwhelmingly Christian. A very small part of the country's territory, East Thrace, is in Europe and it's application may seem unlikely to be denied on geographic grounds, like Morocco's was, but still the question of whether Turkey should be considered a European country or not has been raised multiple times. A recent example is the following statement by Nicolas Sarkozy:

I want to say that Europe must give itself borders, that not all countries have a vocation to become members of Europe, beginning with Turkey which has no place inside the European Union.

Enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept.

The statement is from 2007, two years after the violent Paris riots, a time when feelings for Muslim immigrants in France and in Europe in general were generally unfavourable. While Europe has been traditionally welcoming to immigrants, in recent years there's a strong anti-immigration sentiment across all major member states, a contributing factor to the steady rise of nationalism in Europe. Germany's position in 2010 was less critical but also not particularly enthusiastic in regards to full membership:

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will insist on "privileged partnership" for Turkey instead of full EU membership when she visits the country next week, according to remarks published yesterday. "There are intertwined relations between Turkey and the EU. There are 35 chapters in the [membership] talks. I am confident that 27-28 of them can be taken up and this will really mean a privileged partnership," she said was quoted as saying by the Milliyet newspaper.

"Some issues, like institutional integration, will be left out of the scope," she told a group of Turkish reporters, before a visit to Turkey on Monday and Tuesday. Mrs Merkel stressed, however, that the European Union placed "great importance" on the need for Turkey to follow a foreign policy consistent with the bloc's stance. Germany's position that the sizeable, mainly Muslim, country is not fit for accession is backed by another EU heavyweight, France, but Ankara categorically rejects any alternatives that fall short of full membership.

Given Turkey's predominantly Muslim population and its geographic location, the EU does not want to risk an influx of Muslim immigrants, simply put Turkey's accession would open a backdoor to Europe for immigrants from Arabic and African countries, at a time when immigration is an extremely hot issue in European countries and several countries have recently implemented anti-immigration laws that would seem extreme and unjustified a decade ago. A recent example is the decision to open detention camps for immigrants in Greece, an extremely controversial decision that in local media has been compared to Nazi Germany's detention camps. While this might seem like a local issue, we can't ignore the fact that most illegal immigrants reach Greece (and thus the EU) through Turkey.

Moving on, there are two issues that can be blocking factors, the historically troublesome Greco-Turkish relations and Turkey's occupation of northen Cyprus. From the EC's 2005 Turkey Progress Report (page 9):

As regards the enhanced political dialogue, relations with Greece developed positively. A series of bilateral agreements were signed and several confidence building measures adopted. A process of exploratory talks has continued. On Cyprus, over the last year Turkey has supported and continues to support the efforts of the UN Secretary General to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The European Council of June 2004 invited Turkey to conclude negotiations with the Commission on behalf of the Community and its 25 Member States on the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement to take account of the accession of the new Member States. The Commission expects a positive reply to the draft protocol on the necessary adaptations transmitted to Turkey in July 2004

While Greco-Turkish relations have significantly improved in recent years, especially after the 1999 earthquakes that devastated İzmit and Athens, Greece reserves it's right to veto Turkey's membership at any time, especially since there are unresolved territorial disputes between the two countries. Greece did not intervene in the 1989 Davos proceedings, but it most certainly would have vetoed the negotiations if the EC viewed Turkey's membership favorably at the time.

Graham's answer explain the Cyprus dispute, I'd only like to add that Cyprus can also veto Turkey's membership, and has already exercised the right once in 2006:

Talks between Turkey and the EU over the largely Muslim country's entry to the world's biggest trading bloc headed for collapse at the first hurdle last night after Cyprus torpedoed a deal to kick-start the stalled negotiations.

The Cyprus dispute has been a core issue in Europe - Turkey relations since 1974 but it became a blocking factor since 2004, when Cyprus joined the EU. It seems highly unlikely that Cyprus will accept Turkey's full membership without a satisfying resolution, at least in the near future.

share|improve this answer
2  
Don't forget about the economy of Turkey, it's very weak in comparison with the rest of the largest countries of the UE, the other problem is that Turkey is Muslim and they don't respect most of the women rights, and they try to others to take their own rules. –  Alberto Bonsanto Dec 27 '12 at 12:43
    
<comments removed> Please keep comments focused on improving the post and try to not to turn comment threads into miniature chat rooms and debates. Thanks. –  Robert Cartaino Jan 4 '13 at 13:27
4  
Interesting side-note is that, geographically speaking, Cyprus has 0% territory in Europe. –  gerrit Jan 7 '13 at 13:15
    
The comments on the “backdoor” for African immigrants to Europe seem entirely speculative. Do you have anything that suggests either that this is a serious impediment to the negotiations or that politicians raised it as a pretext to stall them? –  Relaxed Oct 3 at 1:30

Turkey will not become a member of the EU, simply because no one wants it to.

There is no Turkish politician I can imagine who would cede power to Brussels to the extent EU membership would require. Structural changes since the 80s have done a lot erode Turks' inferiority complex when it comes to Europe.

In Europe, you can't find a core country where 51% of the population is comfortable with the idea that Turks might have equal status.

Occasionally, it was convenient in terms of domestic Turkish politics to look as if the government is doing its best to join the EU, but lately they have stopped pretending.

If you want to get bogged down in the details, you can always do a full blown analysis of this or that treaty. For a real understanding, however, you'd be wasting your time.

At the end of the 17th, the Ottoman Empire came close to swallowing Europe. At the end of the First World War, the Europeans came close to splitting the entire Ottoman Empire among them. Therein lies the rub.

Immigration is a red herring: Various governments are falling over each other, trying to give visas to Turkish tourists. For a lot of people in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, in addition to the former Soviet Union, Turkey itself is the final destination of their illegal immigration journey.

Cyprus is a red herring since reunification was rejected by the Greek Cypriots in 2004.

For the last three decades, I have advocated the position that there is nothing in Europe but a crumbling centrally planned economy. Turkey and the Turks, trying to shed a statist, stagnant, centrally planned past, have no use for that.

share|improve this answer

The biggest current stumbling block relating to Turkey's accession to the EU is around the dispute over Cyprus.

Turkey refuses to implement a trade pact between Turkey and the EU that requires the Turkish government to allow Greek Cypriot vessels to use its air and sea ports, going against the customs agreement Turkey signed as a precondition to start EU membership negotiations.

The Republic of Cyprus, although an EU member, is not officially recognised by Turkey and Turkey has stated it will refuse to recognise it until such time as the removal of the political and economic blockade on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - an area which is not recognised by any state but Turkey itself.

This situation has prompted the EU to freeze negotiations on eight chapters of the acquis communautaire, negotiations which are required to be completed before EU member states can vote on the accession. Even without this freeze, only one chapter is considered to be completely aligned to acquis, with the majority requiring some to a lot of further effort.

share|improve this answer
2  
Unfortunately the Cyprus issue is more of an excuse really, and it doesn't explain the extremely slow pace of negotiations prior to 2004. –  Yannis Rizos Dec 27 '12 at 10:27
    
@YannisRizos I agree, though it's difficult to incorporate that into an answer without resorting to opinion and speculation... –  Graham Wager Dec 27 '12 at 10:32
    
@YannisRizos There are many other reasons but Cyprus is more than an excuse. It would be nearly impossible legally and practically to find a way for Turkish membership without a resolution of the situation on the island. –  Relaxed Oct 3 at 1:33

There are several reasons, but in reality Turkey herself does not make enough efforts.

There are multiple tension points in EU-Turkey relations, for most of which Turkey avoids discussion.

The most difficult being the continued occupation of Cyprus.

Also it is quite doubtful to which extent Turkey is geographically and culturally European. It is the only country applied for EU membership whose capital is not in Europe.

share|improve this answer
    
"It is the only country applied for EU membership whose capital is not in Europe" - Cyprus is (technically) in Asia. Also, Morocco applied (but didn't get in). –  Yannis Rizos Apr 28 '13 at 18:44

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.