It is time for advocates of Turkey`s EU membership to take off the rose-coloured glasses and look at the facts. In light of the current conflict in several neighbour countries of Turkey and the economic and confidence crisis in many EU member states, the promotion of Turkey`s EU accession is not only short-sighted, but dangerous. Multiple arguments underline this view point:
- The strongest argument against Turkish EU membership is the result of the negotiation process itself. The slow reform progress in Turkey shows that Turkey is not willing to give up sovereignty in order to comply with EU law. In many areas, Turkey has even undergone a setback violating fundamental rights such as freedom of opinion and the press and religious freedoms. Furthermore, the denial of Turkey to acknowledge EU member state Cyprus as sovereign state and Ankara`s confrontation policy during the Cypriot EU presidency, show that Turkey does not recognize the EU in its integrity.
- Turkey is far from fulfilling the expected role as mediator between Europe and the Islamic world. Proposals for the introduction of a ban on alcohol and gender separation reveal tendencies towards islamization among the ruling AKP government. The discussion on cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed furthermore showed that Turkey attaches greater value to the protection of islamic values than to the basic principle of freedom of opinion.
- In case of Turkish membership, the external borders of the EU would adjoin directly to conflict areas such as Syria and Iraq. Due to the lack of a common Foreign-, Security and Defence policy, the EU would not be able to securely manage these long borders.
- One aspect that is often neglected by advocates of Turkey`s accession, is the economic and institutional intake capacity of the EU. In case of accession Turkey would, at one go, be the largest and most populous country in the EU. This would also mean that Turkey would become the most powerful EU country with the highest voting weight in Council and the European Parliament. Financially, Turkey would, according to current estimates, be entitled to receive money from structural funds worth 125 billion Euro. Since the entire budget of EU structural funds amounts only to 346 billion Euro, the EU would therefore have to increase the EU budget massively. Given the current economic crisis in many EU member states and the obligations of the other member states under the EU rescue fund this is clearly a "mission impossible".
- Last but not least surveys show that the decision to let Turkey join the EU would be a decision against the will of the population, both in the EU and in Turkey. This would put the democratic nature of the EU in questions.
Given all these arguments, it is time to discuss an alternative, special partnership with Turkey. Since Turkey is NATO member and integrated into the EU customs union, the EU will continue to benefit from Turkey`s economic and military strength. Turkey, on the other hand, would benefit from continuous financial and political support in selected areas without having to give up sovereignty. Therefore a "Special" partnership would be a win-win situation for both the EU and Turkey.