Let me give five reasons why Turkey’s accession to the EU would be good for Europe.
1. In 2005 Turkey and the EU started negotiations aimed at full membership. As all previous candidate countries, Turkey was promised that it could join the EU if and when the country manages to fullfill all the relevant criteria. Since then, these negotiations have been slowed down and blocked by EU member states for domestic political reasons. This has damaged the credibility of Europe as an international actor pushing for a global order based on the rule of law. It is up to Turkey to prove that it can meet the conditions for EU membership. EU’s reliability will only be restored when it keeps its promise and welcomes Turkey as a member when the country succeeds in doing so.
2. In the years 2002-2006, before and during the current negotiations, Turkey has shown that, in good cooperation with the EU, it is able and willing to introduce far-reaching reforms that have made the country more democratic. It would be an enormous missed opportunity if the EU would give up on that influence by allowing the negotiations to get bogged down. Europe has a huge self-interest in a stable and democratic Turkey that will eventually qualify for EU membership. Europe should do everything in its power to prevent having a big but less stable and less democratic neighbor that feels rejected.
3. One of the most pressing challenges for the Europe, is to assist its neighbors in the South and South East, the new democracies in North Africa and the Middle East, on their bumpy road towards prosperity and first class democracy. That difficult task will be made a lot easier if Turkey would become an EU member because the country has historical and cultural ties to the region that none of the current EU member states has.
4. The EU will have to decide soon whether or not it wishes to become a global player that wants to have a say in how the 21st century world is organized and ruled. In the field of trade, energy, climate change and migration. But also in foreign policy, security and conflict prevention. It is incontestable that an EU with Turkey as a prominent member state will be a more influential global player than an EU without Turkey. Main reasons: Turkey’s economic potential, strategic geographical location and strong links with the Muslim world.
5. Turkey’s membership of the EU would fatally undermine one of the most dangerous popular myths: The inevitability of a clash of civilizations between the West and the Muslim world. EU membership of a country where the majority of the population are Muslims, would prove that the EU is not based on one particular religion but on values that can be shared by people from all faiths and beliefs and that a majority Muslim country can be a mature democracy. That would have an enormous stabilizing and peace promoting influence in Europe’s immediate neighborhood and far beyond.