Events

Europe's Future and Turkey

October 17, 2006 // 10:00am11:30am

Professor Panos Kazakos outlined issues facing Turkey as it seeks to join the European Union, stressing that security cooperation was a cause for optimism in Turkey's EU bid. Kazakos explained the difficulty in making solid predictions about Turkey's chances of accession as the EU is a complex, decentralized organization and is made up of many actors with a wide range of interests. Nonetheless, he was confident that by focusing on a handful of key issues, probable outcomes could be deduced.

While the professor touched on the issue of identity as a hindrance to Turkey's EU bid, he turned to the recent referenda of the new EU constitution, in order to better understand the feelings of Europeans toward eastward expansion. The Constitutional Referenda showed widespread social and economic discontent in EU member states. Furthermore, the results highlighted a certain disconnect on EU issues between European political elites and European populations. European governments have responded to this lack of enthusiasm on the part of their constituents by instituting a "period of reflection," in which movement toward further EU expansion is put on hold.

Professor Kazakos made clear that the constitution was just one decision among many that Europeans will have to make in coming years. Choices such as a more liberal or social Europe, along with a choice between centralization and devolution of authority, will be affected by the long standing issue of consolidation or expansion.

In regards to Europe's options for expansion to the east, Professor Kazakos laid out four scenarios. He called the first possibility a "two-tier Europe" scenario. In this option, Europe will have expanded eastward to include Turkey. However, the Union will be split along economic and sociopolitical lines, with western Europe on one side, and the poorer, majority-Muslim east on the other. A second scenario is a "Marrakech to Vladivostok" Union. It is quite improbable that this vision of a transcontinental federation will come into being, even though it is a dream of "some scholars and British politicians." The third scenario is a scaled down, disintegrated Europe. Again, Professor Kazakos was confident that that this was also an unlikely outcome. The fourth scenario, "Historical Europe," is an eventuality in which the EU expands eastward, but does not include Turkey. Next to a "two tier Europe," a "Historical Europe" is the most likely model for future expansion.

Profesor Kazakos briefly outlined some of the values and structures of the EU, focusing on the 2004 Constitutional Treaty which states that democracy, human rights, and rule of law are common to all member states. In addition, the principles of economic coordination and common foreign and security policy have always been a part of the EU. Thus, any prospective member state must adopt these principles before gaining entry to the EU.

Professor Kazakos then turned his focus to the problems facing Turkey, being careful to point out that he was not criticizing Turkey's EU bid, but merely pointing out concerns that had already been raised. First, Turkey has an unstable economy. The swings in the Turkish economy add to the already high level of unemployment and underemployment in the country, which fuels European fear of immigration. Next, the EU is post-national, yet Turkey still clings to its traditional conception of itself as a sovereign nation-state. Finally, the question of what role culture will play in Turkey's EU bid, as intense cooperation requires states who "speak the same cultural language." The EU Commission has assessed Turkey's performance in these areas, and has come to the conclusion that Turkey has made progress, but still has much further to go.

In conclusion, Professor Kazakos summed up the main forces behind current and future EU-Turkey relations. First and foremost, common threats and objectives motivate both sides of the relationships. Also, the United States is a significant influence, as it has generally supported Turkey's drive for EU accession, and will likely continue to do so. On the other hand, the lack of growth in Turkey's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita over the last twenty years may present problems for Turkey in the future. Finally, any resurgence in nationalism and religion in Turkey will strain relations with Europe.

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  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
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