Turkey has been making headlines recently and we might want to look at what Turkey means for Europe. For many years Turkey seemed interested in closer contact with Europe. It was an associate member to European Economic Community already in 1963 and made an official bid for joining in 1987. Ever since the 50s it has been a member of multiple European organisations and councils and the final negotiations about ascension to the EU have started in 2005. Today, in 2016, Turkey is still not a member of the EU.
From Turkey’s point of view this certainly doesn’t look fair. It looks like Europe has been snubbing it all along and only dangling the carrot if front of its eyes whenever it was profitable. We must realise that joining the EU is a big deal and every aspiring country must make significant changes to its institutions, economy and sometimes even the political system. It must as well agree to hand over part of its sovereignty to Brussels.
Despite all that Turkey seemed willing until recent years. I think that change in opinion coincides with the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has been a mayor of Istanbul in the 90s and then rose up to governmental positions and now is serving as president. Although few outside Turkey agree with his politics, his approach to the EU is reflecting the historical EU-Turkey relationship. Turkey under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk re-oriented towards the West and did its best, but Europe has always turned it down. Then Erdogan’s Turkey realised that Europe will probably never accept it into the union and so it started focusing on itself again.
There are many reasons for Europe to be ware of Turkey. Accepting Turkey would mean having common borders with Syria, Iraq, Iran and being geopolitically much more attached to Russian interests around the Black Sea. As we know, those are Europe’s favourite dinner party guests. Turkey would become the most populous region of Europe with overwhelming number of young people. That in itself is not a bad thing, but Turkey’s wealth is unevenly divided and it would essentially mean millions of people flushing Europe’s already fragile job markets. In population, culture, religion and political system Turkey is fundamentally different from Europe and it is simply too big to absorb. Accepting Europe would mean accepting a radical change in Europe’s value system. It is a change that will eventually happen anyway, given Europe’s natality rates and immigration, but at much slower pace.
The recent migration crisis is just what Turkey needed. Given the proficiency in haggling Turkey is going to squeeze out of Europe as much as it can. The debate on whether to accept Turkey into the union or not is now purely European debate. Newly refreshed national Turkey doesn’t care anymore and will only do what it deems good for itself. The ship has sailed for Europe and the times we could dictate the terms are gone. The Turkey will be served cold from now on.