Turkey and the European Union: Between Make or Break?

Posted in Europe | 21-Dec-04 | Author: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Andrea K Riemer

Dr. Andrea Riemer is Senior Researcher at the Austrian Defense Academy.
Dr. Andrea Riemer is Senior Researcher at the Austrian Defense Academy.
Turkey and the European Union: Between Make or Break?

„In the West, the classic image of Turkey has long been misleading: a secular country, a democracy, an unshakeable friend of the United States, a nation whose strategic outlook conforms with U.S. interests in the region ... a model to all Muslims. During the past 50 years, most of these descriptions have not corresponded with reality, presenting mainly a comforting but unexamined myth. (Fuller, Graham E.: Turkey’s Strategic Model: Myths and Realities, The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2004, p. 51.)The statement valid for the US has at least the same validity for the European Union. There has been hardly a more ambiguous membership candidate than Turkey. There has been hardly a more emotional debate on the Europeanness and the finality of Europe than in the Turkish case. There has been no country before which turned out to be the splitting issue of Europe.

The Council decision in mid-December 2004 was one of the most crucial decisions for the future of the Union. It will coin the future of the Union and it will mold Euro-Turkish relations for the coming decade and beyond. In the worst case, it will be the starting point for the end of the European Union. Numerous signals point already to this scenario. The European overstretch lies clearly at hand, despite the unwillingness of political decision makers to see it and despite the current breath-taking phase for all parties to the issue

Thoughts beyond and behind the latest Commission Report – Setting the pace to nowhere?

The Commission Report submitted in early October 2004 by Commissioner Verheugen paved the way for the Council decision. The decision by the European Council in mid December 2004 clarified the start for membership negotiations.

Despite several ‘gatekeeper clauses’ and many statements that negotiations do not imply an automatic fullmembership could not dampen emotional debates among the majority of Europeans. Additionally, considerable gaps between intellectual elites, political decision makers and ordinary women and men on road emerged. There has hardly been a situation before, which made the different points of view that obvious as the Turkish case. Never before in EU’s history a potential member caused that many rifts and led the Union to a bifurcation-like crossroad. Turkey has become the make or break issue for Europe. The decision was taken within a very particular and problematic framework of still not answered questions.

Decision making – a mission impossible?

The latest enlargement round brought the Union already into an overstretch situation. Any further enlargement, no matter with or without Turkey, would prevent Europe from starting to shape its position as a strategic player. Taking Turkey in would lead to a ‘blow-up-situation’, i. e. the Union cannot afford to take further interested states in, if it wants to survive and remain a viable construct. The EU will need considerable time to digest the latest round, to bring the new members up the average level of the core members.

Internal decision making procedures within the EU will be strongly affected. As a consequence of the latest enlargement round, power shifts to the advantage of the cohesion countries will take place. In the EU-15 the weight of Spain, Greece and Portugal was rather low, although they were over-proportionally represented in the European Parliament. Since nearly all new EU-members are comparatively poor, their weight will increase remarkably. They will account for 36 % of the population, for 42 % of the Parliamentary and the Council votes, but only 14 % of the GDP. If there will be a second enlargement round, Spain will not be assigned to this group, but Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey would outweigh it. Turkey as the second largest country would have the same influence as Germany. The cohesion countries would account for 36 % of the population, for 41 % of the Parliamentary and the Council votes, but only 9 % of the GDP. If the Western Balkan will be integrated, the weight of this group of countries would increase further.

Meeting economic standards or fiddling the figures?

The increasing economic heterogeneity poses enormous challenges to the Union. The inner coherence and the coordination of its policies will become more and more difficult. Economic and social incoherence will increase due to the latest enlargement round. Decision making procedures will be delayed and become more difficult. EU has become a cumbersome super-tanker. Such entities do not comply with the standards and requirements of the current international order. EU-agriculture and structural policies would get under enormous pressure in case of a Turkish full-membership. The open question is how the application of the Common Agriculture Policies and the Regional and Structural Policies would affect both sides. A grave bottleneck during implementation could be the consequence. Additionally, this policy pot will lack funds, since the net payers will not be willing to contribute more than they currently do. Finally, European products will not be competitive on the global stage, since the subsidy policy will not be accepted within the WTO framework. Costs of Turkish EU-membership could be moderate in the first phase, but will increase, since the application of EU-policies turned out to be an expensive issue. Currently, EU-procedures and Turkish procedures are gapping considerably. It will take broad efforts by Turkey to comply with EU-policies and standards.

So far, Turkish governments have been unable to provide the necessary jobs and the education for the growing share of young people. Particularly in urban areas ‘job gaps’ among young people have reached a dangerous point. Many of those young people basically have two opportunities: either they side with one the many religious groups or they migrate. Taking the EU-freedoms into account, an over-supply of cheap Turkish workers might be a rather fast consequence. Migration potential from Turkey to other EU-countries (particularly Germany) is high. This will raise the question of transition phases. It will further raise the question of applying the four freedoms and possible consequences. The migration issue may be one of the key topics which could fuel resistance in the EU, increase xenophobic feelings and raise fears in the currently very tight EU-labor market. A ‘new fortress Europe’-attitude may emerge even towards possible members-to-be. It could be interpreted as a natural standpoint to secure the life of the Union.

The integration in the currency union will be a years lasting process and should better take longer. The Turkish currency has always been weak due to economic calamities. The US-Dollar has become a shadow currency in the past decade. Currency policy was never an asset of Turkish governments. Despite the pressure of the IMF, currency policy has not been adjusted to the rest of economic policies in a sufficient manner. Double-digit inflation rates made a stabilization policy rather a never realizable dream. It will take a comprehensive economic effort to enable the Turkish lira/pound to approach the currency union. It this undertaking will be done in a rush manner (for prestigious reasons), the whole European currency system and the stability pact would be destroyed.

Additionally, the presented figures on economic affairs raise a number of questions. Some of the figures (e. g. the GDP) show unnatural and hardly explainable erratic developments. Extreme ups and downs (e. g. differences of 15 % change rates in annual GDP-figures between 2000 and 2001) are usually not the case. Even in crises years (e. g. in 1999/2000) the trend is usually not that volatile as presented. This makes a careful analyst putting serious question marks on the plausibility of the figures mainly submitted by official Turkish institutions. One cannot deny the odium of dubiousness. According to economic development models a country’s economy shows a certain cycle. This has not been the case in Turkey since almost fifteen years. Despite broad support by the IMF the key economic parameter have not improved in the long run (e. g. in a decade-analysis) or improved only marginally. This might not only be due to a possible ‘modeling of the figures’ but also to a very well functioning shadow economy and an even better functioning corrupted public system. The current EU-members have to ask themselves whether they want to accept a new member with a large share of grey economy. Additionally, the governments have not able to get corruption under control. Corruption still remains a very serious issue and is cited by most business persons as the key obstacle for direct foreign investments in Turkey. Despite some improvements, the incentive for the low-paid Turkish civil servants to accept bribe is still considerable. Moreover, the question of the workability of a ‘real Turkish economy’ under EU-conditions must be raised. Finally, the Union’s members have to ask themselves whether they want to finance an economic system, which obviously is rather corrupt and shows no serious tendency to amend this weakness.

Turkey – a cultural wedge in Europe?

Turkey - part or partner of EU ?
Turkey - part or partner of EU ?
In the light of recent events, cultural compatibilities will also form a basis for vivid discussion. One should bear on mind that Turkish secularizism was an elite project launched by Atatürk. Islam was heavily state-controlled and marginalized. Suppression could not last forever in a society which has been coined by Islam for centuries. In the past few decades a slow but steady reemergence of Islam onto the political, social and economic stage happened. The current AKP-government is one expression of this trend. The ‘Islamic card’ might be brought in the game again. It will – again – raise the question: Who are ‘we’ and who are ‘the others’? It is a question about inclusion and exclusion, about drawing boarders, about the ‘European finality’. It is also a question about fears (e. g. the idea of an ‘Islamic conquest’; the danger of a ‘third Turkish siege’ etc.). The ‘Islamic card-argument’ cannot be found in any official EU-document. Nevertheless, this ‘card’ has been used by individuals in discussions. Recent events (Madrid March 2004 and the situation in Iraq) have fuelled the ‘Islamic debate’ within the Union again. The argument stands also in a close connection to the asylum-seeker-issue, the question why asylum-seekers played an important role within terrorist networks, how they could enter EU and why they were granted asylum within the EU. Additionally, recent developments provoked defense reactions, xenophobic effects and fears of Muslim population dominance. Currently, some 15 Mio Muslims live within the EU. Additionally, EU subsidies and supports the Balkans (with a large proportion of Muslim population) heavily to guide the states into the EU (e. g. via the Stability Pact). This shows the contradictory element in the current discussion on the ‘Islamic argument’. Further terrorist attacks could turn out as an ‘against Turkey argument’, despite the fact that Turkey itself was affected by terrorist attacks in November 2003 (Istanbul).

Societal tensions as an additional hurdle?

Within Turkey, the tension between tradition and modernity may turn out to become a key EU-obstacle. The Ottoman society was an elite society. There was no bourgeoisie, since the conditions were lacking. There was no economic foundation. Trade was mainly done by Greeks and Armenians. Ottoman elites acted as bureaucrats and military persons. Kemalism brought a turn-around, but it was an ideology which was elite-oriented. The rural population could not be associated to Kemalism. The discussion between Kemalists and representatives of modernity molded Turkish history. Additionally, numerous aspects which have grown together with European history have never been part of Turkish history or cannot be matched with the Turkish self-perception. This unsolved field of tensions is a ‘hidden integrative problem’. Turkish national psyche is molded by two desires: first by the acquisition of benefits of Western democracy, power, economic success, and modernization; second by periodic suspicion of manipulation by the West. Turkish nationalism is some sort of fighting with modern and enlightened attitudes and Westernization. The Turkish society lacks self-consciousness and suffers from a collective inferiority complex. This fact made a Turkish fullmembership a matter of honor. It would prove that the ‘Turkish nation’ has complied with the European standards. The start of negotiations would be seen as provisional acceptance. From the Turkish point of view, the EU-membership goes far beyond alliances and economic opportunities. It would be counted as a confirmation to be a full-fletched European Nation. The struggle in leaving the Oriental backwardness behind and to dive into European modernity molded the big pattern in at least 200 years of Ottoman/Turkish history. The fullmembership would set the final point of this struggle. On the hand, exactly this struggle created much fear among many Europeans. History is much too present. Experience with the Ottomans was rather mixed and left a vexed picture in the minds of many Europeans.

Demographic change from Turkey to the rest of Europe?

Demographic developments, particularly the constant increase in population and the youth bulge are already considered as problematic. Turkey has the highest average population growth rate in the region. Currently, the overall population is 67 Mio people. The forecast indicates that Turkey will reach the 100 Mio hallmark within the next 20 to 30 years. Turkish population will grow by 1 Mio per year (average figure). It is paralleled by a still increasing urbanization rate (according to the latest census, dated in 2000, 70 % of the Turkish population lives in urban areas; Turkey has roughly 20 cities with more than one Mio inhabitants as compared to the early 1990s with only four cities having more than one Mio inhabitants). The key reasons for this development are the unattractive living conditions in the rural areas (e. g. no chance for education, hardly a chance for jobs, agricultural dominance with highly parceled out areas and low profits etc.). These developments are connected to increased social tensions and a possibly growing inclination to support religiously based groups. The example of AKP (which has religious background) is a ‘success story’ which has been rooted in the inability of classical right/left political parties to fulfill the people’s needs and to catch up with current developments. Additionally, the family as traditional social and societal cushion has been put into backdrop. The state has been forced to fill this gap by providing numerous subsidies. In case of a Turkish full membership, the net payers would have to take over a large proportion of those subsidies to introduce Turkey to European average standards and to support an adjustment of Turkish society.

The following table provides an overview of selected countries and combinations.

Millions 2003 2015 2025 2050
Germany 82,5 82,5 82,0 79,1
Turkey 71,3 82,2 89,0 97,8
EU-25 454,2 456,8 421,2 431,2
EU-28 with Turkey 555,7 567,8 570,8 552,3
Turkey in % EU-28 12,8 % 14,4 % 15,5 % 17,7 %

Turkey has displayed a constantly growing social and welfare gap between the urban and rural areas in the past twenty years. The gecekundus (built over night) have been growing not only at the edges of Istanbul, but also on the fringes of other cities. Those areas are a natural hotbed for extreme politico-religious groups. The sustainable and even increasing income gap between north-west and south-east of Turkey is a consequence of negligence over several decades. Turkey still lacks the all-important societal middle-class, which usually carries a country’s social and economic system. The situation has been heated up by the Turkish public education system which has been notoriously weak. This weakness was a gate-opener for private education institutions and institutions sponsored by religious groups. Currently, Turkey has a three-parallel education system, which supports a further division of Turkish society: The weak public education system, a growing private system and the growing religious education system (medreses; imam-hatip schools, Islamic universities). The strongest growing strand has been the religious one. They are affordable for many Turks, they offer a chance for their child and they are compatible with public schools. The decades-lasting inability of the Turkish parties to listen to the needs and wishes of their voters and a certain ‘religious hypocrisy’, a ‘pseudo-secularism’ and the disparagement of religious affairs in public provided the fertile ground for recent developments, particularly for the growth of religiously based, political groups.

The military as a pivot?

The role of the military is not compatible with European standards. This has been remarked in all EU-Commission Reports and in many other EU-related statements. The current government diminished the role of the military (to gain broader influence in the long run) and used EU-ambitions to bolster its stance. The paradox is that the military seems to be a certain guarantee for the existence of Turkey. It is highly respected and an uncorrupted institution. This raises the question of how Turkey would be governed and led without military pressure (e. g. via the National Security Council, which has been the shadow cabinet for decades). An analysis of the military-led coup d’états in the past forty years shows that the military restored order after incapable governments brought the country at the edge of collapse. This may sound contradictory, but many Turks view the military as honest in its endeavor to serve the country. This should be seen as a sign for the inability of the ruling elite. It is less the dominance of the military, but the decades-lasting weakness of politicians to lead the country on the road to success, which should disturb the European observer. This does not mean a justification for the role of the military in Turkey but has to be seen as an explanation for the status quo. If Turkey wants to enter the EU, it needs capable political leaders which make the military in a political role obsolete.

Cyprus and the Aegean questions – still a divide between Greece and Turkey and Turkey and Europe?

The Cyprus question has not been settled, but even worse – it has been made the bargaining chip for membership negotiations. Cyprus may turn out as the key wedge between EU and Turkey, as it was in the past ten years. UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan submitted his plan (‚Basis for a Comprehensive Settlement of the Cyprus Problem’) in November 2002 to the parties to the conflict. In spring 2003 a series of negotiations talks started under his aegis. Time was scarce, since the EU-accession treaty for Cyprus was about to be signed during the Athens summit in April 2003. Despite intensive talks and numerous efforts negotiations failed in early March 2003. The elections in mid-December 2003 in the Northern part of the island were of crucial importance. The result was a patt-situation between the supporters of the plan and of EU-accession and the opponents of the plan and the accession. A coalition government was formed. The US-administration took the chance to press for a resumption of the talks based on Annan’s plan. Turkey joined the ‘pressure course’ (because it saw a solution of the Cyprus case as a possible entrance card to EU). Talks were resumed in mid-February 2004 and failed again at the end of March 2004. Disappointment among the participants of the talks was big, but there was still hope to find the support of the Cyprus population in a referendum on Annan’s several times revised plan. During the Brussels summit Annan clearly pointed out that he is not planning a new initiative to settle the question. It will be very interesting to see the Europeans struggling to solve a problem which has been pending for more than 50 years. Additionally, the EU does not have any written guarantee in hand to nail down the Turkish government. It can only trust that the current Turkish government will be able to stick to the verbal promise. This is a very fragile and even shaky basis for a strategic decision to be made.

The Aegean questions (territorial waters, continental shelf) are to be settled by the end of 2004 on a bilateral level. If no solution will be found between Greece and Turkey, the whole issue will be turned over to the IGC for decision. So far, talks have shown no progress in the substantial questions. It is very likely, that a court decision will be necessary. It is also very likely, that an arbitrator decision will be bring a favorable result for Turkey and a less advantageous output for Greece. It remains open, how the Aegean questions will affect the trilateral relations between the EU, Greece and Turkey. The worse case comprises a deep border conflict between a member and a member-to-be. This would be another step away from the peace project idea. One sub-issue could fuel the others and lead to a back-loop-like development, which can hardly be controlled by the EU.

Common Policies under jeopardy?

US President George W. Bush (R) meets Turkish Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan.
US President George W. Bush (R) meets Turkish Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan.
The ESDP and the GASP would be strongly affected a Turkish full membership. Turkey would move Europe towards the Middle East and the Caucasus. The EU’s periphery would be close to numerous open-end hot spots. On the other hand, Turkey most likely will require a stronger say within the ESDP and GASP (as already required within the Berlin Plus Agreement). The European Security Strategy does not touch Turkey. Turkey’s position on security matters in the European framework is rather clear. It does not the ESDP and the GASP, which are both considered as an expression of the iffy individual European position. Turkey prefers NATO which is a clear-cut well-working framework with creditworthiness, particularly since title V of the Maastricht Treaty (cooperation between the EU and the NATO, title J5) has not been put into action. It seems clear that Turkey will not be driver of the ESDP and the GASP.

A Turkish fullmembership would foster the failure of European key goals, such as the Lisbon Goal and Headline Goals 2010. The Lisbon Goal intended to create a competitive, dynamic, knowledge based economic area on the basis of the EU. It should promote social coherence and make Europe a serious competitor. This will require comprehensive changes in the educational landscape – of course not free of charge. Currently, the program lags already behind. A further enlargement would down-water the enterprise and certainly leads Europe away from any competitive position in the world market. The Headline Goals 2010 set the framework for the set-up of a reaction force of 60000 men armed forces, an additional 10000 men air force and another 10000 naval forces from all EU-members. Deployment was intended within 60 days and within a reach of max. 4000 km outside Europe. Additionally, the lead nation concept should be applied. 2003 was the year to launch the concept. Up to now budgetary shortcomings, equipment and training deficits prevented the set-up of the troops. Additionally, airlift capacities, space and air reconnaissance and electronic reconnaissance capabilities are lacking. Turkey cannot contribute in any of the ‘gap elements’.

Turkey: In a U.S.-European crunch?

Turkey turned out as a strategic bargaining chip between Europe and the United States. For the U.S., Turkey belongs unquestionable to Europe. Turkey’s fullmembership has been on the political agenda of every U.S. President after 1989/90. The idea in front was of strategic nature. Turkey could become a role model and a pillar of stability within a chronically unstable region. The idea behind was rather different: Turkey has occupied the EU in the past 15 years. It was one of the obstacles for Europe to gain strategic grounds. It always has been clear for the U.S. that the European integration of Turkey would relief the U.S. of considerable payments and loans; additionally, Turkey would cost the EU that much money and political ground that Europe would never be able to become a strategic counterpart. Great Britain has sided with the U.S. long ago. It has always been interested in a weak EU. Whatever supports this target is warmly welcome.

Germany and France have rather different positions. The large Turkish minority in Germany has become a considerable voter pool for the Social Democrats and the Green Party. This can be read as the background for the current pushing attitude of Chancellor Schroeder. The German conservative parties are pronounced opponents of a Turkish full membership, but they are in a minority position – at least for the time being and the time of decision making in December 2004. In France, the picture is rather different. President Chirac tries to avoid alienating and embarrassing the Muslim minority. For reason, he argues in favor of a Turkish full membership. Even within his political party, opinions are rather different. The position within the new members is, understandably, distant. Turkey would eat up a considerable share of the EU-money. One of the pronounced opponents of a Turkish full membership is Austria. The Austrian population majority (roughly 70 %) is against a Turkish full membership. Austrian politicians do not have clear-cut positions. They changed them during the EU-Parliament elections and after the elections. The impression left in the European public is not a very positive one. Opportunism – as in many other European countries – ruled the game. All in all, the situation does not look very promising – neither for Europe, nor for Turkey.

What remains is the following question: Does Europe really want to tackle those delicate issues? Those issues have to be seen as a network of topics. They should be taken into account in case of a decision on Turkey and its possible EU-membership.

Views ahead: Options, if there are any

For Turkey, there is only one possible strategic options, which it will take into considerations for its medium and long-term future: Turkey will press for a full membership, no matter how long it will take and how much it will cost: The Turkish government will insist on a fast start of negotiation talks in the first half of 2005. It will continue to reform all elements of the Turkish society and the Turkish state. EU will have to scrutinize whether Turkey puts the reform into operation. Regular evaluations will point the path and the necessities on what to do. This options seems the most likely option, judged in late fall 2004. Turkey seems to be in an easier position. It ‘just’ has to stick to the European demands, thereby having already a quite impressive record of ‘fulfilled duties’; the Commission Report seems to prove Turkey right. If the EU will be in a position to absorb Turkey (4th criterion) and Turkey will be able to comply with the EU-standards, a full-membership cannot be easily prevented. One exemption (likely or not) seems to be a re-regionalization of the EU, i. e. a certain atomization and erosion process within the Union. Other ‘gates’ are decisions by the European and by national parliaments and referenda. If one country turns Turkey down, full membership will not be possible. The Union’s members have to ask themselves whether this option will be supportive for the spirit, the project Europe and for its workability. One should ask whether 25 states created already a very heterogeneous Union, which has been occupied with self-administration. Actively set landmarks on the stage of international politics have become very rare. This option might even lead to questions on ‚EU-Overstretch’, erosion of the Union and finally, to its decay. Additionally, one might ask about the original purpose of the Project Europe, which was intended to be a peace project. Finally, the members have to be strongly convinced of a possible member-to-be before they will enter into talks.

Another option, though not very likely, is a Semi-European Option: Turkey would give up the full-membership aspiration in favor of a ‘special partnership with the EU’, which will be based on selected strategic and political elements (e. g. the European Defense Policy, which cannot be separated from NATO in reality). Additionally, Turkey would accept the Customs Union as economic maximum. It might be the outcome of long and less successful negotiations. This option would be a deviation from the Ankara-Agreement and from all promises given so far. Based on the Helsinki decision it will be difficult to put this option into practice. Both sides would lose face. Turkey certainly would oppose such an option, because it is only a full membership which counts for it, particularly after that many years of struggle. Nothing below is acceptable for Turkey. Nevertheless, it remains an option which might turn up after tough negotiations and which could be useful for both sides. This result should be based on hard facts and not on ‘mingling the talks-tactics’. It would be smallest step towards Turkey after years of not kept promises, of unclear policies and of a certain European cowardliness. EU should take into account that such a solution might create a case of precedence for other interested states (e.g .Moldova, Ukraine etc.).

Other option, though not very likely at the moment, are options which leave Europe aside.

Turkey enters in a strong strategic Partnership with the United States and keeps Europe at arms length: The core of this option would be a strategic alliance with the U.S. under the heading of ‘fighting together terrorism and stabilizing the Greater/Broader Middle East’. This option was on the minds of U.S. politicians when the Greater Middle East (now Broader Middle East) Initiative was launched. So far, Turkey was only a half-hearted supporter of U.S. effort to fight terrorism. Currently, U.S.-Turkish relations are in a transitional phase. Much will depend on the developments in Iraq, particularly on the phase after the Iraqi elections in January 2005. It remains to be seen, whether Iraq’s territorial integrity will stay in tact or whether it will be split up into the three old provinces. This would mean that the Kurds will have their long-desired autonomous state. Turkish reactions to this optional development seem to be clear: Turkey will not accept it. The case has to be related to Turkey’s EU-ambitions and the possibility of turning down talks in late fall 2004. Based on past experiences, Turkey could claim the right of self-defense and reactivate its old claims of the oil-rich provinces Kirkuk and Mossul. The U.S. would be in a very difficult position: They would have to stick to their demand of a unified Iraq and deal with Kurdish claims to be rewarded for the multiple supports in Gulf War II and III. Additionally, they would have to deal with a decades-lasting ally. If Turkey would invade Northern-Iraq/autonomous Kurdish state it would have multiple consequences, such as in inner-NATO-conflict, which might end up in an exclusion of Turkey; additionally, Turkey’s behavior could be interpreted as an action of aggression with occupation and annexation (like in the case of Cyprus after the second intervention in August 1974). International community will not accept this and would interpret it as a ‘Kuwait-like case’. Turkey would be branded as aggressor. All efforts to approach EU would be finished and destroyed. The U.S., too, would have to rethink its relationship with Turkey. Most likely, a strategic partnership would be out of any reach.

Middle Eastern and Eurasian Option: This option would include an emphasis of the Islamic heritage. Turkey would try to strengthen ties with Middle Eastern and Eurasian countries. The option would – most likely – face severe resistance of the Turkish military, who consider themselves as the guardian of Atatürk’s principles and of secularism. Additionally, the Turkish military has considerable influence on Turkish foreign policy. Finally, Turkey has a very particular role among Islamic countries (due to laicism and secularism) and due to its past (Ottoman Empire). The role model Turkey does not exist in the Islamic world. Turkey lacks capital, economic power and political backup to be accepted as a regional power. Additionally, Turkey would clearly focus all efforts on broadening contacts and co-operations with the newly independent states in Central Asia and the Caucasus. It would define itself as a Eurasian power. Turkey would become a clear counterpart to Russia, which has been a century-lasting rival (together with Persia/Iran and China), in the region. Finally, Turkish resources could be overstretched. At the beginning of the 1990s Turkey tried to gain already a major foothold in the region, but lacked capital and investment capabilities. The energy card was not successful yet in Central Asia and the Caucasus – and it will take some considerable time until it will display positive effects. Despite all counter-arguments the option is alive, but difficult to be achieved. If Turkey could be successful in fulfilling the role of a lead-nation, of a stable, democratic pole in a crises-shattered arc, its chances are intact. It would require strong support from the U.S. and Europe and additional Turkey diplomatic initiatives to succeed. Currently, it seems that the required support is not available. Additionally, Russia has always been suspicious of every Turkish effort to gain a foothold in the areas. Overall, the option is a possibility but shows a low likeliness.

Playing a regional power and approaching Russia and China: Turkey would try to perform the role of regional player, thereby strongly orienting itself along its national interests. It seeks to exploit all support it can get. Cooperation will be sought only if it serves national interests. Turkey would try to play a counter-weight to the U.S. The Greater/Broader Middle East would become a play-ground for powers. Russia, China, India and Pakistan would battle together with the U.S. and Turkey for the arc. The area, which has been unstable for decades, most likely would end up in a comprehensive break-down, because of a struggle for hegemony by one or the named states. All efforts to pacify this area would be destroyed. Conflicts between regional powers would have a strong spill-over effect. Additionally, India and Pakistan have nuclear capacities, which they are ready to employ (as several incidents in the past showed). Turkey does not possess nuclear capacities, but has a strong army. The combination of those factors seems a very dangerous one. Past remarks show that this option is one possibility.

Some thoughts for political decision-makers

In December 2004 Europe has definitely reached a bifurcation. European politicians have to fulfill a tough agenda towards the European citizens, but also towards Turkey.

The agenda is:

  • Set a clear grid of requests for Turkey and clear procedure in terms of landmarks and concrete contents;
  • Fix who has to fulfill what by when and how it will be possible to check the sustainability of measures and steps undertaken by Turkey.
  • Let Turkey prove that it fulfills the EU-standards; turn the tables and make Turkey responsible for results and implementation.
  • Negotiate tough, but fair - don’t keep the Turks at arm’s length.
  • If a fixed key threshold target will not be fulfilled by Turkey, interrupt and even stop negotiations.
  • Tell Turkey in time, if the EU cannot go further in negotiations.
  • Tell the European citizens the truth about a further enlargement which will possibly include Turkey; be honest in terms of economic, political, security consequences, and costs for each European citizen.
  • Don’t play linkage policy again by putting the European constitution and a referendum on Turkey together. The Constitution cannot wait for Turkey. Both are separate issues.
  • Have serious alternative options on your mind if negotiations will fail or if the referendum will fail.