Union for the Mediterranean must not be an alternative to Turkish membership

Enlargement

Turkey start­ed its acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions in 2005 and since then Turkey has been more inter­est­ed in its acces­sion process than the enlarge­ment debate regard­ing oth­er coun­tries, i.e., Ice­land and Croa­t­ia. It has been per­ceived that Turkey’s acces­sion to the EU is not con­sid­ered part of any pre­vi­ous enlarge­ment rounds (i.e., 2004, 2007) or any future enlarge­ments either. In this frame­work, Iceland’s mem­ber­ship to the EU was not wide­ly dis­cussed in Turkey. Iceland’s mem­ber­ship has been seen as a con­se­quence of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis affect­ing the whole world and Europe as part of it. It has been argued that Iceland’s inte­gra­tion to the EU would have a min­i­mum effect on the EU’s gov­er­nance struc­tures due to its small size. The main prob­lems seen in the acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions are relat­ed to agri­cul­tur­al and fish­eries poli­cies due to the com­mon mar­ket and reg­u­la­tions on fish­ing, i.e., whales.11AB Haber EU-Turkey News Net­work: İzlan­da AB Yol­un­da, avail­able at: http://www.abhaber.com/haber.php?id=26752 (last access: 31 May 2010).

Turkey has been sup­port­ive of the EU’s enlarge­ment to the Balka­ns, and, there­fore, Croatia’s mem­ber­ship to the EU has been per­ceived as a pos­i­tive step towards uni­fy­ing Europe. How­ev­er, Croatia’s faster acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions have been dis­ap­point­ing for Turkey. As Croa­t­ia and Turkey start­ed the acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions at the same time, there had been hes­i­ta­tion and nego­ti­a­tions came to a halt fre­quent­ly in Turkey’s case. It has been argued that the main rea­sons for slow­ing down Turkey’s acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions and speed­ing up Croatia’s are: pop­u­la­tion, rel­a­tive­ly easy inte­gra­tion of Croa­t­ia in the EU, cul­tur­al and reli­gious val­ues, and iden­ti­ty.22S. İdiz: Hır­vatis­tan AB’de niçin Türkiye’nin önüne geçti?, Mil­liyet, avail­able at: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2007/06/02/yazar/idiz.html (last access: 31 May 2010).

European Neighbourhood Policy

Turkey has been atten­tive to Euro­pean Union’s poli­cies towards the Mediter­ranean and Black Sea regions. When the Mediter­ranean Union debates start­ed after Nico­las Sarkozy sug­gest­ed a sep­a­rate union for the Mediter­ranean coun­tries, Turkey per­ceived this as an alter­na­tive to its EU mem­ber­ship and opposed this idea. The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment, the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions and the pub­lic in gen­er­al crit­i­cised the Mediter­ranean Union. Sarkozy’s oppo­si­tion to Turk­ish mem­ber­ship in the EU and Sarkozy’s state­ments, such as “Turkey would instead form the back­bone of the new Mediter­ranean Union”, cre­at­ed dis­com­fort and dis­ap­point­ment in Turkey. Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Abdul­lah Gül stat­ed, “Turkey is a coun­try that has start­ed [acces­sion] nego­ti­a­tions with the Euro­pean Union. The nego­ti­a­tions start­ed on the basis of a [Euro­pean Union] deci­sion which was tak­en unan­i­mous­ly, includ­ing France.”33Rena­ta Goldiro­va: Turkey Slams Sarko’s “Mediter­ranean Union”, businessweek.com, 18 May 2007, avail­able at: http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/may2007/gb20070518_262522.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily (last access: 31 May 2010). How­ev­er, after France gave assur­ance that the Mediter­ranean Union is not an alter­na­tive for Turkey and would not ham­per Turkey’s acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions, Turkey, as a Mediter­ranean coun­try which does not want to be exclud­ed from the region­al coop­er­a­tion mech­a­nisms, decid­ed to join the Union for the Mediter­ranean (UfM). In the state­ment giv­en by the Prime Min­istry of Turkey it is clear­ly stat­ed that the UfM is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Barcelona Process and that “Turkey decid­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the Barcelona Process and the Union for the Mediter­ranean project, which has been estab­lished by the EU for ren­der­ing the Barcelona Process stronger and more effec­tive.”44Turkey assured, ready to join Mediter­ranean Union, 12 July 2008, avail­able at: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=147343 (last access: 31 May 2010). Although Turkey has accept­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the UfM, the crit­i­cism over this mech­a­nism con­tin­ues. The assur­ances giv­en by Sarkozy and the French gov­ern­ment are not per­ceived as total­ly con­vinc­ing;55Men­sur Akgün: Akd­eniz Birliği’ne katıl­masak ne olur?, Refer­ans Dai­ly, avail­able at: http://www.referansgazetesi.com/haber.aspx?HBR_KOD=99276&YZR_KOD=11 (last access 31 May 2010). how­ev­er, as a Mediter­ranean coun­try, Turkey feels it nec­es­sary to par­tic­i­pate in inter­na­tion­al mech­a­nisms such as the UfM.

Regard­ing the Black Sea region, Turkey wel­comed the EU’s efforts to estab­lish more coop­er­a­tive rela­tions with the Black Sea Eco­nom­ic Coop­er­a­tion (BSEC) as part of the Black Sea Syn­er­gy which was ini­ti­at­ed in 2008. It has been argued that stronger coop­er­a­tion between the EU and the BSEC could bring sta­ble rela­tions between EU and non-EU Black sea coun­tries, includ­ing Rus­sia and the Cau­ca­sus. How­ev­er, the EU’s ensu­ing steps estab­lish­ing the East­ern Part­ner­ship (EaP) have been crit­i­cised by Turkey because the part­ner­ship ini­tial­ly exclud­ed Turkey and Rus­sia. It has been the gen­er­al per­cep­tion that any pol­i­cy which excludes these two coun­tries is doomed to be unsuc­cess­ful. After nego­ti­a­tions between Turkey and the EU, the EU decid­ed to include Turkey as well as Rus­sia in some projects. How­ev­er, this attempt by the EU was not enough to change the Turk­ish atti­tude towards the EaP. Turkey still sup­ports the Black Sea Syn­er­gy and clos­er rela­tions between the EU and BSEC in the region. It has been argued that it is impor­tant to keep the rela­tions between the EU and Black Sea regions at an insti­tu­tion­al lev­el, which would not dis­turb any of the coun­tries’ inter­ests in the region, includ­ing Rus­sia. Turkey’s poli­cies towards the region aimed to keep the sta­tus quo which pre­vents the EU from cre­at­ing a sphere of influ­ence around its bor­ders which may clash with the inter­ests of Rus­sia and cre­ate dis­tur­bances in the region as a whole.

    Footnotes

  • 1AB Haber EU-Turkey News Net­work: İzlan­da AB Yol­un­da, avail­able at: http://www.abhaber.com/haber.php?id=26752 (last access: 31 May 2010).
  • 2S. İdiz: Hır­vatis­tan AB’de niçin Türkiye’nin önüne geçti?, Mil­liyet, avail­able at: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2007/06/02/yazar/idiz.html (last access: 31 May 2010).
  • 3Rena­ta Goldiro­va: Turkey Slams Sarko’s “Mediter­ranean Union”, businessweek.com, 18 May 2007, avail­able at: http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/may2007/gb20070518_262522.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily (last access: 31 May 2010).
  • 4Turkey assured, ready to join Mediter­ranean Union, 12 July 2008, avail­able at: http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=147343 (last access: 31 May 2010).
  • 5Men­sur Akgün: Akd­eniz Birliği’ne katıl­masak ne olur?, Refer­ans Dai­ly, avail­able at: http://www.referansgazetesi.com/haber.aspx?HBR_KOD=99276&YZR_KOD=11 (last access 31 May 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.