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Turkey and the European Sclerosis

Turkey and the European Sclerosis

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This policy brief argues that the eurocrisis provides more justification for Turkey to join the EU.
This policy brief argues that the eurocrisis provides more justification for Turkey to join the EU.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Sep 05, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Relations betweenTurkey and the EuropeanUnion have been tested during Europe’s current economicwoes. The goal of becoming amember of the EU has becomeless of a priority for a Turkeyundergoing a period of economicgrowth and job creation.Europe’s attitude towards Turkey,both as a strategic partner andas a potential candidate for EUmembership, is unclear, if attimes incoherent. Given Europe’sposition and Turkey’s growthand newfound strategic regionalimportance, Turkey’s accessionto Union membership cannotremain in the limbo that it iscurrently in.
 Turkey and the European Sclerosis
by Soli Özel
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 200091 202 683 2650F 1 202 265 1662E ino@gmus.org
September 2012
Paper Series
TheEuroFuture Project
Europe’s Complacence
During a recent V interview, urkishPrime Minister Recep ayyip Erdoğan jokingly reerred to a conversation hehad with Russian President VladimirPutin. Following questions rom Putinregarding urkey’s desire to enterthe EU, Erdoğan replied, “Include usin the Shanghai Cooperation Orga-nization, then we might give up onthe EU.” A quip is a quip, but in thecontext o the EU’s declining appealor and inuence over urkey it isworth noting.Ocially urkey’s quest or EUmembership continues. Te Ministeror EU Aairs, Egemen Bağış, spendsa lot o time and energy to keep theame alive even i, at times, he cannotconceal his exasperation with hisEuropean counterparts. Te ministeralso has a hard time, like the rest o his cabinet colleagues, deendingurkey’s recent record on reedom o expression and reedom o the pressas well as many o the outlandish, i not outrageous, court decisions thatmake a mockery o the concept o the“rule o law.” Rare are the momentsthese days when the possibility o EUmembership provides the ramework or debate on any big political issue.Apart rom the die-hard integration-ists, who have a dicult time ndingan audience or the EU process,membership related issues are o little— i any — interest to the urkishpublic.Undoubtedly the deep political crisiso the EU, going beyond the euro-zone crisis, accounts or much o the sagging interest in becoming amember o a no-longer-so-attractiveclub. However, the disenchantmento the urkish public with the EUpreceded the severe economic crisisthat shook the Union to its core. Inurkey’s view, the EU’s handling o Cyprus, coupled with the Frenchdetermination to block the processat all costs, did not give the urkishcandidacy a air shake. As the urkisheconomy perormed beyond expec-tations and the country prosperedin new markets, the importance o the EU in urkey’s economic growthseemed to recede.On political matters, urkey movedon some o its most pressing issues,such as the Kurdish problem, mainly independently o the accessionprocess. In the meantime, with theEU’s complacence, urkish democracy began to suer setbacks, although theprocess o demilitarization/civilianiza-tion went orceully ahead. Further-more, the developments in the MiddleEast that culminated in the prooundtransormative turbulence o the ArabSpring greatly elevated urkey’s proleas a consequential actor in the region’sdevelopments. As geopolitical consid-
TheEuroFuture Project
The economic, political, and
strategic benets of further
integration are there for all to see.
erations moved to the ore and urkey had to rejuvenateits alliance relations ollowing the ailure o its high proleengagement with Iran, urkish-American relations becamecloser.Te EU’s crisis arguably stemmed rom the paradox o “economic integration/political ragmentation.”
I andwhen it manages to nally overcome the crisis, the natureo the Union and its structure will be dierent and possibly will reect a more exible arrangement. Despite enviableeconomic perormances and a rising geopolitical prole,the benets that urkey would draw rom continuingintegration with the EU are not exhausted. In particular,the developments o the past ve years have shown that theaspirational orce o EU membership, as well as the disci-plining ramework o the Copenhagen criteria (Hungary’scurrent politics notwithstanding) is essential or the deep-ening and urther institutionalization o urkish democ-racy.Similarly, i the current crisis leads to a more exiblearrangement in the Union’s structure, absorbing a country the size o urkey might be easier, giving an opportu-nity or EU members to reevaluate the urkish le. Teeconomic, political, and strategic benets o urtherintegration are there or all to see. In addition, EU-urkey relations could easily move orward i they too reected amore exible arrangement, even i the member states’ poli-tics do not inspire much condence or such arsighted andimaginative openings on the part o the Union. Ultimately,the record o European history still allows one to hope or abreakthrough.
The European Challenge
In a review essay he wrote on the 20
anniversary o the1989 revolutions in Europe, imothy Garton Ash madethese haunting observations: “Te year 1989 was one o thebest in European history…World history — using the termin a quasi-Hegelian sense — was made in the heart o theold continent... wenty years later, I am tempted to specu-late … that this may also have been the last occasion — atleast or a very long time — when world history was madein Europe. oday, world history is being made elsewhere…
1 Ziya Öniş and Mustafa Kutlay, “Ekonomik Bütünleşme/Siyasal ParçalanmışlıkParadoksu: Avro Krizi ve Avrupa Birliği’nin geleceği” (“The paradox of Economicintegration/Political fragmentation: The crisis of the euro and the future of the EU”),Uluslararası İlişkiler Dergisi, Bahar 2012
O Europe’s long, starring role on the world stage, uturegenerations may yet say: nothing became her like theleaving o it.”
Ash spoke to the widely shared perception that Europewas unlikely to be one o the master builders o a new world order. Te economic crisis o 2007-2008 made itall the more apparent that power shi rom West to Eastand to other emerging, dynamic parts o the world in theeconomic realm was a rmly established reality. In a worldwhere vibrant nations are increasingly more orthcomingin their demands to be heard in the discussion o globalissues, Europe appears weak, incoherent, devoid o energy and unwilling to engage collectively with the pressingissues that were on its own agenda, let alone the world.While at the turn o the century, some authors and analystscould speak o a new era when Europe would set the stan-dard and be the rame o reerence or the rest o the world,the realities o the crisis gave other, ar more unpleasantmessages. For one, the current integration model and theinexibility that went with it is unlikely to continue. A new model would thereore be necessary to construct. Te tenserelationship between national policy and international(union-wide) cooperation would have to be recalibrated.So would the balance between the core and the periphery as well as the newly emerged division between north andsouth.In short, since the time Ash made his observations, theEuropean Union o the world’s imagination appears to haveoundered. One can understand the ormer Brazilian Presi-dent Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva when he said, “the worlddoes not have the right to allow the EU to end” because“what Europeans achieved aer World War II is part o thedemocratic heritage o humanity.” Yet Europe either lackedor just couldn’t generate the energy or the imagination toown up to its own successes and achievements; let alone
2 Timothy Garton Ash, “1989,”
New York Review of Books
, v. 56. Number 17, November
5, 2009
TheEuroFuture Project
Perhaps far more ominously, the
crisis brought forth latent socialand political problems that eerilyreminded observers of a dark
era of European history some 80
years ago.
nd the political courage, will, and drive to adapt them tothe harsher realities o a new era.In act, the European sclerosis revealed problems thatwent even deeper than the economic crisis that proveddevastating or the countries in the periphery whether they were proigate or not prior to 2008. But perhaps ar moreominously, the crisis brought orth latent social and polit-ical problems that eerily reminded observers o a dark erao European history some 80 years ago: eroding democraticconsensus, inept or weak mainstream parties, class as wellas generational divisions that harden, the opportunistic riseo racist or ultranationalist parties, and the scapegoating o immigrant communities both or the economic and socialills that aect societies.Te nancial crisis created a ri within the Union thatwould be hard to x. It divided the Union between those inthe eurozone and those that are out. Given the importanceo the nancial and economic crises or the entire Union,the eurozone’s ills and the need to attend to them imme-diately took precedence. Devising proper policies withouthaving the political ramework within which to carry themout, started to afict the Union’s capacities. Parallel struc-tures have emerged.Since its inception, the euro has at times been viewed asinstrumental in the creation o a two-tier Europe, dividingthe EU into core and peripheral members. Within theeurozone, the crisis created a second, geographic category o divisions: on one hand, states such as Greece, Spain,Portugal, and Ireland, all situated at the periphery o Europe and suering rom economic ragility, were orcedto redene their relationship with the European establish-ment and their richer counterparts.On the other hand, the delays and wide disagreementsbetween partners made the adoption o a bailout plan atorturous and arguably not nalized aair. Te eurozone’slack o consensus and political will became apparent asmuch as the absence o proper mechanisms to deal with acrisis o this magnitude. As Paul Krugman suggested, thecurrent nancial crisis reected the EU’s complete inex-ibility. Krugman urther argues that the German recipeo austerity, as the only possible policy or a crisis o thismagnitude, has exacerbated both the economic and social-political malaise o the eurozone.I historical experience is a reliable guide, then we shouldexpect the ull repercussions o the 2007-2008 crisisto reveal themselves over an extended period o time.Already the revolt against a German-promoted policy o “austerity and austerity alone” has begun. Te Greek electorate appears radicalized. Te French electorate madeits discontent clear, and in the Netherlands, the promise o more austerity broke the coalition government. In Spain, agovernment recently elected with strong popular supportor its promise o austerity measures can no longer insist onpolicies that are responsible or 25 percent overall unem-ployment (50 percent among youth).For societies that are uncertain o their uture and eelthreatened by a world in which Europe is unlikely to be aprimary actor in its own right, such gures and realitiescould help undermine the liberal democratic order as well.Te resort to technocratic governments in Greece and Italy raises doubts about the ecacy o democratic governance.However, the resentment that the public eels againststrong economic actors over which they have no controlintensies.Tis latter dynamic in turn makes the democratic systemsand mainstream parties increasingly more vulnerable toattacks by radical right parties that are no riend o thepost-war liberal/social-democratic order dening Europe.Given that the Union is having diculty dealing with as vulnerable a country as Hungary, who’s current govern-ment has taken strides towards “electoral authoritarianism,”the project indeed seems to be under a lot o strains.

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