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Beyond Enlargement? European Skepticism, Turkish Cynicism, and the Uncertain Future of EU-Turkey Relations

Beyond Enlargement? European Skepticism, Turkish Cynicism, and the Uncertain Future of EU-Turkey Relations

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This policy brief examines the current attitudes toward Turkey joining the EU, both from within Turkey and from the EU.
This policy brief examines the current attitudes toward Turkey joining the EU, both from within Turkey and from the EU.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Feb 24, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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: The uncertainevolution of EU-Turkey relationshas seen a potentially criticaldevelopment in recent years: anew Turkish cynicism has beenadded to the more traditionalskepticism of European elitesand publics. The accessionprocess, already stalling becauseof the unsolved Cyprus issueand the French unilateral veto onseveral chapters of negotiations,also risks losing all its remaining steam because, as openlyadmitted by an ever largernumber of Turks themselves,Turkey no longer sees Europeanintegration as a destiny, but atbest as an option whose viabilityand value have to be both
Te uncertain evolution o EU-urkey relations has seen a potentially criticaldevelopment in recent years: a newurkish cynicism has been added tothe more traditional skepticism o European elites and publics. Te acces-sion process, already stalling becauseo the unsolved Cyprus issue and theFrench unilateral veto on several chap-ters o negotiations, also risks losing allits remaining steam because, as openly admitted by an ever larger number o urks themselves, urkey no longersees European integration as a destiny,but at best as an option whose viability and value have to both be veried.Te notion that is rapidly becomingdominant is that sustained internaldevelopment and the transormationo the international system in placesince the end o the Cold War have puturkey at the center o a wide area o the globe (including the Balkans, theCaucasus, Central Asia, the MiddleEast, and North Arica), which isincreasingly critical to larger interna-tional power balances, and o whichAnkara may aspire to lead. urkishForeign Minister Ahmet Davutogluhas coined a name or it: “Aro-Eurasia.” Out o hypocrisy, this notionseems to suggest that urkey’s newly 
Beyond Enlargement? EuropeanSkepticism, Turkish Cynicism, and theUncertain Future of EU-Turkey Relations*
by Emiliano Alessandri 
February 24, 2011
, DC
gained centrality makes the EU lessimportant to Ankara’s vision and lessrelevant to urkey’s uture.Te dice, however, are not cast  atleast not yet. Te position o theurkish government remains pro-EUmembership. urkish PresidentAbdullah Gül himsel has recently armed that even in the new circum-stances European integration remainsa strategic priority or Ankara. Inact, the prospect o a urkish about-ace seems to have been hinted atso ar also as a way to regain atten-tion and respect among Europeans.I one line o argument is that “newurkey,” an emerging power, does notneed (and could actually lose rom)integration into a politically dividedand economically weak EU, a slightly dierent one is that urkey can bethe solution to many o Europe’sproblems in several ways. Te latteris the provocative thesis advanced by urkish Prime Minister Recep ayyipErdogan himsel in a recent article inForeign Policy: once “Europe’s sick man,” urkey can now help re-energizea altering EU thanks to its dynamiceconomy and strategic assets. Sel-pride, wishul thinking, and need or
* A longer version of this article will be published in
, no 52, 2011.
recognition, all these elements come together in this newashionable stance.For now only hinted at, the prospect o an “independentistturn” o urkey has become increasingly realistic. In act,a lively debate has already opened on the subject, ocusingon the actual viability and long-term sustainability, as wellas the larger strategic implications o this development i itwere to take place. Broadly speaking, the elements o risk o this course stand out. Would the end o the enlarge-ment perspective lead at least in a rst phase to somethingresembling a real divorce between the EU and urkey, withthe consequent deterioration o urkish-European relationsmore broadly? Will urkey be able to continue to projectitsel as a rising power i integration into the larger Euro-pean market would stop? Will urkey’s regional appeal andnewly gained international inuence diminish as a result o its lost connection with the EU? And what about the impacto the end o urkey’s Europeanization on its still incom-plete process o democratization?Tese are all very legitimate concerns that would be very dangerous or both the EU and urkey disregard. It seemsequally mistaken, however, to embrace an alarmism thatselectively concentrates on the dangers ailing to recognizethe opportunities opened by a dierent course. Recentdevelopments in North Arica and the Middle East seem tocreate the possibility or urkey to urther extend its clout inthe region, not acting on the EU’s behal, but by mobilizingits own resources and using its own legacies to addressthe demand or change and inuence some o the ongoingtransitions. Moreover, urkey’s economic ties with the EU,including its customs union, could be preserved even in thecase o an interruption o the accession process, thus leavingintact many o the current bilateral relationships with EUcountries that have a clear economic rationale. Te issueo the uture o urkish democratization is undoubtedly aserious one. Tere is no small arrogance and parochialism,however, in the position o those in the EU who argue thati urkey loses the “EU anchor,” it will
ipso facto
orego itschance to ully democratize.Te irony o the most recent debate on urkey, at least asthe EU side o it is concerned, is precisely that overempha-sizing the dangers o a urkey-EU divorce does not seemto have directly reinorced the case or enlargement. Euro-pean supporters o urkey’s EU membership, increasingly orced on the deensive, have embraced the line o argu-ment that i EU leaders take no action in order to preventurkey rom “driing,” they will be le with both a weakerEU and a more problematic urkey. Te aw with thisargument is not that it makes no sense: rom a number o dierent angles it does. What weakens it almost to the pointo serving the opposite o its intended purpose is that themore urkey is presented by its very supporters as in themidst o an uncertain transition  that is, a country thatis not yet ully democratic, ully developed, “ully Euro-pean”  the easier it becomes or Europe’s many urkey-skeptics to urther dramatize the uncertainties and risks o urkey’s European integration. In sum, as long as urkey is presented as a actor o risk, it is doomed to remain aproblem or Europe.Te other requently-heard argument, that the value o the urkey-EU relationship is already on ull display today i one takes into account the important role that urkey plays as an energy hub and as a vector o inuence in theEU’s neighborhood, has a clear weakness as well. Inadver-tently, it indirectly supports the case embraced by those EUmember states, such as Sarkozy’s France, that have insistedor years that a privileged partnership between the EU andurkey could maximize existing strategic cooperation whileavoiding the costs and uncertainties o ull integrationthrough membership.
The notion that is rapidlybecoming dominant is thatsustained internal developmentand the transformation of theinternational system have putTurkey at the center of a wide areaof the globe, which Ankara mayaspire to lead.

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