L o a d i n g
NEW MYTH VS FACT
MYTH: Turkey is too poor.

ASK YOUR QUESTION

 

  • Fact n°1 Turkey’s aim is to be an EU Member State. No other alternative would further strengthen Turkey’s progress and achievements.

     

    Privileged partnership status instead of EU membership is a notion suggested by some Christian Democratic parties within the EU. It has been mentioned for the first time in relation to Turkey’s membership. It is also on the agenda for Russia and Ukraine.  German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy are, among others, supporters of the privileged partnership status for Turkey. Before she came to power in Germany, Angela Merkel brought the notion up during her visit to Turkey in 2004. One should first of all say that it is not very clear what the notion of privileged partnership status also called special partnership or special status, comprises. However, privileged partnership status can be defined as a model of high level collaboration with the EU on topics in which Turkey is not directly included in the decision making mechanisms such as foreign affairs and security policy, energy, Customs Union and immigration. According to some analysts, it has benefits not only for EU but also for Turkey. As it is not a member state, Turkey will not have to transpose the acquis so that it can retain its sovereignty. Nonetheless, Turkey has already revised its economic policy and judicial system in accordance with the EU in the process of accession negotiations. Furthermore, thanks to the Customs Union we can say that Turkey already has a privileged partnership with EU, since Turkey is implementing the EU’s Common Commercial Policy (CCP) and Common Customs Tariff (CCT) in accordance with the Association Council’s Customs Union decision 1/95.

    Turkey can be a part of some EU agencies and programs regarding lifelong learning, science and research such as the European Environment Agency (EEA) and Horizon 2020 within the context of pre-accession strategy. As a NATO member state, Turkey can cooperate with the EU on Security and Defence Policy. While Turkey already has a privileged partnership status with EU, it lacks being directly a party in the decision making mechanisms. As it is well known a counrty can be part of the EU decision making mechanisms only when it becomes member state. Thus, EU membership will provide Turkey a representation in the EP, Council of Ministers, European Commission and other EU institutions proportionately to its population. Turkey will be effectively one of the leading countries in the EU such as Germany and France in decision making process with its 76 million strong population. Therefore, Turkey doesn’t need to be worried as regards to losing its sovereignty and adhering to EU rules. As a member state, Turkey will become one of the leading countries in the EU.

    Privileged partnership status are asserted by groups which are concerned about Turkey’s membership in regard to cultural, economic and political reasons as well as Turkey’s effective position in institutional mechanisms after becoming a member state. Turkish governments declared many times that Turkey will not accept any formula except membership. Turkey should hold on this position towards its membership and shouldn’t renounce the advantages of membership and the rights that it gained thanks to the Association Agreement since 1963. Moreover, one should not forget that in 2004 all EU Member States initiated accession negotiations with Turkey with the clear objective of membership. 

  • Fact n°2 The Customs Union is not an international agreement which has been signed between Turkey and the EU but a foreseen step which was mentioned in the 1963 Association Agreement (Ankara Agreement) between Turkey and the European Economic Community (EEC).

    The Customs Union represents the third and last step of economic integration process which was mentioned in the 1963 Association Agreement (also known as the Ankara Agreement) between Turkey and the EEC. Along the framework of the Ankara Agreement, another legal background for the Customs Union is the Additional Protocol which was signed by both parties in 1971. In other words, the framework of the Customs Union was drawn with the Ankara Agreement and the details were laid down with the Additional Protocol. The Customs Union encompasses industrial goods along with finished agricultural products. With the 1/95 Decision of the Turkey-EU Association Council on the 6th March 1995, the Customs Union was effectively implemented.

    The first step towards the achievement of a Customs Union between Turkey and the EEC – as mentioned in the Ankara Agreement – had as an objective of reducing the economic imbalances between both parties. Within that framework, the Community decided in 1971 that certain oil and textile goods imported from Turkey would be exempted from additional customs taxes, comparative taxes along with quantitative restrictions as foreseen for industrial goods. Comparatively, Turkey did not achieve any obligation within the framework of the reduction of economic imbalances with the EEC. The first step was achieved in 1971 – with a delay of five years from the initial agenda – and was legally implemented in 1973 with the Additional Protocol, thus opening the transitional period towards the creation of a Customs Union between both parties. The transitional period was a period where both parties vowed to implement their respective obligations towards the realisation of the Customs Union. In that period, Turkey implemented a legislation that annulled progressively customs taxation on industrial products it was importing from the EEC in a 12-22 year period. Furthermore, tariffs which it imposed upon third countries were to be linked to the EEC’s Common Customs Tariff (CCT). Upon the end of this period, with the 1/95 Association Council decision, rules regarding the creation of the Customs Union, and thus in relation to industrial goods, were declared.

    As one can see, the Customs Union is not an agreement which has been signed between Turkey and the EU but constituted an important step of the association process. Within that framework, the Customs Union which was created under the Association Council Decision 1/95 and a legitimate consequence of the Ankara Agreement, it is a decision which was taken by the institutions which were created under the Agreement. Under the framework of the Ankara Agreement and the Additional Protocol,  both parties have made some commitments  with the 1/95 Decision signed between Turkey and the EEC. Undoubtedly, the Ankara Agreement which constitutes the main legal framework for this relationship is a part of the EU Acquis.

     

  • Fact n°3 The hypothetical decision to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU would be taken for political gain by the Conservative Party. The scenario of the UK leaving the EU would have incommensurable consequences for the UK’s national interests. On the other side, apart from all of the economic and security advantages that EU membership would provide Turkey, and that Turkey’s EU process is different from the British context, the scope of the benefits in terms of democratisation and reform are tremendous.

    On the 23rd January 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a speech at his Conservative Party headquarters where he vowed that, in the event of his party winning general elections in 2015, he would propose to review the UK’s rules of participation in the EU. In the event of a refusal, he would then propose a referendum on the UK’s EU membership in late 2017. His speech had a broad impact and led to discussions on the possibility of the UK leaving the EU. Such discussion, within the context of Turkey-EU relations, have strengthened the hand of those that see the EU with scepticism and has further led some to make comments in which envisaged the perspective that Turkey could join alternative organisations.

    First of all, it is of utmost importance to remind that the UK has always been a different member state in the EU since its accession. Indeed, the UK’s EU membership had been vetoed twice by French President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s and until it joined in 1973, the country remained outside of the European integration process. The UK has always preferred a looser and intergovernmental EU structure and is reluctant to further transfer competences from Westminster to Brussels. As it is well known, the UK has chosen to use its right to opt-out from common policies of the EU such as the Schengen Treaty or the single currency (Euro). Furthermore, as the debt crisis has deepened in the Eurozone, the belief that the crisis could be tackled with further integration and common EU policies has increased Euroscepticism in UK and had led to more calls for the EU to reform itself. In this context, one should keep in mind that in the shadow of Prime Minister Cameron’s speech where he vowed to hold a referendum on EU membership is the Conservative Party’s parliamentary pressures along with his aim to further gain support at the domestic level. In fact, Cameron is not in favour of the UK leaving the EU but rather that it continues to hold an important role in a reformed EU. As for the EU's position on this particular issue, it has been expressed as “the competent authority in giving a decision as regards the question of the UK’s presence within the EU is the British government and people”.

    One should keep in mind that the probability of the UK going to a referendum on its membership of the EU shall be influenced also by many factors that are bound to happen in the upcoming years. The probability of the UK going to a referendum on such an issue shall be linked to negotiations on a new treaty in the objective of further reforming the EU and the rejection of the UK’s proposal to re-negotiate its terms as a Member State and more importantly, to the hypothetical victory of the Conservative Party in the upcoming general elections. Furthermore, it is believed that in the event of a positive result in the referendum on the UK’s presence in the EU, UK national interests would suffer significant damage. Indeed, were the UK to leave the EU, it would lose its current access to the Single Market and would be constrained to sign a free trade agreement with the EU. In the event of the UK leaving the EU and preferring – as Norway – to remain part of the European Economic Area (EEA), the UK’s access to the Single Market would be safeguarded although it would be constrained to implement much of the EU acquis. In contrast, as it has ceased to be a member of the EU, it would lose its current say in many policies and not be part of the EU decision making mechanisms in which its national interests are particularly concerned.

    The UK’s hypothetical referendum has also lead to some discussions in Turkey. It is important to underline that the EU membership process has a different meaning for Turkey in contrast with the UK. Indeed, the objective to be a member state has been Turkey’s strategy and state policy since 1950s. Despite of the blockages that have happened in accession talks lately, it is important to acknowledge that both Turkey and EU have a relationship with a strong basis. Furthermore, despite of the political and economic crisis in which the EU is currently faced with, the perspective of EU membership remains for Turkey a priority and a transformative tool in further strengthening reforms as regards its democratisation, fundamental rights, the principle of the rule of law, etc. Indeed, through the compliance with the Community acquis in areas as diverse as agriculture, food safety, security and defence, Turkey shall thus embrace highest standards at a global level. Turkey’s accession to a bloc of 28 Member States with more than 500 million inhabitants and which has been since its foundations a project of peace and stability would further strengthen its own security and contribute for it to be a more effective global actor. In addition, Turkey has a Customs Union with the EU and performs almost half of its trade with the EU. The EU is Turkey’s single most important trade partner and constitutes about 75% of all foreign direct investments (FDI) towards Turkey. As such, one can say that the EU has a significant influence upon the Turkish economy.

    As one may see, Turkey’s EU accession process should not be compared to the situation of other Member States but according to the benefits and interests of our country. 

  • Fact n°4 The EU takes measures and makes arrangements to strengthen the economic and financial structure of the Member States. Acting with unity and solidarity will prevent the EU from disintegration.

    In the aftermath of the global economic downturn, the Eurozone is still dealing with economic and financial problems. Indeed, Member States which were affected significantly by the crisis are facing economic problems such as decrease in competitive capacity, increase in unemployment, lower economic growth and recession. In order to stimulate their economy and to find long lasting solutions to banks faced with structural problems, Member States – first and foremost the Eurozone – have vowed to increase their public expenditure, leading to further public deficit and significant increase in their public debt stocks. States which were not able to control their spending and conduct necessary structural reforms, such as Greece, went through debt crises.  

    The EU debt crisis revealed the importance of governance and the necessity of coordination in that respect across the EU. Therefore, a wide range of governance precautions were taken against the crisis. In this regard, many arrangements were implemented to strengthen the Stability and Growth Pact as well as the Economic and Monetary Union and regularly audit the financial and economic situations of the Member States. These precautions aim for the early diagnosis of economic imbalances. Thus, a series of legislative arrangements were accepted:

    ·         Fiscal policy to strengthen the Stability and Growth Pact and Six Pack for wide surveillance of the macroeconomic imbalances in the EU.

    ·         Two Pack for the control and observation of Eurozone countries’ capital budget in addition to scrutiny of the economic policies of Member States struggling with financial problems.

    ·         The implementation of the Treaty on StabilityCoordination and Governance (TSCG) in the Economic and Monetary Union in order to strengthen financial discipline in the Member States regarding budget balance. The agreement comprises automatic sanctions and budget balance rule for strict surveillance. According to the rule, annual fiscal deficit should not surpass 5% of nominal GDP.

    ·         The implementation of the Euro Plus Pact to strengthen competition capacity and employment, ensure sustainability in public finance and improve financial stability.

    ·         The European Semester which calls upon the Member States to coordinate their budget and financial policies in accordance with the targets and rules accepted by the EU. In regard of the European Semester, structural reforms in line with Europe 2020 Strategy and policy coordination in accordance with the Stability and Growth Pact to prevent excessive macro-economic imbalances are provided.

    ·         Europe 2020 Strategy produces methods in an attempt to make the EU overcome economic and financial crises and sustain growth as well as employment. This is the strategy which is at the origin of the European Semester and Euro Plus Pact.

    Besides, two relief funds were established to support Member States facing financial problems.

    The EU always acts with the principle of unity and solidarity. Furthermore, declarations emanating from leading Member States and EU Institutions vis-a-vis countries dealing with financial problems, such as Greece, might be seen as an indicator of this solidarity. As one may see, the EU is trying to act in a spirit of cooperation instead of further splintering whilst being faced by major economic crises. 

  • Fact n°5 Once a country becomes an EU Member State, it does not hold a chance not to be included in certain policies of the EU. However, under certain exceptional circumstances, it may opt-out from some decisions or policies.

    In order to be an EU Member State, the Candidate State must transpose the Acquis into its internal law and thus implement it into their own legislation. The Acquis comprises the EU’s founding agreements, EU law, declarations, decisions, international agreements and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. According to the Copenhagen Criteria which is setting the ground for candidate states willing to join the EU, “membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union”. Therefore, it is unlikely for a Member State not to join a policy whilst joining another. Meanwhile, it may be possible indeed to opt-out of certain decisions and policies. As means of example of such situations, one may refer to Denmark’s decision to separate its external security and foreign policy from EU policy; to the UK and Ireland’s decision to remain outside of the Schengen Area, to the UK, Sweden and Denmark’s decision to remain outside of the Eurozone and furthermore, the decision of the UK, Poland and Ireland to remain outside of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The ‘opt-out’ option, which equates to remaining excluded from certain policies, is not part of the founding agreements. Nevertheless, it cannot be possible to include all Member States in negotiations depending on consensus on new agreements and policies.

    The more countries join the EU and the more developments in the integration process there are, the harder consensus can be reached so that the opt-out option were shaped to prevent obstacles originated from one state or two in regard to the further development of the EU. The opt-out option was interpreted as a uniform integration model for the EU thus giving way to a more flexible or ‘a-la-carte’ integration model. Nevertheless, the transposition of the Acquis is the ground rule. With the latest enlargements in 2004 and 2007, some States could not be able to join all policies as they became Member States. The Accession Treaty foresees a participation process for certain EU policies such as the Schengen Area and structural funds. In this regard, it is necessary to explain the ‘enhanced cooperation’ procedure which was shaped in the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty. Enhanced cooperation allows those Member States that wish to continue to work more closely together to do so, while respecting the legal framework of the Union.

    Thus, The Member States concerned will be able to move forward at different speeds than others. However, enhanced cooperation does not allow extension of the powers as laid down by the Treaties, nor may it be applied to areas that remain within the exclusive competence of the Union such as the Customs Union. Moreover, it may be undertaken only as a last resort, when such cooperation cannot be attained within a reasonable period by the Union as a whole. Enhanced cooperation must promote the objectives, protect the interests and reinforce the integration process of the Union. The general arrangements for enhanced cooperation are laid down by Title IV in the Treaty on European Union. In principle, at least nine states must be involved in enhanced cooperation; still, it remains open to any State that wishes to participate so that it may not constitute discrimination between the participants and other Member States. Any acts that are adopted within the framework of such cooperation do not constitute a part of the Acquis; they only bind the participating Member States. Despite all the facilitating implementation and mechanism, the integration logic which means participation of all Member States in all EU policies and transposition of the Acquis within membership or in participation process laid by the Accession Treaty are essential in accordance with the legal and institutional structure of the EU.

  • Fact n°6 The EU is the only multidimensional integration project that is a success story in the world. The development of bilateral relations with other countries cannot be an alternative to Turkey’s EU perspective but a complement.

    Turkey-EU relations have always been with ups and downs. Proposals of strengthening bilateral ties with other countries is reviving at times, especially when Turkey’s EU membership process – which has been coined as being a “long and tortuous path” – is experiencing difficulties. Indeed, in the event of EU membership being not materialised, some have proposed for Turkey to strengthen its cooperation with certain regions of the world. Some have, as means of example, proposed for Turkey to be “the leading country of the Muslim world”, or that Turkey should strengthen its cooperation with Turkic countries of Central Asia, or moreover that there should be joint action with countries such as Russia, the Ukraine and the Caucasus countries. Furthermore, some have voiced their support for Turkey’s membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, among other ideas.

    Furthermore, one should not forget that the alternative of a certain model may have common features with another model. In nowadays’ world, international relations is more and more experiencing the creation of organisations based on cooperation between sovereign states on political and/or economic basis instead of a further polarised world. However, it is of utmost importance to keep in mind that the strengthening of cooperation between sovereign states or membership into international organisations are very different phenomena from being a full member of an integration process such as that of the EU. An alternative to EU membership could only be, perhaps, a likewise structure with similar principals and an objective of integration. Nonetheless, in Turkey’s neighbourhood, there isn’t an integrative action similar to that of the EU which could bring about comparative economic and political benefits. Indeed, at the current moment, one may stress that the EU is the only successful organisation based on peaceful cooperation between its Member States with an aim of ever greater integration. With time, along with economic bases, political and social dimensions have also been added to the EU’s structure. Thanks to the experience of economic and political crises it has gone through before, the EU is more and more a strong global actor with growing potential. As such, one may say that Turkey does not have a suitable alternative to its EU membership perspective. Although many have voiced their frustration in the slowness of the negotiation process, one shouldn’t not forget that the EU has had an undeniable role in deepening EU norms and principles within Turkey and has helped its democratisation along with greater political and economic stability. Moreover, when one keeps in mind the ongoing economic and financial crisis that the world experiences, the EU still remains Turkey’s most important economic partner in that respect.

    Furthermore, Turkey is a member state of NATO, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, D8, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation, OECD and many other regional and international organisations. As such, proposals of alternatives to Turkey’s EU membership should be rather seen as complementary relationships in strengthening notably political and economic cooperation, but not in a perspective of replacing altogether EU membership. In other words, our relations with the EU are not an obstacle to Turkey’s quest for stronger relations and cooperation with other organisations and partners. Indeed, whilst Turkey follows with endurance and hard work its EU membership process, one should see further cooperation with other countries and organisations as a testimony to Turkey’s multifaceted foreign policy.

    Although Turkey is sometimes experiencing the EU’s negative approaches vis-a-vis its EU negotiation process, it is of utmost importance for her to continue with further determination its full membership objective. 

  • Fact n°7 The EU has no exclusive authority to determine Member State’s foreign policy. What the EU foresees in Common Security and Defence Policy which is in the territory of the fundamental rights of sovereignty is not supranational consolidation but cooperation between the Member States.

    One of the myths about the EU is that all the foreign policy of member states will be decided in Brussels. However, the EU has no exclusive authority in foreign policy. Decisions are taken unanimously and both Council of Ministers and European Council which reflect the Member States’ national interests have significant influence in decision process. That the Member States already pursue different foreign policies can be alleged as evidence to this situation.
     

    In the establishment process of EU, ‘common foreign policy’ term was not included in founding agreements and the integration was continued in economic manners. This process which is called ‘European Political Collaboration’ was changed by the developments within the beginning of 90s, especially with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and also with the regime shifts in Central and Eastern European countries. For this reason, with Maastricht Treaty which is entered into force on November 1st 1993 was constituted Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and accepted as second of EU’s three fundamental pillars. Second pillar means unanimity of votes and the veto right to Member States. According to agreement, common external and security policy is not under the authority of EU. Subjects regarding this area belong to national sovereignty territory so that they were arranged on intergovernmental cooperation level not on supranational level.
     

    CFSP was modified by Lisbon Treaty which was entered into force on December 1st 2009 to make EU prominent international actor through pursuing more consistent policies and speaking with a single voice. The position called High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy which handles the vice presidency of the Commission in the same time and also the institution called European External Action Service to assist to high representative  were  established by Lisbon Treaty. High representative also chairs to Foreign Affairs Council which gathers all Member States’ foreign affairs ministers. Lisbon Treaty abolished the three-pillar structure of the EU but did not any substantial change in decision process of CFSP; decisions are still taken unanimously. Besides, with the help of Lisbon Treaty, the EU gained legal entity so that it gained new rights on international level. The EU can make international agreements and be a party to international contracts also become a member of international organizations.
     

    From economic integration to political integration process which EU has been through and also is trying to develop a common foreign affairs policy in the same time is still in incubation process. Nevertheless, especially in last years the Member States pursued different policies to international developments. This reveals that to determine a common foreign policy seems difficult for the union to come true as hoped. The Member States commit different policies from each other on both the military intervention to Iraq in 2003 and the international recognition of Kosovo. On the other hand, it must be born in mind that consensus was achieved to normalize the relations between Belgrade and Pristina after Lisbon Treaty. The EU High Representative carrying out the negotiations with Iran in the name of E3+3 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, England and the US) so that it can be seen as an example to the consensus on the same policy in the same topic by the union. After the intense negotiations in Geneva in November 24th 2013, EU achieved the consensus on long term common action plan which identified an approach to broad resolution. As a first step it was decided that both sides would take bilateral precautions for six months.
     

    When these and the other examples are considered, it is understood that the EU has no right to determine the foreign policies of the Member States. In other words, the EU’s political identity on this course is in the phase of evolution. For this reason, it will not be possible for EU to determine Turkish foreign policy within the full membership. The ideal situation in the union is consultation between the countries and the union while adopting foreign policy and of course regards to protect the union’s common interests and make the EU more effective internationally.

  • Fact n°8 Turkey's accession to the EU will allow the country to be put on an equal footing with all the European countries that have the same standards and thus ensure economic, social and political stability, which would greatly reduce the probability of such a migration flow. Moreover, following the signature of the Readmission Agreement in 2013 and in the context of the ongoing negotiations of the Visa Liberalisation Dialogue, Turkey is actively implementing criteria in order to tackle illegal migration by strengthening its cooperation on border security with its EU counterparts, thus significantly reducing the probability of further illegal migration to EU countries.

    Between 1970 and 1980, Turkey was known as a country of emigration towards European countries. Indeed, a large number of Turkish nationals migrated with the hope of better working conditions. Many of these workers settled down and even brought their families to join them. At that time the Turkish economy was in a less developed state with a high agricultural sector.

    It should be noted that this structure has been effectively reversed. Nowadays, Turkey has a higher growth rate than many European countries. Turkish growth rate reached 4.1 % in 2014, while this same rate was virtually nil for France (0.3%) and Turkey is chairing the G20 presidency in 2014. Furthermore, it benefits from a qualified, young, flexible and also cost effective labour force.

    Thanks to the economic performances of Turkey in recent years, we have seen inversion of the historic migratory trend in Europe.  Many Europeans, having no cultural ties with Turkey, are settling in the country looking for work or creating their company.

    Moreover, 50 years after the first wave of Turkish immigration in Europe, the second and third Turkish generation, have made  the inverse journey than their parents and grandparents. Indeed, since a few years we have witnessed a return trend of people having followed higher education in the European universities. According to the Turkish authorities, between 2009 and 2011 approximately 100,000 migrants left Germany for Turkey. 

    "Reverse brain drain" is the program introduced by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), inciting the Turkish scientists, in particular, in the United States to come back. According to TÜBİTAK, in 2013, 172 researchers applied for returning in  Turkey within the scope of scholarship programs.

    Turkey and the European Union signed on Monday, December 16th 2013 an agreement in Ankara which authorizes the EU member states to send back illegal immigrants entered on the European territory via Turkey. In return, the EU  should withdraw the visa system currently applied within 3 years within the framework of the ongoing Visa Liberalization Dialogue between both parties.

    Furthermore, in that context, Turkey is to strengthen significantly its cooperation with its neighbours (especially EU Member States Greece and Bulgaria) as regards border security and find common solutions in tackling illegal migration. It is important to note that Block 2 of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap explicitly calls upon Turkey to implement criteria in that particular domain. An example of greater cooperation in that domain is between Turkish border officials and Frontex agency.

    We can conclude that Turkey's accession to EU does not mean that there will be an important migration flow towards EU Member States.

  • Fact n°9 It is true that Turkey’s EU membership will have various effects upon its relations with its neighbourhood. However, it is wrong to assume that as a consequence of the membership, Turkey will not be able to follow any foreign policy decisions that take its own interests into consideration.

    First, we have to remind that two of the eight neighbouring countries of Turkey (Greece and Bulgaria) are already EU Member States. One of them (Greece) has the most difficult relationship with Turkey. Most analysts agree that Turkey’s accession to the EU will have a positive impact upon its relations with Greece. In consequence of the membership, many problems between Turkey and Greece will be solved. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that before Turkey’s accession to the EU, the Cyprus issue would have been solved, strengthening considerably peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and contributing positively to Greek-Turkish relations.  Thus, Turkey will be able to diversify its foreign policy and have an increasingly multifaceted diplomacy. As regards the minority issue between Turkey and Bulgaria,  Bulgarians of Turkish origin are already EU citizens and share the same benefits that are provided to all other EU citizens. There aren’t real impending issues between Turkey and Bulgaria.  

    Furthermore, the economically and the technically more developed Turkey can be relatively more active in its foreign policy towards its neighbours and other third countries. Because investments are very important tools of improving relations in its neighbourhood for Turkey, it can actualise many other projects. Additionally, it ought to be said that the EU is shaping its members’ foreign policies neither with their neighbours nor with any other third countries. Cooperation among Member States is important in order to issue new foreign policy decisions. The role of the European External Action Service (EEAS) currently headed by Vice President of the Commission and High Representative Federica Mogherini ought to be underlined in that respect. Indeed, it coordinates all Member States’ foreign policies, but it does not replace them. Taking the foreign policy decisions into account, the Council of Ministers and the European Council are the policy making institutions but the decisions are taken in unanimity. In certain issues, as current history shows it, Member States can follow different positions as regards their respective foreign policies. As means of an example, the war in Iraq in 2003 has shown two diverging groups: one, composed chiefly of the UK, Spain and Italy which backed the US-led military intervention and the second, composed chiefly of France and Germany which opposed it. Moreover, more recently, the independence of the Republic of Kosovo has also seen diverging paths from one Member State to another. Indeed, whilst some key Member States have recognised the new state, others (such as Spain) have failed to recognise it and establish full diplomatic relations.

    Furthermore, many neighbouring and non-European countries have been in cooperation and in a relation with the EU. The EU and Iraq are parties to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement as are also Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Georgia, one of the key partners of EU in the Caucasus region, also signed an Association Agreement with the EU. Azerbaijan on the other hand, is an actor within the scope of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Syria is a part of the Union for the Mediterranean and ENP. Armenia is also a part of ENP and of the Eastern Partnership.

    We can say that the EU is not in a position to determine per se foreign policy orientations of its fellow Member States. Nonetheless, EU institutions, and chiefly the EEAS, have more and more of a coordinating role, especially in international fora such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) or the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Moreover, there are certain foreign policy principles to which all Member States adhere to such as the defence of peace and stability abroad and the strengthening of human rights. Furthermore, multilateralism is a key component of European diplomacy. As such, EU foreign policy has a complementary role to national foreign policies. It is obvious that “Turkey will not have a right to pursue its own foreign policy” is not a defendable argument. Moreover, as mentioned above membership will bring with it lots of positive contribution to improve Turkey’s neighbourhood policy. 

  • Fact n°10 Republic of Turkey was set up in 1923 as a secular state. Although Islam was no longer the official religion of the country, the majority of the Turkish population is Muslim. Furthermore, one should keep in mind that whilst the majority of EU countries are composed of Christian population, they are secular countries and EU values are based upon non-discrimination and the separation of religion and state.

    Religion does not constitute a major issue in the European Union. The EU has already set up its position about religions in Europe. The respect of fundamental, political, cultural and religious freedoms is a prerequisite for the membership of the EU. Since the 1990s the influence and the role of religion in the EU is regularly source of debate. The EU does not interfere in the relationship between its Member States and religions. It is precisely referred to in declaration 11 of the Treaty of Amsterdam. Furthermore, Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

     

    The integration to the EU is not related to the religion of a country. Indeed, the EU is not a “unified Christian club”. There is a plurality of beliefs on the continent. The northern part of the EU is predominantly Protestant, the southern part predominantly Catholic and the Eastern part predominantly Orthodox. Moreover, the religiosity of Europeans varies considerably depending on the Member States. For example, atheism is well established in the Czech Republic and France, while it is insignificant in Romania and Malta. Although the EU is composed of predominantly Christian countries, four of seven candidate countries are predominantly Muslim (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Turkey). Moreover, several Member States have a long history with Islam, a long time ago (such as Spain) or more recently (such as Bulgaria). Finally, several European Member States host strong Muslim communities today, such as Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands.

     

    The fall of the Berlin Wall marks the beginning of a new perspective of enlargement for the EU, with the challenge of the European identity between Western and Eastern parts of Europe. Dialogue with religions, churches and communities of faith was founded by the then President of the European Commission Jacques Delors. The Dialogue is a communication tool allowing a regular exchange between the Commission and the different religions. Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU provides for an open, transparent and regular dialogue.

     

    Religious difference is one of the main arguments for the opponents of the integration of Turkey in the EU. But the EU is a secular organisation, so religion plays a small role. For example, there have been several debates about the Christian heritage of the EU, but no European treaty mentions this explicitly. However, integration of Turkey and the difference of religion are politically exploited by several parties in Europe. For example, in 2005, a referendum was held in France regarding the approval of the bill on the European Constitutional Treaty. Many debates took place, and the Turkish issue has also been debating in the same time (totally independent from the Treaty). Many French politicians emphasised the cultural and religious difference of Turkey as an impediment. Nowadays, many European politicians claim that they are opposed to the integration of Turkey for cultural and religious reasons. It is important to stress that EU institutions have indicated multiple times that religion is irrelevant in the negotiations process of any candidate country. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Vatican – which constitutes with the Pope the centre of the Catholic world - is favourable to the integration of Turkey in the EU. 

  • Fact n°11 Although the EU has not observed as of yet a formal request to withdraw from any Member State, the Lisbon Treaty guarantees through Article 50 the possibility for any Member State to withdraw from the Union.

    The Treaty of Lisbon (Treaty on the European Union) clearly states within the framework of its Article 50 that any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. According to the Lisbon Treaty the determining factor is the Member State’s own will. In other words, a Member State’s unilateral declaration of intention is enough to withdraw. Furthermore, it thus can be seen that Member States still do retain their sovereign to retreat if that is their wish. The legal implications of the withdrawal are explained in the 2nd clause of Article 50. It stipulates that the legal effects of withdrawal are needed to be settled by an agreement between the EU and the relevant state. In the near future, one can consider the possibility of such an example in the context of the so-called Brexit referendum in United Kingdom. Prime Minister David Cameron had promised that before the end of 2017, British citizens would be directly consulted as regards the participation of the United Kingdom within the EU. Citizens will thus be expected to answer the following question: Should the United Kingdom remain as a Member States of the European Union? The Referendum results will thus determine whether the UK would remain part of the EU or choose to leave the Union. Therefore, Member States do retain their sovereign right to quit the Union.  As for Turkey, once it becomes a full member state of the EU, it will enjoy the very same rights and obligations as any other member state. Within that framework and that of EU law, it will thus have the possibility at any moment to propose its withdrawal, if that were its sovereign wish. It is of utmost importance to note that Turkey has shown tremendous determination in its path towards membership. Furthermore, whilst some discuss about the possibilities of a Member State to withdraw from the Union, it is also worth stressing that Turkey’s participation in the EU would render it even more powerful and would consolidate its influence in the Middle East and beyond. 

  • Fact n°12 The Customs Union between Turkey and the EU is based on the Association Agreement of 1963 and entered into force at the end of 1995 with the Decision No 1/95 of the Turkey–EU Association Council. Although the customs union proved to benefit both sides and strengthened the bonds between Turkey and the EU, some problems in its functioning need to be considered and resolved such as the lack of effective dispute-resolution mechanisms and problems emanating from the fact that Turkey is not part of the decision-making mechanisms of the EU. In order to strengthen bilateral commercial ties and revise the arrangement whereby Turkey only follows the EU’s trade policies without being able to influence them, Ankara should take place in the decision-making mechanism. The other need for modernization of the customs union is related to the fact that the customs union, which is 20 years old, need to be updated in line with the developments of global and regional trade. This modernisation would involve expansion of the customs union, which currently covers only industrial goods, to include agricultural goods, services sectors etc. In order to further overcome the present problems of the Customs Union, the parties have agreed on the revision of the Customs Union in 2015.

    The Customs Union concluded in 1996 is an important expression of the Turkey-EU partnership, the main underlying objective of which is to integrate  Turkey to the EU. At the beginning, the Customs Union has been beneficial for the Turkish economy which has radically increased its trade with the EU, modernised its infrastructures and its legislation as well as attracting more and more foreign investments. However, in the last few years the vast number of complaints raised by the Turkish business community regarding the functioning of the Customs Union with the EU has induced debates over the need of a revision of the Customs Union. The European Commission therefore asked the World Bank to carry out a study to analyse the situation. The report is entitled "Evaluation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union"[1]. In its report, the World Bank concluded that the Customs Union within its current framework cannot satisfy the requirements of both parties. One of the key issues identified in this report is that because of irreversible changes that have occurred the global economy along with an EU that counts 28 Member States should incite the parties the revise the agreement.

    In order to overcome these problems and tackle structural impediments, Turkey should take its rightful place within the framework of the decision-making mechanism and in the EU’s negotiation processes of trade agreements with third countries (i.e. ongoing negotiations between the EU and US on TTIP). Over the past ten years, the EU has sought

    [1] http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/eca/turkey/tr-eu-customs-union-tr.pdf

    to strengthen its economic and trade relations with third countries negotiating free trade agreements, Turkey which is not part of the negotiations on free trade pursued by the EU with third countries, is adversely affected by these free trade agreements. Indeed, Turkish companies do not have reciprocity to access these markets which, thanks to the European FTAs can freely export to Turkey. This asymmetry may therefore have the effect of distorting trade for Turkey.

    Although this agreement allows the free movement of goods of the Customs Union, the application of quotas to Turkish trucks is an impediment to full implementation of Customs Union. In fact, the transport quotas constituted a non-tariff barrier to the transportation of exported products. The transit quotas therefore increases the costs of exported products by Turkey and is preventing the competitiveness of Turkish goods to the EU market.

    It is important to note that Turkish hauliers, considered to be service providers are subject to visa restrictions. Indeed, they are subject to the same visa requirements than tourists, representing a serious obstacle to the development of Turkey’s international road transportation sector.

    In order to overcome the existing problems related to the functioning of the Customs Union and to expand the scope of the Customs Union, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström and Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci announced on 12 May 2015 their decision to revise the framework of the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU that was established 20 years ago. The project is to expand the scope of the agreement, primarily focusing on agricultural and industrial products to public procurement, services and investments.

    In the upcoming period, the revision of the Customs Union will deepen the economic and trade integration between Turkey and the EU.

     

  • Fact n°13 Turkey's road transport sector is exposed to transit quotas in several EU countries. This problem prevents the proper functioning of the Customs Union.

    The relationship between Turkey and the EU dates back to 1963, when the Ankara Agreement was signed between the parties. For the purpose of implementing this Agreement, the Additional Protocol including the regulations on Customs Union was signed in 1970 and entered into force on 1 January 1996 by Decision 1/95 of the Association Council. With this agreement, important developments have taken place in Turkey-EU relations and the two parties have created strong economic bonds.

     

    When one thoroughly examines the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU, one can notice that there are still ongoing problems which hinder the free movement of goods.

     

    While a significant part of Turkish exports to EU countries are performed by road, current policy of visa requirements for Turkish transporters and transit quotas lead to a limitation in the amount of goods transported to the EU from Turkey. Furthermore, transport quotas contribute to an increase the price of goods beyond the market equilibrium price, which decreases the demand for the goods which belong to the EU customs territory and thus, limit the amount of goods that may be exported, rendering in a decrease in competitiveness .

    As Article 5 of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT, former name of WTO) puts it, the liberalisation of the goods which transit  between World Trade Organisation (WTO) members prevents the introduction of restrictions against each other. Since the EU and its Member States as well as Turkey are members of WTO, it goes without saying that restrictions introduced to transit between these countries contravene Article 5 of GATT/WTO. Indeed, according to Enrico Grillo Pasquarelli, Director in charge of transport at DG MOVE, “there could not be free movement of goods without a well-functioning transport system[1]”. Thus, one can add that the continued application of transit quotas upon Turkish hauliers problematic violates international agreements.

     

    Furthermore, it is worth mentioning Articles 23 and 41 of the Additional Protocol. Indeed, these articles which refer to the "standstill" clause  explicitly prohibit the introduction of any new measures which would make Turkish nationals’ position with respect to the right of establishment or freedom to provide services subject to stricter conditions than those applied at the time the Protocol entered into force in relation to the Member State concerned. Until 2007, Turkish hauliers could cross the Bulgarian border freely, however since Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, transit quota restrictions and transit costs are applied to Turkish hauliers, thus constituting a clear violation of  the "standstill" clause. 

     

    In order to further analyse this issue, the European Commission asked the World Bank to carry out a study. The World Bank published a study regarding the implementation of the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU in the spring of 2014. This detailed report shows that, in its current form, the Customs Union cannot satisfy the requirements of the parties and, above all, those of Turkey. One of the key issues identified in this report is that irreversible changes having occurred in the global economy and the enlargement of the EU to new Member States in Eastern Europe incite to a revision of the agreement. Furthermore, in a report entitled “Study on the economic impact of an agreement between the EU and the Republic of Turkey” prepared for the Commission, it is explained that the trade volume between Member States and Turkey would increase by a staggering 3.5 billion euros a year if transport quotas imposed on Turkish hauliers were completely lifted, that is if full liberalisation was materialised effectively.

     

    In order to overcome the existing problems related to the functioning of the Customs Union and to expand the scope of the Customs Union, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström and Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci announced on 12 May 2015 their decision to revise the framework of the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU; with the notable objective of lifting quota barriers which continue to constitute an obstacle to the free movement of Turkish products in Europe. Moreover, services, public procurement and agriculture that have been held outside of the agreement ever since, are also scheduled to be opened  to negotiations.

     

    In the coming period, it is expected that the revision of the Customs Union will deepen economic ties between Turkey and the EU.

     

     


    [1] http://www.iru.org/en_events_2005_3_euro_asian_bbb_events_3_session_pasquarelli

  • Fact n°14 Figures show that there are a growing number of migrants who settle in Turkey permanently. Therefore, it is not correct to describe Turkey only as a transit country.

    Turkey has been known for being a busy transit route towards the EU for migrants particularly from Middle Eastern and Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. The East Mediterranean route, including Turkey, is the second most important route for illegal migrants’ entrance route to the EU. However, when one takes a close look at FRONTEX data, it can be observed that, thanks to joint operations between Turkish border patrols and its EU counterparts, the numbers of irregular migrants crossing into the EU significantly dropped at its borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Nonetheless, a significant decrease has been detected recently in that respect. Indeed, whilst the number of irregular migrants entering the EU via Turkey was 57,025 in 2011, this number decreased by 35% to 37,224 in 2013. In 2013, the rate of irregular migrants crossing into EU countries reached its lowest since 2009 while the total number of irregular migrants has been increasing dramatically1.

    In order to effectively harmonise its immigration and refugee policy with EU standards, Turkey accomplishes great efforts by enhancing a new legal and institutional framework. Turkey and the EU signed the Readmission Agreement on 16 December 2013 and the Agreement entered into force in 2014. Turkey has been taking great steps regarding the migration issue and has expanded its cooperation with Bulgaria and Greece in order to reduce entrances of irregular migrants from its borders. The Readmission Agreement intended not only to reduce the number of irregular migrants entering the EU, but also those entering Turkey. Indeed, with the Readmission Agreement, Turkey as a transit country of migrants towards the EU becomes less attractive for candidates for migration, thus persuading them to seek alternative routes towards the EU.

    Apart from being a transit country, Turkey has also become a preferred target for regular immigrants recently. Immigrants, especially from neighbouring countries, are flocking in growing numbers into Turkey because of Turkey’s emerging economy, rising living standards, economic stability and relatively higher level of democracy. As a means of example, asylum applications by non-Syrians have reached more than 80,000 in 20132. It is important to note that Turkey applies meticulously the Geneva Convention and the principle of geographic limitation in that respect. In 2013; 352,643 people were given residence permits by the Turkish government3. Along with Iraqis and Iranians, many men and women have come to Turkey these last years in search of better job opportunities, especially from Eastern and Caucasian countries4.

    Thanks to its location, Turkey has been seen as a transit country towards the EU but this trend has been changing. As a result of the Readmission Agreement and new legal initiatives, the numbers of immigrants who are using Turkey as a transit route have been steadily decreasing. On the other hand, Turkey’s economic expansion makes it increasingly attractive in the eyes of many immigrants. According to the Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2013 Revision report prepared by the United Nations, there were 1,864,889 immigrants settled in Turkey, which represents 2.5 % of the total population5. Therefore, one can add that Turkey is becoming a target country rather than a transit country.

    1 http://frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/Annual_Risk_Analysis_2014.pdf
    2 2014 EP Progress Report
    3 2014 EP Progress Report
    4 http://www.turkey.iom.int/documents/IrregularMigration/IOM_Report_11022013.pdf (Table 4)
    5 http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/index.shtml

  • Fact n°15 Turkey is a country which contains a diverse and varied culture. Indeed, it constitutes a cultural mosaic where people, regardless of their faith, ethnic background or culture live in harmony.

    Turkey is historically at the crossroads, between the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia and thus is rich of many different identities and influences. The fact is not much known but the relations between the Turks and Europeans have begun well before the birth of the Ottoman Empire in the 13th century. Indeed, in the 5th century, the presence of various Turkish tribes is indicated in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. This presence nourished from that time the European ethno-cultural melting pot. Thus, there are ethnic groups of a Turkic background who are Christian (Gagauz) and Jewish (Karait).

    Before 1920, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, and the communities that lived there sustained their own culture. When modern Turkey was established, its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was determined to create a modern nation state where citizens, regardless of their origins are equal before the law. Thus, he emulated other prominent European nations in that project such as France and its republican values. A secular education model was enacted and the Arabic alphabet was switched to the Latin one among many other sweeping reforms. It is worth mentioning that Turkish females acquired the right to vote and be elected in 1934 before many European countries. One of the most important reforms which were passed in that period was undoubtedly a major legislative breakthrough which effectively led to the secularization of the State in 1928. This process of reforms was pursued by the adaptation of the Turkish civil and criminal codes to European models. Whilst Turkish culture has its ancestries deeply rooted in Anatolia and Islamic culture, it is important to stress that it has always been closely influenced by European culture. All productions of Turkish culture, whether it is literature, music, gastronomy, dance or art, are the images of astonishing variety.

    As regards languages, Turkey hosts an important number of minorities such as Greeks, Jews and Armenians as recognized within the framework of the Treaty of Lausanne and all of these communities enjoy freedom to practice their faith and speak in their respective languages in their own schools. Moreover, the Turkish education system offers strong skills in prominent foreign languages such as English, French and German. Turkey also hosts different ethnic groups such as Kurds, Circassians, and Bosnians and grants them the right to speak and privately learn their language, enacted as part of the EU-led reform process.

    Thus, arguing that Turkey has a culture that is incompatible with that of Europe is an aberration. Furthermore, the fact that several millions of Turks live peacefully and contribute to European societies goes to show that Turkish culture is not incompatible with European culture but is moreover part of it. Moreover, European culture itself has also been influenced by Turkey. For example, the croissant, Turkish coffee and the tulips all were brought to Europe through Turkey. The EU project is not a confessional or cultural but rather a values project and as such, the participation of Turkey to an EU which embraces cultural diversity will be beneficial for both parties.

  • Fact n°16 Turkey is cooperating actively with EU countries in the fight against terrorism through intelligence sharing, military cooperation, policing, etc.

    The EU and Turkey recognise the danger posed by increasingly proactive terrorist organisations such as ISIS and al Qaida. The vicious attacks perpetrated by these organisations continue to constitute a real cause for concern for the international community. This reality thus pushes countries to coordinate with each other by building strong and enduring partnerships with countries which are directly affected by this threat such as Turkey. Through its strategic geographic position, Turkey is a key country in the fight against terrorism. Over the past few years, Turkey has significantly improved its cooperation with EU countries in the field of counter-terrorism. Moreover, one should also note that Turkey, as a NATO Member State, is actively engaged in this area with its other fellow allies whom are EU Member States at the same time.

    Indeed, cooperation in terms of counter-terrorism between the EU and Turkey has been repeatedly reaffirmed by leaders of both countries and has been stepped on the terrain through further intelligence sharing, military cooperation, border control and financial support in that respect. The EU acknowledges Turkey’s sovereign right to prevent and react against all forms of terrorism. Turkey and the EU are already close partners in the fight against terrorism, and they accept the importance of closer synchronization and collaboration in this area. Indeed, in January 2015, the EU leaders agreed to launch new specific projects aimed at increasing the level of cooperation in that area with Turkey along with other countries faced with terrorism such as Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and the Gulf countries.

    In the Turkey-EU Summit which took place on 29 November 2015, both parties acknowledged their common willingness to enhance thoroughly their cooperation in terms of foreign and security policy in combating all forms of terrorism.

    Therefore, it would be erroneous to assume that Turkey is not cooperating with the EU in that respect. Both sides strongly reject all forms of terrorism and agree that it should be properly dealt at an international level. 

  • Fact n°17 Since its foundation in 1923, the Republic of Turkey has always looked towards the West. In that context, it joined Euro-Atlantic institutions such as the Council of Europe and NATO. Its relations with the EU go back to the 1960s and it aspires to become a Member State of the EU.

    Turkey has had a long history of strong ties with Western powers. One should note that Turkish culture influenced the West but Turkey has also been greatly influenced by Western culture and policies. Turkey’s opening to the West predates the establishment of the Republic in 1923 with the Tanzimat reforms of the late 19th century and this inclination towards the West has been fully pursued all along the 20th century. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was inspired by French revolutionary ideals and reformed his country along Western lines. From the creation of a new alphabet to the separation of religion and state, he sought to fully anchor his country in modernity, whilst respecting its rich history and culture. Furthermore, one should note that women were granted with voting rights in 1930.  Turkey also enjoys a 50 year long history with the EU based on the Ankara Agreement which was signed in 1963. It was granted a candidate status in 1999 and accession negotiations began in 2005. 

    Moreover, Turkey is a key country for the security and wealth of the EU. The ongoing refugee crisis has shown once again the critical importance of Turkey for the EU in curbing the flow of illegal migrants, along with strengthened cooperation in the fight against organised crime and terrorism between both parties. Turkey’s objective of joining the EU remains unequivocally unaltered and enjoys broad support regardless of partisan lines. In that context, it strives in pursuing political and economic reforms, towards meeting the requirements spelled out within the framework of the EU Acquis. This notably includes its democratisation process by enhancing the rule of law, ensuring fundamental rights and building a sound and stable economic system which can cope with competitive forces. Thus, one can say that it still remains Turkey’s most important objective in joining the EU. In that context, many do readily acknowledge Turkey’s importance as a strategic asset for the EU. 

    Indeed, Turkey joined NATO in 1952, thus anchoring its foreign policy with that of the West in the context of the Cold War and has been allied with Western powers ever since. Indeed, during that period, Turkey was considered as a vital actor in the containment policy of the United States vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and the communist system. Furthermore, one should stress that NATO continues to embody a crucial role in providing security to Turkey and has much significantly contributed in shaping Turkey’s defence and security policy. Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey has proven to be a reliable ally of the West by participating in joint operations in theatres of operation such as the Balkans and Afghanistan. Within NATO, Turkey retains its full sovereign rights and enjoys a tremendous prestige, notably retaining the alliance’s second largest standing military. Current zones of conflict where NATO has been involved have shown that Turkey continues to exercise its own influence in tandem with its allies. 

    Thus, as one can see above, Turkey’s solid and enduring relations with the West continue to render it a reliable partner for Euro-Atlantic institutions. Its objective of fully integrating with the West is best described by its enduring objective of becoming a member of the EU. Therefore, its inclination and aspiration to be part of the EU but also its strategic position between different cultures makes Turkey a tremendous asset in order to strengthen peace and stability in the region and the world at large. 

     

  • Fact n°18 Women enjoy equal rights with men which are guaranteed by the legal system of Turkey. Furthermore, sweeping reforms have enhanced their presence both in the political and economic spheres this last decade. However, despite the equality enjoyed by women in terms of legal status, rate of women’s participation into the labour market and politics remain low. Women also experience discrimination and repression in social and family life such as incidences of domestic violence and abuse. Both the Ministry of Social Policies and Family and civil society organizations are working to improve the conditions for women.

    One should add that the importance given by Turkey towards issues pertaining to women rights is not new. Indeed, with the foundation of the Republic in 1923, under the leadership of President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, there have been sweeping reforms which had been adopted granting rights for women which were enshrined in the Turkish legal system. In 1926, the Turkish Civil Code adopted a law which stated that women had the right to divorce, and the right to have discretion on custody and property. Since 1934, women were granted the right to amend the Constitution and to be elected, before several European countries. Turkey is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women since 1985, as well as to its Optional Protocol since 2002.

    In the last two decades, Turkey has taken the necessary steps required by international law in order to eliminate discrimination against women and to support women’s rights. In this regard, efforts have concentrated on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which was ratified by Turkey in 1985. 

    Legally speaking, women’s rights have also improved in Turkey. Legislation concerning women’s rights has resulted from the ongoing harmonization efforts with the EU acquis. Since then the ball started rolling and women rights improved even more rapidly. As such, Article 10 of the Constitution entitled “Equality before the law” was amended. The phrase “Men and women shall have equal rights. The State has the duty to ensure that this equality is put into practice” was added to the article in 2004. With this amendment, gender equality was further reinforced. 

    The article 41 of the Turkish Constitution was revised to read that the family is "based on equality between spouses". The new code also granted women equal rights to property acquired during marriage, which was supposedly meant to give economic value to women’s labour within the family household. 

    In 2004, another law which focuses on the improvement of women’s rights is in the Law on Municipalities (Law No. 5215) with this law every municipality with at least 50.000 in habitants is obliged to have at least one women’s shelter. This shelter should protect women in case of domestic violence or all other forms of violence.

    Under Law No. 5223 (July 2004), the period of maternity leave for women has been extended from 9 weeks to 16 weeks. In March 2011, The “Convention of the Council of Europe for Preventing and Combating the Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence” was ratified by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. 
    With the adoption of these laws many things changed for the women in Turkey. New institutions such as women’s studies graduate programs and women’s research centres in the universities were established. These institutions together with women’s NGOS help create a new type of visibility for women in the Turkish political and social scenes. 
    Regarding the political sphere, there are 48 women parliamentarians in the Turkish Parliament across the political spectrum. Turkey was also the first country which had a woman as the President of its Constitutional Court. 
    In the context of Turkey’s G20 presidency in 2015, a major breakthrough in women’s rights at the international level was achieved with the creation of the W20 (women-20) working group. This indeed gave further impetus to women’s rights groups in having a new global platform in which they can address the status of women across the world and possible solutions in that respect. Whilst one can say that women’s rights have shown gradual improvement in Turkey in the last decade, one should remark that there are still some issues such as domestic violence which need to be dealt with swiftly. One may assume that, thanks to the revitalisation of Turkey’s EU accession process, such issues will be also taken into consideration and further reforms will help improve the status of women in Turkey.

  • Fact n°19 Turkey’s role as a hub between Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia render it a potential strategic zone for the transit of oil and gas from the east towards the west. With expanding pipeline projects, Turkey’s importance and influence is increasing in the region.

    With a rapidly growing economy, Turkey has become one of the fastest growing energy markets among the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) over the last three years. Recent forecasts indicate that the growth trend in the energy sector will prevail in the following years. With expanding domestic energy consumption, Turkey is progressing in the path to becoming an energy hub. Indeed, since 2010, Turkey has shown some of the fastest growth rates with respect to total energy demand among the countries of the OECD. Furthermore, one should also note that Turkey’s economy has successfully avoided prolonged stagnation as did occur in other major developed economies in Europe following the global financial crisis of 2008. 
    This means that the role Turkey plays in the energy and oil supply to the EU will become immense. There are several reasons why Turkey’s role in Europe’s energy supply should not be overrated. 
    The first reason is already simply due to its location. Indeed, Turkey, without any doubt, is already a natural bridge between Eurasia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Turkey has a great benefit because it is located on the crossroads between the oil-rich countries of Central Asia and Middle East countries such as Iraq and Iran. Thus, eastern parts of Turkey are in close proximity to 72% of the world’s proven gas and 73% of the world’s oil reserves whereas western Turkey is connected to the European energy markets, a market which needs to import more than 70% of its energy resources and is therefore some of biggest energy consumers in the world. Thus, just thanks to its ideal location, Turkey has already a large potential to become an energy hub. 
    Turkey attaches great importance to more efficient and rational functioning of the energy sector for promoting the competitiveness of the national economy. Substantial progress has been achieved in restructuring and liberalising the Turkish electricity and gas markets in alignment with EU Directives for the purpose of integration with the EU Internal Energy Market, since the enactments of the Electricity and Natural Gas Market Laws in 2001. 
    Such developments led to Turkey’s evolution into an energy distributing country. Turkey distributes natural gas via its central pipeline network to various cities and consumers within the country as well as to Greece from where it is transported to the European markets. Since 2005, Azerbaijani gas has been transported via the BTE (Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum) and the BTC (the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) pipelines. Besides Azerbaijan, Turkey also imports gas from Iran, Russia and LNG (liquefied natural gas) from Algeria and Qatar. Moreover, one should add that new pipelines are planned to be built in the future. With the completion of TANAP (Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline), Azerbaijani gas will be transported via Georgia and Turkey to Greece. The construction for these pipelines has already started. Another proposed pipeline that is planned is ITGI (Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy Pipeline). 
    Through the completion of the projects cited above and more, it is anticipated that 6 to 7% of global oil supply will transit Turkey. One can assume that the city of Ceyhan will n most likely develop itself as a major energy hub and Turkey will have the largest oil outlet terminal in the Eastern Mediterranean region.  
    In recognition of Turkey’s growing role with respect to energy and its strategic location for the EU, the parties initiated a Turkey-EU High Level Energy Dialogue in March 2015. The parties meet at ministerial level at least once a year to explore the latest developments as regards issues pertaining to energy of common interest.  Thus, one may say that the EU already readily acknowledges Turkey’s role in the EU’s own energy policy. 
    Turkey stands to become a major European energy hub. However, in order to utilise its geostrategic advantage and become an energy hub, Turkey needs to take several significant steps. In the first place, Turkey must be able to import enough gas to satisfy both domestic demand and any re-export commitments, as well as provide enough pipeline capacity to transport Caspian natural gas across Turkey to Europe. At the moment, Turkey faces a lack of gas and oil storage capacity. 
    To sum up, if Turkey makes effective use of its geopolitical position, it can realise its vision of becoming an energy hub. To achieve this aim, Turkey should speed up reforms in the energy market and invest in natural gas infrastructure. Then it will be only a matter of time before Turkey can develop itself into the biggest energy hub in Europe.

     

  • Fact n°20 With an average annual growth of almost 4 percent, Turkey’s economy has grown significantly, catching up and overpassing some EU countries. Compared to many Member States, Turkey has been relatively successful in dealing with the effects of the global financial crisis and has become an economic power house. Moreover, with its young and dynamic workforce, Turkey could be a panacea to Europe’s demographic problems.

    After becoming an associate member of the European Economic Community in 1963, Turkey benefited from substantial trade relations with the EU. Since then, the economic partnership remained at the level of a Customs Union. Indeed, one should remind that Turkey’s industry developed thanks to the customs union and it became more competitive. Many structural reforms were carried out following the 2001 financial crisis. Thanks to its robust growth rate, Turkey became an economic powerhouse. In the last decade, Turkey’s GDP per capita has tripled. According to the World Bank, Turkey’s annual GDP growth rate is higher than many EU countries. Indeed, in comparison to other EU countries, Turkey is actually closer in meeting the Maastricht Criteria.  According to World Bank forecasts, Turkey’s GDP growth rate is expected to further increase to 3.51% in 2017 and 3.6% in 2018 respectively.  

    In terms of nominal GDP, Turkey is the 18th largest economy in the world and 7th in the EU with approximately 718,221 million dollars according to the calculations of the World Bank in 2015. In addition, Turkey has a promising growth potential. While many European countries have been struggling to recover from the global financial crisis in 2008, and the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone; Turkey was very successful in overcoming the consequences of the crisis with its 9.2% GDP growth in 2010. A year later, Turkey's economy was considered as the fastest growing in Europe, growing 8.5% and the 2nd fastest after China among major emerging market economies. 

    Another encouraging indicator is Turkey’s demographic dynamism. Turkey has the largest youth population compared with the EU, with half of its population under the age of 31 in 2015. Its domestic market potential is adding 75 million consumers to the single market, thereby increasing the competition in the international area. 

    On the other hand, the young and well-educated population of Turkey is considered by many analysts as a great asset as investors are facing noticeable challenges in Europe, such as a growing ageing population. While the ageing population will directly reduce the growth rates of the European economies by slowing the growth of the capital stock and by weakening the productivity of the labour force, it seems that Turkey will enjoy growth rates of more than 1% p.a. for at least one more generation.

    According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), since the global financial crisis began in 2008, Turkey's labour force is around 29.7 million people, which makes Turkey the 3rd largest labour force market in Europe. Turkey has created some 6.3 million jobs, although increases in the labour force, including through a rise in the participation of women, has kept unemployment at around 10 percent.  

    It is also vital to create a high level of welfare living conditions for this amount of population. According to the World Bank, between 2002 and 2012, the consumption of the bottom 40% increased at around the same rate as the national average. Over the same period, extreme poverty fell from 13 to 4.5% and moderate poverty fell from 44 to 21%, while access to health, education, and municipal services vastly developed.

    To sum up, Turkey’s integration into the EU is still in progress but it can be clearly seen that Turkey’s economic potential with all these indicators would bring considerable dynamism into the EU economy.