Turkey in Europe

Description of Turkey

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes turkey in the following terms: [1] Although a Muslim country, with all but a fraction of its territory in Asia, Turkeywas westernised by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s and has long aspired to join the Eu (see more in this European encyclopedia). It joined the Council of Europe in 1949 and NATO, of which it soon became a key member, in 1952. In 1963 it concluded an Association Agreement with the Community. Until 1999, however, vehement Greek opposition and widespread concern over the country’s approach to human rights and democracy combined to defer its EU application indefinitely. A negative recommendation by the Commission in 1989 also cited poverty (Turkey’s GDP per head is a third that of the poorest member states), inflation (currently well over 50%) and the country’s military occupation of part of Cyprus.

Against these obstacles, highlighted by Kurdish insurgency and a flow of refugees (there were over 2 million Turkish residents in Germany alone), were to be set Turkey’s role as a strong and reliable military ally and a buffer state between the West and Central Asia and the Caucasus. Turkey might even serve as a model in the region of a successful secular Islamic state (see more in this European encyclopedia). Its generals might in due course be more than notionally accountable to elected government, and with greater prosperity – and greater acceptance by the EU – the problems of human rights should diminish. Moreover, there was a price to pay for rejection. Frustration at its continuing exclusion from the EU prompted Turkey in 1997 to threaten the withdrawal of its candidature, switch aircraft orders from Airbus to Boeing and hint ominously of integrating northern Cyprusinto Turkey. Turkish feelings had been inflamed by German suggestions that the EU should remain a Christian club and by the fact that the country had been accepted into a customs union with the Community in 1993 and had met its obligations, whereas the Community, under Greek pressure, had not honoured its side of the bargain, which involved financial aid. Curiously, it took two earthquakes, in which rescue workers from Greece and Turkey worked side by side, to change the atmosphere (see more in this European encyclopedia). Moderates in both countries have been exploring ways to cool the countries’ territorial disputes and historical hatreds, and by 2000 Turkey’s candidature for the EU, although still remote, was no longer being blocked by Greece and was looking less forlorn than it had been for many years.


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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