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Page One | Page Two Contents

   The 1960s - 1990s

   The 2000s

   The Future

The 1960s - 1990s

Turkey first applied for associate membership in the European Economic Community in 1959, and on 12 September 1963 signed the "Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community", also known as the Ankara Agreement. This agreement came into effect the following year on 12 December 1964. The Ankara Agreement sought to integrate Turkey into a customs union with the EEC whilst acknowledging the final goal of membership. In November 1970, a further protocol called the "Additional Protocol" established a timetable for the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods traded between Turkey and the EEC.

1980 saw a temporary stop in relations as a result of the 1980 Turkish military coup following political and economic instability, though the recommencement of multiparty elections in 1983 saw Turkish-EEC relations fully restored. On 14 April 1987, Turkey submitted its application for formal membership into the European Community. The European Commission responded in December 1989 by confirming Ankara’s eventual membership but also by deferring the matter to more favorable times, citing Turkey’s economic and political situation, as well its poor relations with Greece and the conflict with Cyprus as creating an unfavorable environment with which to begin negotiations. This position was confirmed again in the Luxembourg European Council of 1997 in which accession talks were started with central and eastern European states and Cyprus, but not Turkey. During the 1990s, Turkey proceeded with a closer integration with the European Union by agreeing to a customs union in 1995. Moreover, the Helsinki European Council of 1999 proved a milestone as the EU recognised Turkey as a candidate on equal footing with other potential candidates.

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The 2000s

The next significant step in Turkish-EU relations came with the December 2002 Copenhagen European Council. According to it, "the EU would open negotiations with Turkey 'without delay' if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfills the Copenhagen political criteria."

With the 2002 election of the pro-European Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a number of reforms led to increasing stability both politically and economically. In 2004, as part of the drive to enter a reunified Cyprus into the EU, the Turkish government supported the UN-backed Annan Plan for Cyprus. This plan was accepted by Turkish Cypriots, but rejected by the Greek Cypriots. At the same time, a three-decade-long period of hyperinflation ended, with inflation reduced to 6% from annual levels of 75% during the mid-1990s.

The political reform program of the Erdoğan government continued. This included the abolition of capital punishment, crackdown on torture, and more rights for its Kurdish population. In response to these developments, the European Commission recommended that the negotiations should begin in 2005, but also added various precautionary measures. The EU leaders agreed on 16 December 2004 to start accession negotiations with Turkey from 3 October 2005. Despite an offer from the Austrian People's Party and the German Christian Democratic Union of a privileged partnership status, a less than full membership, EU accession negotiations were officially launched.

Turkey's accession talks have since been dogged by a number of domestic and external problems. Several European states such as Austria have made their reluctance to allow Turkey into Europe clear. The issue of Cyprus continues to be a major obstacle to negotiations. European officials have commented on the slowdown in Turkish reforms which, combined with the Cyprus problem, has led the EU’s enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn to warn of an impeding ‘train crash’ in negotiations with Turkey. Despite these setbacks, Turkey closed its first chapter of negotiations in June 2006.

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The Future

The earliest date that Turkey could enter the EU is 2013, the date when the next financial perspectives (the EU's six year budgetary perspectives) will come into force. Ankara is currently aiming to comply with EU law by this date, but Brussels has refused to back 2013 as a deadline. It is believed that the accession process will take at least until 2021

Proponents of Turkey's membership argue that it's a key regional power with a large economy and the second largest military force of NATO that will enhance the EU's position as a global geostrategic player; given Turkey's geographic location and economic, political, cultural and historic ties in regions with large natural resources that are at the immediate vicinity of the EU's geopolitical sphere of influence; such as the East Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, the Middle East, the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia.

According to Carl Bildt, Swedish foreign minister, "The accession of Turkey would give the EU a decisive role for stability in the eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, which is clearly in the strategic interest of Europe." One of Turkey's key supporters for its bid to join the EU is the United Kingdom. In May 2008, Queen Elizabeth II said during a visit to Turkey, that "Turkey is uniquely positioned as a bridge between the East and West at a crucial time for the European Union and the world in general."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's nomination of Abdullah Gül as a presidential candidate drew strong and highly vocal opposition from ardent supporters of laicism in Turkey. In May 2007, Gül's first bid for presidency was blocked by the Constitutional Court, in a climate of secularist concern regarding views Gül had expressed during his Welfare Party years, and the fact that his wife, Mrs. Hayrünnisa Gül, wears a headscarf. However, following the parliamentary elections in July the same year, which were won by the Justice and Development Party with 46.6% of the popular vote, he was eventually elected President on August 28, 2007 and was sworn in the same day, becoming the first devout Muslim President in the modern history of Turkey

Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 70 million inhabitants would bestow it the second largest number of MEPs in the European Parliament. Demographic projections indicate that Turkey would surpass Germany in the number of seats by 2020.

Turkey's membership would also affect future enlargement plans, especially the number of nations seeking EU membership, grounds by which Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has opposed Turkey's admission. Giscard has suggested that it would lead to demands for accession by Morocco. Morocco's application is already rejected on geographic grounds, and Turkey, unlike Morocco, has territory in Europe. French President Nicolas Sarkozy (then a candidate) has stated in January 2007 that "enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept...I want to say that Europe must give itself borders, that not all countries have a vocation to become members of Europe, beginning with Turkey which has no place inside the European Union."

EU member states must unanimously agree on Turkey's membership for the Turkish accession to be successful. A number of nations can oppose it, notably Austria, which historically served as a bulwark for Christian Europe against the Ottoman Empire; and France, which is fearful of the prospect of another wave of Muslim immigrants, especially given the poor integration of its existing Muslim minority.

Attempts to change the French constitution to remove the compulsory referendum on all EU accessions after Croatia resulted in a new clause requiring compulsory referendums on the accession of all countries with a population of more than 5% of the EU's total population; this clause would apply to Turkey and Ukraine. The French Senate, however, blocked the change in the French constitution, in order to maintain good relations with Turkey.

The ruling party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has won a third term in parliamentary elections. Erdoğan is the only prime minister in Turkish history that won three general elections in a row with each time receiving more votes than the previous election. Four party groups will take their place in Turkey’s new Parliament as electoral officials had counted all the votes. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will form a majority government after winning just a shade under 50 percent of the popular vote; the incumbents will be joined again by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the legislature. The 327 seats won by AK Party is slightly less than the 330 required to propose constitutional changes to a referendum without the support of other parties in parliament, and falls far short of the two-thirds majority needed to rewrite Turkey's 1982 military constitution unilaterally without even the need for a referendum.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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