Turkey and the European Union: Open the Door

Yet again it is decision time in the relationship between Turkey and the European Union, one that goes as far back as 1963 when an association agreement was signed. The Union accepted Ankara as a membership candidate in 1999, having refused to do so only two years before. Yet Turkey is the only candidate country that has not begun accession negotiations. In December, member states, sticking to their own deadline set last year, will have to decide whether to agree a date for talks. They would be ill advised to ignore Turkey’s knock on the door.

The World Today Updated 19 October 2020 Published 1 August 2004 3 minute READ

Thomas Diez

Senior Lecturer, University of Birmingham

Bahar Rumelili

Research Fellow, Bogazici University

Until recently, European Union-Turkey relations have been mutually disappointing. While Ankara has always expressed a strong desire for membership, it has lagged behind in fulfilling the so-called Copenhagen political criteria, which are now part of the Union treaty.

The European Commission, Parliament and Council have repeatedly criticised the prominent role of the military in Turkish politics; restrictions on freedom of expression and association; repression of Kurdish identity and language; torture and state violence, especially in the predominantly Kurdish southeast; and Ankara’s uncooperative attitude in the Cyprus conflict and in Greek-Turkish disputes.

Plus, all major decisions about advancing relations have been mired in passionate debates about Europe’s identity, borders and purpose. These discussions have been strongly resented in Ankara and provoked accusations of European racism and double standards.

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