Germany and Turkey’s membership to EU

Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (NKR)
March 30, 2004


EUROPEAN ORIENTATION: The idea of “integration with the West” of this
Near East country on the shore of Bosphorus Strait is not new; it is
about 80 years old and belongs to the founder of the republic of
Turkey Kemal Ataturk. In the following years the loyal supporters of
this idea achieved turning integration into a problem of membership to
the European Union. The history of the latter problem counts four
decades and is the main foreign political line of Ankara. Membership
to EU is important first of all from the point of view of acquiring
stable economic interests. Besides, entering Europe has become a
matter of national dignity, the rating of the nation. And of course,
Turks have great hopes concerning significant modernization of the
country, as well as a firm position in the European family. Today
almost all the political forces presented in the parliament of Ankara,
as well as 75 percent of the population are for membership to

THREE DIFFERENT TENDENCIES: At the same time in Turkey there are
forces which not only argue on the problem of orientation but also
have serious internal disagreements. Today the country is divided by
three influential public-political streams: conservatives, democrats
and reactionaries. The first of these are for returning to the Eastern
and first of all Islamic roots in the public and political spheres.
The democratic forces are scared of the idea that the country is
slowly going to Islamization, and they see the public and political
future of the country only within the “European family” as a
full-right member. The reactionary forces are of the opinion that
through military ways (as it was in the past) it is possible to have
influence on both the inward and foreign orientation.

TURKEY’S ACHIEVEMENT: More than 40 years ago Ankara signed with the
European Union an agreement about associative membership which was
then called European Economic Cooperation. It is true, the agreement
assures that Turkey will later become a full-right member of the
European Economic Cooperation but no dates are mentioned. And since
1963 in both geographic and political aspects Turkey has been standing
on the threshold of Europe and so far no progress has been made. In
the next decade the European Economic Cooperation was reconstituted
into European Union, and in 1999 at last Turkey became a candidate for
member. In the election in 2002 the government was headed by the
Islamist-reformists of the political party “Justice and Development”,
with prime minister Redjep Teyup Erdoghan. After this the discussions
about the membership of Turkey livened up within the European Union
because the member-countries of the EU were hopeful with the new
government in the question of reforms.

THE ARGUMENTS OF THE OPPOSITION: The problem of Turkey’s membership to
the European Union has special reaction in Germany where 2.5 million
Turks live currently. The question has become a topic of debates
between the country’s different political parties, even their separate
members who do not express a common approach to the problem. Some of
them think that in the elections to the European Parliament on June
13, 2004 the question of Turkey’s membership to the EU not may but
must become an issue for election campaign, as it is very important
for the Europeans. Whereas the leader of the most influential German
oppositionist party “Christian Democratic Union” Angela Merkel’s visit
to Turkey in February showed that the opposition in Germany is against
the membership of Turkey to the EU. In Ankara, in front of the
mausoleum of Ataturk Merkel announced, “Taking into account the
economic differences, as well as other state and political differences,
there is still a long way to pass.” At the same time the CDU admits
that there is progress in the country and would not like to close the
doors of the EU before this country. However, for the moment Merkel
presented a series of quite realistic arguments. According to her,
Turkey with its 70 million population and 23 percent of economic
productivity will sap the integration forces and the financial
abilities of the European Union. Moreover, the European Union is
presently facing difficulties caused by the upcoming spring
enlargement. As distinct from the federative government of Germany,
A. Merkel proposes an intermediate solution of the problem, which
presupposes wide integration with Turkey, a privileged partnership.
The leader of the CDU mentioned that they must have a respectful
attitude towards one another, for which there is a third way. Once
again stating that she has no intention to make the question a subject
of discussions in the upcoming election, at the same time emphasized
that taking into account the 2.5 million inhabitants of Germany of
Turkish origin they will approach the matter with delicacy and
responsibility. The leader of another significant political force, the
Christian Socialist Union Edmund Stober, distinct from the leader of
the Christian Democratic Union, announced that during the election
campaign they will offer the question of membership of Turkey for
debates. It can not be tabooed for it has core importance for the
EU. It is notable that one of the leaders of the CSU Michael Gloss
made a strict statement, “Turkey has never been part of Europe.” He
also warned that the membership of this country would require
overloaded efforts for integration from the EU member-countries and
would become a financial load for the budget of the EU. There is also
anxiety that the European membership of Turkey with free move of
people will cause a flow of labour force from Anatolia to the West and
first of all to Germany. In answer to the behaviour of the opposition
the ambassador of Turkey in Germany Mehmed Ali Irtemjelik demands from
the German politicians to keep from uttering accusations in address to
Ankara during the election campaign. “It would be proper to think how
offensive it would be for my country and the people of Turkish origin
living in Germany,” said the ambassador. “Especially that the question
of membership to the EU is not included in the agenda. We are
acquainted with the rules of the negotiation process and we know that
years are required for membership. It also takes time for the EU
member-countries to get accustomed to the idea of membership of
Turkey,” said the Turkish diplomat.

OFFICIAL OPINION: Let us see what is the approach of official Germany
to t he problem. Literally a few days after the visit of the CDU
leader the federal chancellor Gerhard Shroder, who has a positive
attitude towards the postponed membership of Turkey to the EU, left
for Turkey. When during her visit Merkel tried to attract Turks with
privileged partnership instead of membership to the EU, she received
an adequate counterattack. “This problem has not yet been discussed
here. We do not at all think in this direction, the question is
closed,” stressed the prime minister of Turkey Redjep Teyup
Erdoghan. However, in any case there could be left time for thinking
about the choice for granting the right, the prime minister was
advised from aside. Here there is an opinion that taking into account
the difficulties caused by the spring enlargement of the EU (May 1,
2004), the Turks would remain outside, however their efforts for
reforms would be compensated for by special narrow cooperation with
the EU. Whereas, the official circles in Turkey think this kind of
payment would be like a small consolation prize. The chancellor of
Germany Gerhard Shroder knows about this, and the government headed by
him is for giving serious chances to Ankara, which he pointed out
during his visit. The promises given to Turkey must be fulfilled, said
Shroder and added, “Turkey must behave well and well means keeping its
word.” As distinct from the conservative European politicians, the
federative government of Germany has never mentioned the Islamic
essence of the Turkish nation as an obstruction to the membership to
the EU. Moreover, it considers the membership of Turkey as a chance to
start a dialogue between the two cultures and a successful precedent
of democratization of a country belonging to the Islamic
world. “Although the settlement of the problem of Turkish membership
to the EU may take years, if Ankara manages to correspond to political
standards, then the European Union should keep its word and start
negotiations for membership,” said Shroder. “For more than 40 years,
that is since signing the agreement for associative membership in 1963
all the federative governments kept telling Turkey that the process of
integration contains the prospect for membership to the EU. The
anticipations cannot and should not be frustrated,” said the
chancellor implying that Turkey can rely on him. During his Turkish
visit in his interview to the newspaper “Hyuriet” Shroder
characterized the approach of the German opposition towards to
question of Turkey’s membership to the EU as “populism” that may
offend about 2.5 people of Turkish origin and Turks living in Germany
and stir up the political atmosphere in the country. Again
traditionally Turkey views Germany in the role of opener of the doors
of the EU for membership. On the one hand, because of the involvement
of foreign labour force since 1960 today there are 2.5 million Turks
in Germany. On the other hand, despite interruptions Germany remains
the most important trade partner of Turkey. To this can be also added
the relationships confirmed historically between the two countries.
During the World War I they were military allies, as well as during
the Nazi dictatorship Ankara sheltered a great number of repressed
German scientists. The latter helped to establish a temporary
university system in Turkey. However, during the visit of the
chancellor the prime minister of the country did not need to remind
about the common past. Instead he had better arguments for convincing
Shroder to stand for starting negotiations with Ankara for Turkey’s
membership to the EU at the end of 2004. Because it was
Islamist-reformer Erdoghan who carried out such reforms as the
elimination of the capital punishment which up today was considered
the reason of failure of all the pro-West prime ministers of Ankara.
Even the international organization for protection of human rights
“Amnesty International” mentions about the progress in the sphere of
human rights in Turkey whereas the course of implementation of reforms
is not satisfactory. However, Erdoghan could go farther; he has put
all his political weight on the scales to make the settlement of the
problem of Cyprus easier. And he let Shroder know that he wants to be
paid for his efforts made for the settlement of the problem of the
Mediterranean island divided into Greek and Turkish parts since
1945. The Turkish visit of Shroder aroused a new wave of debates among
the Germany opposition.

CONCLUSION: The 40-year study of the problem of membership of Turkey
to the European Union shows that the EU member-countries are facing a
difficult choice. Particularly for Germany the problem has acquired
actual importance and deals with its own interests. On the one hand,
for the attracting labour market of such a powerful country
recruitment of Turks considered as cheap labour force is
profitable. On the other hand, it is the result of this line that
presently 2.5 million of the population of Germany are Turks. If we
take into account the fast rates of the natural growth of the latter,
which is a characteristic feature of the Turks, the demographic danger
for the Germans having 1 or 2 children in the family outlines
clearly. It is also a fact that in the course of time Turks invite to
the new place of living their relatives and friends and their families
in their motherland. However, as distinct from the government, the
German society has a hostile attitude towards the immigrant Turks and
raises protest time to time in different manifestations (up to
self-burning, massacres). Indeed, both the chancellor of Germany
Gerhard Shroder and the leaders of the EU countries are well-aware of
the consequences of the admittance of the Turkish element to Europe,
and this is the reason of postponing the settlement of the membership
of Turkey, and the end is not seen. The wish of the chancellor and the
others to have a country in the Asian Islamic world loyal to the
European values and standards can be compared to the undertaking of
Lenin to export the October 1917 revolution to Turkey, which ended in
utter frustration. We think the EU declines Turkey’s membership
taking into account the nature of the Turkish nation which would
disturb the calmness in the European family. For already 40 years
Turkey is at the threshold of Europe, and the hosts dare neither turn
him out, nor invite in. No one assumed responsibility for possible
consequences, and no one takes the risk of saying how long the Turks
are going to knock at the door of the European Union. Feeding with
promises is safer. By the way, in November 2003 the question was again
discussed in Brussels and refused. The commissar of the Commission on
Enlargement of Europe Gunter Ferheugen, in his interview to the German
periodical “Spiegel” (November 4, 2003), speaking about the numerous
reasons for refusing membership, mentioned also the lack of culture of
Turks to conduct public debates (the problem of Kurds, the Armenian
genocide). When a Turk mentions about this, he tells him he has a lot
to learn, said the European politician. At the same time he mentioned
that a country with political prisoners cannot be member of the
European Union.