AVOIDING A DIVORCE: A VIRTUAL EU MEMBERSHIP FOR TURKEY
Sinan Ulgen Paper, December 2012
Turkey EU Turkey’s prospects of European Union (EU) membership
are more uncertain than ever before. European leaders spent their
residual political capital on combating the eurozone crisis and
are reluctant to champion the unpopular EU-enlargement project. A
framework elevating Turkey to the level of a “virtual EU member”
could reinvigorate the relationship.
* Despite commencing EU membership negotiations in 2005, Turkey has
opened only thirteen of the 33 chapters that make up the accession
* Brussels is losing its ability to engage Ankara constructively,
and Turkey’s interest in the EU is waning to the detriment of Turkey’s
* The present environment constrains the scope of EU-Turkey cooperation
in support of ongoing transitions in the Arab world.
* A virtual framework would complement the accession process and
include policies to foster a common approach to international relations
and the EU’s internal market.
Policy Pillars of Turkey’s Virtual Membership
Foreign Policy: Turkey is increasingly aware of the limits of its
unilateralism, and the EU can benefit from Turkey’s growing power
in the Arab world. Acknowledging those trends, more comprehensive
foreign policy cooperation should be undertaken.
Neighborhood Policy: Turkey should be associated with the EU’s
southern Neighborhood Policy. Turkish experts can participate in
the meetings of individual regional task forces, and Ankara and
Brussels can cooperate on regulatory capacity building, private- and
financial-sector development, and banking- and housing-sector reform.
Security: The EU should give Turkey a more substantial role in the
planning and implementation of EU-led missions. Ankara should be more
flexible on EU-NATO strategic cooperation. But the disagreement over
Cyprus’s status must be addressed before remaining difficulties in
the EU-NATO relationship can be fully overcome.
Trade: The EU-Turkey customs union should be deepened. The European
Commission can take steps to involve Turkey in its negotiations with
third-country trading partners, include a Turkish observer in its
Trade Policy Committee, and open a round of trade negotiations aimed
at incorporating the services sector into the customs union.
Mobility: Visa liberalization is an irreplaceable core component
of the virtual membership. The prospect of free travel to Europe is
necessary to build popular support for the relationship among Turks.
Climate Change: Turkish participation in the EU’s Emissions Trading
System can benefit both parties. For Turkey, linking to the EU
system would introduce a new and potentially rich source of carbon
financing. Such a linkage would also lower the cost for EU industries
of fulfilling their emissions targets and boost their international
A Stalled Engagement
Turkey’s prospects of becoming a member of the European Union (EU)
are now more uncertain than ever. Having been forced to spend their
residual political capital on passing unpopular austerity packages to
combat the eurozone crisis, European leaders have little enthusiasm
for championing an equally unpopular proposition like EU enlargement.
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Subscribe @sinanulgen1 Despite commencing membership negotiations in
October 2005–along with Croatia–Turkey has so far been able to open
only thirteen of a grand total of 33 chapters. None has been opened
since June 2010.
In contrast, during the same period Croatia was able to finish its
negotiations and is expected to join the EU in 2014–potentially the
last state to join for the foreseeable future.
Ankara’s problems are not limited to a loss of zeal for
enlargement. The intractability of the Cyprus problem and additional
political hurdles imposed by the former French president Nicolas
Sarkozy have led to a loss of enthusiasm for reform in Turkey, further
weakening its case for accession. And the longer the negotiations
process remains stalled, the more acrimony is being injected into
the Turkey-EU relationship, poisoning relations in many domains. For
instance, Ankara is content to do no more than necessary to stem
the flow of illegal immigrants entering EU territory across Turkish
borders. Similarly, the EU is no longer a central topic of discussion
in Turkish policy circles, nor is it at the top of the Turkish foreign
policy agenda. In fact, there were almost no references to the EU
in Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s two and a half
hour speech at the ruling Justice and Development Party convention
in October 2012. Conspicuous in their absence were EU leaders in
a convention that saw the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Hamas
leader Khaled Mashal, and Kurdistan Regional Government President
Massoud Barzani take the floor.
The longer the negotiations process remains stalled, the more acrimony
is being injected into the Turkey-EU relationship, poisoning relations
in many domains.
The union’s vanishing act from Turkey’s domestic discourse has proved
detrimental to Ankara’s democratic progress. The current situation is
hardly satisfactory for Brussels either. As it loses credibility in
membership negotiations, the EU is losing its ability to engage Ankara
constructively and Turkey’s interest in the union is waning. But
above all, the present environment of stagnation and disinterest
constrains the ability of both sides to better cooperate in their
common bid to create a better future for the southern Mediterranean,
a region of critical importance for the EU as well as for Turkey.
As deplorable as the consequences of a process of disengagement may be,
it would be a mistake not to underline the inconvenient truth that
Turkey-EU problems have no short-term solutions. EU member states
are not likely to reach a consensus about Turkish accession in the
foreseeable future. The challenge will be to sustain the engagement
of both sides against this backdrop of shifting proclivities. Doing
nothing is not an option. Such behavior would essentially allow
negativity to fester and harm the bilateral relationship.
A new partnership structure could help overcome this possible drift.
The European Commission already launched its “positive agenda”–a
well-intentioned package of common interest areas–to address this
concern. The proposal, offered up in May 2012, rests on a set of
measures to enhance mobility, trade, and foreign policy cooperation,
but it is limited by the Commission’s own sphere of competence. More
is needed. In particular, a framework that will elevate Turkey to the
level of a “virtual EU member” must be devised. This framework would
not take the place of but rather complement membership negotiations;
it would help deepen cooperation in the realms of foreign and security
policy, trade, mobility, and the environment. Only such a politically
ambitious approach can build enough momentum to overturn the current
dynamics and inject new life into the membership process.
A framework that will elevate Turkey to the level of a “virtual EU
member” must be devised. This framework would not take the place of
but rather complement membership negotiations.
Another inconvenient truth, especially for Ankara, is that such a
framework can indeed be construed by Turkey-skeptics in Europe as
an alternative to Turkey’s membership. But politics cannot forever
remain sentimental. Ankara cannot forever continue to champion its EU
membership as the only possible future. Therefore, Turkish policymakers
should begin evaluating their own options in case membership, for a
host of different reasons, is not anymore in the offing. Establishing a
virtual membership framework as a complement to potential membership
may help the two sides reach an amicable separation and avoid an
acrimonious divorce if membership is indeed ruled out.
Turkey’s Existing Relationship With the EU
Turkey has a long history of association with the EU and thus an
established and relatively robust framework of cooperation. The 1963
Ankara Agreement was the second Association Agreement signed by the
European Economic Community after the Athens Agreement with Greece in
1962. The wording of the provisions of the agreement and its Additional
Protocol of 1973 are very similar to the provisions of the Rome Treaty
of 1957, which established the European Economic Community.
The Ankara Agreement envisages economic integration between Turkey
and the EU as an interim step toward Turkey’s EU membership.
Unlike many other candidate countries’ more recent Association
Agreements with the EU that stipulate the establishment of a free
trade area as the way forward for economic integration, the Turkey-EU
agreement calls for a higher degree of integration embodied by a
Turkey and the EU thus established a customs union at the end of 1995,
so today Turkey fully implements the EU’s common trade policy. As a
result, Turkey and the EU have the same commercial policy vis-a-vis the
rest of the world. The customs union also liberalized bilateral trade
in manufactured goods and processed agricultural products. Accordingly,
the two parties have eliminated all tariffs for industrial goods and
reduced tariffs for processed agricultural goods.
Further, while excluding services and agricultural trade, the customs
union agreement also included provisions for the harmonization of
Turkish legislation with some EU legislation, such as their customs
regimes, competition policies (for example, state subsidies),
intellectual property rights, and technical standards.
Deepening the Association
Despite the stalled momentum, Ankara is still technically negotiating
its EU membership, which entails even deeper regulatory convergence in
many areas as Turkey attempts to get itself into shape for accession. A
member state is party to the treaties of the European Union and, hence,
enjoys privileges and has obligations pursuant to the treaties. The
main “obligation” incumbent upon the states is the application of the
Community acquis within their respective sovereign territories. The
acquis is the cumulative body of EU laws–all treaties, regulations,
and directives passed by EU institutions as well as judgments by
the European Court of Justice (ECJ). At the same time, by becoming
a member state, a country gains full access to the EU institutions
and other rights attached to the membership status.
European Community law only envisages a single type of membership
that is obtained through formal accession negotiations. There are
no legal definitions of the virtual membership concept, so there is
a need to clarify the definition of virtual membership as it can be
applied to a candidate country like Turkey.
Defining Virtual Membership
A virtual membership would allow for a less-than-complete adoption of
the EU acquis and a less influential role in EU decisionmaking than
afforded to member states. It is, however, more than no membership
as it would also imply some policy convergence and some means for
influencing EU policymaking.
When it comes to regulatory mechanisms, a virtual member state would
apply the EU acquis domestically and selectively (in the policy areas
covered by the virtual membership framework). This can be achieved,
for instance, through the principle of homogeneity (that is, the
relevant EU legislation has to be “simultaneously” applied in the
state) or equivalence of legislation (which means that domestic
legislation similar to the EU legislation has to be adopted). The
state also ensures there is judicial or, at the minimum, political
enforcement of the acquis.
The boundaries of regulatory association are determined in a number
* Scope of application. Some member states have negotiated opt-outs
from the EU legislation and treaties. For example, Denmark does not
participate in the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy and the
UK remains outside of the Schengen Area. For a virtual member state,
the material scope of acquis application can range as well.
* Legal value or quality of commitment. For member states, EU law
holds supremacy over national law.1 For a virtual member state, the
legal value or quality of commitment can range broadly, including
adoption of the acquis into the national legal system (harmonization),
approximation, or no commitment at all.
* Enforcement. The enforcement mechanism is judicial for member states
and is carried out by the European Court of Justice. For virtual member
states, enforcement can be political by way of joint institutions or
based on good faith or a similar applicable norm.
Institutionally, a virtual member state has extensive opportunities
to shape the decisions of the EU, as it is included throughout
the consultation and deliberation processes of the legislative and
executive branches of the EU. A virtual member state also has access
to the EU’s decisionmaking and decision-implementing institutions
(comitology) and EU programs and agencies, though it does not have the
right to vote. The institutional boundary is determined by the degree
to which the state is included in EU structures/EU decisionmaking
and whether parallel structures have been established in the state.
* Inclusion in EU structures/decisionmaking. Member states are fully
included in EU structures and have full voting rights.
Below that level, states would have participation rights that
are afforded at the level of the EU institution. For instance, a
virtual member state could be granted membership or observer status
in committees and agencies or sign agreements on its cooperation
Current Models of Association
Association with the EU comes in many forms, but the main variable
in all of the models is the degree of regulatory convergence–the
more regulatory convergence, the deeper the institutional alignment.
In other words, the states that have accepted the EU’s policy
leadership are allowed to participate more fully in EU decisionmaking
by way of comitology, formal and informal consultation mechanisms, and
the like. The institutional aspect of this relationship is enriched
through the participation of the partner states in various agencies
and programs of the EU.
This is the template for three of the four European Free Trade
Association (EFTA) countries of the European Economic Area
(EEA)–Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The scope of application
of the acquis in these states is nearly complete, that is, the
EEA agreement covers all material policy areas except for Common
Agricultural Policy, Common Tax Policy, Common Foreign and Security
Policy, and Justice and Home Affairs. Those remaining areas are
Harmonization of the EU acquis in these states is governed by
the principle of homogeneity and is a form of quasi-supranational
application, with EU legislation simultaneously applied in all of
these states according to a decision by the EEA’s Joint Committee to
amend the EEA agreement. At times the legislation is slightly adapted.
EFTA bodies–the Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court–monitor
compliance with obligations under the EEA agreement and ensure
judicial enforcement. The Surveillance Authority can investigate
possible infringements by either the states or private actors, and
when merited, it can take action against a state believed to be in
violation of EEA norms in the EFTA Court, which operates under the
case law of the European Court of Justice.2 (See table 1 for an
overview of these regulatory boundaries.)
Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are included in EU structures to
varying degrees in the different steps of the legislation process,
from proposal to implementation (see table 2). Before the European
Commission proposes legislation, it conducts extensive consultations,
including convening expert groups that bring together independent
experts from EEA EFTA states and elsewhere to offer insights into the
views of their respective national governments. Additional public
or stakeholder consultations directly involve individual EEA EFTA
governments. Before and after the adoption of a legislative proposal
relevant to the EEA agreement, the states are allowed to provide
written comments on the proposal, either as a group or individually.
These states, as a group or bilaterally, largely use informal channels
to influence the decisionmaking in the Council and the European
Parliament, though they are sometimes invited to participate formally
in other official bodies. They exert their influence by establishing
and maintaining close working relationships with EU parliamentarians
or representatives of member state governments. In addition, while
they do not have the right to vote, representatives of the countries
participate in various comitology committees as well as in the
preparatory bodies. A further form of full participation foreseen
in the EEA agreement is membership in EU programs and agencies,
both executive and regulatory.
Switzerland’s model is close to that of the EFTA, of which it is
a member. Bilateral agreements made between the Swiss and EU states
establish legislation equivalent to the acquis within Switzerland in a
wide range of areas, from education and pensions to the free movement
of people and agriculture to customs. Contrary to the EEA agreement,
the multitude of bilateral sectoral agreements are static and, hence,
have a more intergovernmental than supranational character. The
bilateral agreements are governed by the principle of equivalence
of legislation; however, the acquis is more or less implemented
with no amendment, and joint committees as well as the Nachvollzug
procedure–the voluntary adaption of Swiss legislation to changes in
the acquis–essentially create a form of dynamic adaption.
There is no explicit, formalized political or judicial enforcement
mechanism governing the Swiss; the implementation of and compliance
with the agreements is the responsibility of the contracting parties;
enforcement is guided by the principle of good faith. Nonetheless,
joint committees dealing with the respective agreements provide
conflict resolution if necessary (see table 3).
When preparing legislation, the European Commission consults with
Swiss experts in areas that require equivalence of legislation. Many
relevant changes in legislation are facilitated through an informal
information exchange and consultation mechanism. Switzerland, like
the other EFTA states, does not have decisionmaking power. However,
it is an active observer–consultation, no voting rights–in EU
committees on research, civil aviation, social security, and the
recognition of diplomas. Decision-shaping possibilities through EU
institutions and procedures is as limited for Switzerland as it is
for other EFTA states.
Switzerland has fewer possibilities to influence legislation in
comitology procedures because, unlike the EEA EFTA representatives,
Swiss experts are not informally granted observer status in comitology
committees. The country also does not participate as extensively in EU
programs and agencies. The implementation and updating of the plethora
of agreements that are governed by the principle of equivalence of
legislation are administered jointly with the relevant directorate
generals of the European Commission and the line ministries of
the Swiss government handling the approximation of legislation and
implementation of the agreements (see table 4).
Opposite the EEA EFTA states lie the EU’s strategic partners, which
include the United States, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Russia, India,
China, South Africa, and Mexico. A strategic partnership is merely
a political declaration of intent that attempts to enrich existing
bilateral relations with important international partners through a
multilateral agenda addressing global problems and challenges. The
model offers little room for joint policies. While there are no
areas of direct EU acquis application in these states, the EU and its
strategic partners have political dialogues in various policy areas,
and there is some regulatory convergence. There is no legally binding
quality to these commitments (see table 5).
Some EU programs and agencies are open to strategic partners, but in
general, these states do not have the same rights as EU members.
Their rights are governed by the regulations and establishment
agreements of the body in which they are participating. Cooperation
also takes place outside of the strategic partnership framework, with
some partners working with the EU on issues through other agreements.
A number of cooperation agreements are individually negotiated by
the EU and these states but are neither connected nor exclusive to
the strategic partners. There are structured bilateral relations
in the form of summits and political and sectoral dialogues–the
same structures that are in place for nonstrategic partners. The
comprehensiveness, focus, and intensity of these structured
partnerships vary across both sectors and strategic partners (see
The Mechanics of Turkey’s Virtual Membership
Today, Turkey already has a relatively close relationship with the EU
based on the existing customs union and negotiations on an association
agreement. In fact, it can potentially be argued that Turkey is
already a virtual member state. But a deeper and more comprehensive
association membership framework can be envisaged for Turkey.
It is difficult to contemplate a scenario in which, despite its
institutional advantages, Turkish authorities would opt for the
EEA model. Turkey is a big country with its own imperial heritage,
jealously guarding its sovereignty and intent on playing a significant
role in regional and global politics. The wholesale transfer of
sovereignty implied by the EEA model will not be acceptable to the
Turkish body politic in the absence of a clear date for accession to
the EU. The “Turkish model” of virtual EU membership will lie somewhere
between the Swiss arrangement and a strategic partnership. It will
reflect a more integrationist approach than the strategic partners
take but less so than the Swiss model and certainly much less than
the EEA template. (See table 7 for an outline of Turkey’s potential
regulatory boundary, and table 8 for its organizational boundary.)
Scope of Application
The full adoption of the EU acquis will underpin policy convergence
in a select few areas such as trade, customs, technical barriers
to trade, free movement of goods, intellectual property rights, and
competition. In other policy areas–such as the environment, energy,
climate change, transportation, financial services, state aid, and
free movement of services–a gradual process of the approximation of
legislation can be foreseen. In yet other areas such as foreign and
security policy, justice and home affairs, neighborhood policy and
energy, the mode of intergovernmental cooperation will prevail.
Legal Value/Quality of Commitment
Turkey’s virtual membership framework will have a more
intergovernmental than supranational character. The exceptions will be
the limited set of policy areas underpinned by regulatory convergence,
which will operate according to dynamic adaption processes. Formally,
the quality of commitment will remain lower than the standard of
The Association Agreement provides for formalized political
and judicial enforcement with the Association Council and the
option of arbitration or recourse to the ECJ, respectively. Joint
committees–such as the Association Committee and Joint Customs Union
Committee–can also provide for conflict resolution if necessary.
Though the political enforcement mechanism is already being used,
at present, judicial enforcement is not mandatory and necessitates
a political agreement for its initiation. Given the difficulty of
reaching a political agreement on outstanding disputes, judicial
review has so far rarely been used.
The judicial enforcement option can certainly be strengthened
by lifting the requirement for political consensus for judicial
enforcement in specific policy areas under the rule of mandatory
regulatory convergence. This would require that Turkey accept a wider
competence for the ECJ. Recent ECJ rulings in the area of mobility
have benefited the Turkish position, so Turkish authorities may now
be more disposed to widening the scope of ECJ jurisdiction.3 Doing so
would address the currently asymmetrical judicial situation in which
Turkey can avail itself of European Community courts to protect its
rights outlined in contractual agreements with the EU but the EU cannot
do the same in Turkish courts. The EU therefore has to depend on the
willingness of Turkish authorities to resolve outstanding disputes.
Inclusion in EU Structures
Proposal stage As legislation is being prepared, the European
Commission should consult with Turkish experts in areas that require
regulatory convergence. At the same time, changes in legislation for
policy areas affected by regulatory convergence should be facilitated
through informal information-exchange and consultation mechanisms.
Decisionmaking stage Turkey will not have decisionmaking power in the
virtual framework, but it can be an active observer–that includes
consultation but no voting rights–in various EU committees. Such
Turkish participation is already under discussion for the Trade Policy
Committee. The decision-shaping possibilities through access to EU
institutions and procedures can be established on a case-by-case
basis at the working-group level–for instance, in the task forces
set up under the European Neighborhood Policy–or at the political
level in various EU councils.
Programs and Agencies A number of EU programs and agencies can
potentially be opened to Turkey’s participation, as outlined in
The Policy Pillars of Turkey’s Virtual Membership
At a minimum, Turkey’s virtual membership would encompass the customs
union with the EU that has existed for over fifteen years.
But there are a number of areas for growth. The EU and Turkey can
gradually begin to enrich their association by deepening the customs
union and breaking new ground as well, forging close relationships
in several other policy domains. Two broad categories of policies
focusing on a common approach to international relations (foreign
policy, neighborhood policy, and security policy) and to the internal
market (trade, mobility, and the environment) can be foreseen.
Foreign policy can certainly become one of the pillars of the virtual
membership framework. The EU and Turkey both have much to gain by
intensifying their foreign policy engagement. A closer association with
Brussels would allow Ankara to leverage a much more significant set
of economic resources for achieving the common objective of bringing
peace and prosperity to the EU’s southern neighborhood.
Turkey’s political and economic transformation over the past decade
has helped Ankara become a more influential regional player.
Its growing outreach in the Middle East and, to a lesser degree,
in the Balkans, its emergence as a responsible aid provider and an
active participant in multilateral diplomacy, and its place as a
“model” for the democratizing states in the Arab world all indicate
Turkey’s potential for increased influence and recognition. A closer
alignment with Ankara would undoubtedly allow the EU to take advantage
of Turkey’s growing soft power in this region to better engage with
the constituencies in the Arab states of the Middle East and North
Africa that are interested in a reform agenda.
Yet foreign policy cooperation between Ankara and Brussels remains
hindered by the frustrations about Turkey’s accession talks.
Foreign policy cooperation and dialogue between Turkey and the EU is
not living up to its potential despite a sound working relationship
between the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Turkish
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
A number of fundamental changes are leading both sides to revisit the
value of a stronger foreign policy partnership. The changes brought to
the EU’s external policy machinery by the Lisbon Treaty can underpin
a renewed engagement with Turkey. The new European External Action
Service in particular has the capacity and the willingness to engage on
a more sustained basis external actors like Turkey. The agglomeration
of competences within that institution is gradually helping the EU
overcome criticisms of institutional ineffectiveness in the area of
Turkish authorities no longer see structured cooperation in foreign
policy as inimical to Turkey’s accession prospects since there is a
realization that accession is not imminent and may not even happen.
There is also less public support for EU accession. The latest
opinion polls gauge support for EU membership at 40 percent, down
from 74 percent at the start of membership negotiations. As a result,
Turkish policymakers are less reticent about discussing frameworks
of collaboration that can be set up in parallel to or even in support
of the accession process.
Moreover, Turkish foreign policy faces severe regional challenges.
The Arab Spring has upended Ankara’s zero problems with
neighbors approach, which was replaced by a policy of supporting
the pro-democracy movements in the region. Ankara’s bilateral
relationship with many of the regimes in its southern neighborhood
became acrimonious as a result. The relationship with the Syrian
leadership, the central government in Bagdad, and even with the Iranian
leadership has vastly degraded. Turkey also has unresolved conflicts
or hostile relationships with other neighbors, including Armenia,
Cyprus, and even Greece.
These complications in the web of regional relationships are leading
the Turkish leadership to a starker assessment of the country’s true
scope of influence. By the same token, they are encouraging Turkey
to rethink the limits of unilateralism. They are accentuating the
need for Turkey to solidify its political and security relationship
with its traditional partners in the West. These transformations,
which have brought about a more difficult foreign policy environment
for both the EU and Turkey, may help them overcome the current
political and institutional barriers to more comprehensive foreign
Cooperation between Ankara and Brussels should extend beyond the
foreign policy sphere and encompass neighborhood policy as well.
That, at least for the immediate future, is where a real value
added will be found. Both the EU and Turkey have recalibrated
their neighborhood policy in the wake of the Arab Spring. The EU
announced a new “Partnership for Peace and Stability” with the
southern Mediterranean countries that provides the states improved
access to the EU market, more flexible rules for mobility, and more
financial support. In return, Turkey invested heavily in nurturing
the relationships with the emerging leaders of the Arab world. The
reference value that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party
is enjoying among the political Islamists in the region is a strong
asset for a Turkish leadership that is intent on consolidating these
In this context, the ideal setup would be to directly associate Turkey
with the European Neighborhood Policy. The EU’s southern neighborhood
policy is implemented through a series of bilateral agreements between
the EU and the southern Mediterranean countries and overseen by an
Association Council that has the overall responsibility of shaping
the engagement with the beneficiary countries. For instance, it is
at the EU-Tunisia Association Council meeting with representatives
from the EU member states, the European Commission, and the Tunisian
government that the details of the Action Plan for Tunisia, which
lays out the objectives for cooperation between the EU and the
country, are negotiated and their implementation monitored. This
type of cooperation would be difficult, as the bilateral governance
structure of the EU Neighborhood does not leave room for the direct
participation of third countries–even virtual member states.
In addition to this political level, there is also an institutionalized
platform at which technical assistance and other aspects of the EU’s
relationship with its southern neighbors are regularly discussed. The
European External Action Service is the umbrella organization hosting
these discussions under the auspices of individual task forces. Turkish
experts can easily become a part of these discussions. They could
participate in the meetings of individual task forces, possibly
with Turkish participation dependent upon the agenda item under
discussion. So, for instance, in cases in which Turkey has the
potential and the willingness to contribute, Turkish experts from
the pertinent state agencies and not exclusively from the Foreign
Ministry would be invited to the discussions. A tentative list of
potential cooperation areas includes private sector development,
regulatory capacity building, banking sector reform, financial sector
development, and housing sector reform.5
Keeping the Turkey-EU neighborhood policy association at the technical
level will allow both Turkey and the EU to maintain their foreign
Keeping the Turkey-EU neighborhood policy association at the technical
level will allow both Turkey and the EU to maintain their foreign
policy independence. There have been clear differences in the foreign
policy priorities between Ankara and Brussels in the past–as was
apparent, for instance, when a rift opened between Turkey and its
Western partners over the May 2010 tripartite deal with Iran to swap
nuclear fuel–and there will certainly be more in the future. In
particular, their approaches to democracy promotion and governance
reforms in third countries share little common ground.
While the EU is intent on imposing a more stringent conditionality
that links its assistance to reforms in the beneficiary Arab countries,
Turkey is known to shy away from conditionality. 6
The main bottleneck preventing closer EU-Turkey cooperation in the
security realm is Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004 as a divided
island. With accession, it gained the right to be represented in EU
institutions, and Cyprus decided to use that right to put pressure
on Turkey and obtain a better negotiating position in the ongoing
intercommunal talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In return,
Ankara viewed its NATO membership as its sole leverage on Greek
Cypriots and insisted on the continuing exclusion of Cyprus from
NATO-EU strategic cooperation. Ankara thus blocked the proposed
security agreement between NATO and Cyprus while Nicosia blocked
the proposed security agreement between the EU and NATO. Cyprus
also vetoed Turkey’s membership in the European Defense Agency,
thus excluding Turkey from intra-European defense industry cooperation.
Yet, despite the intractability of the Cyprus problem, Turkey-EU
collaboration on security and defense can certainly be improved. And
the “virtual membership” package can provide the impetus for a
recalibration of the security relationship.
Ankara has already participated in several military and civilian
European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) missions and is the most
active participant in those missions among all third countries. It
even outperforms many EU member states in terms of the size and
scope of its support to ESDP missions. But Turkey’s cooperation with
the EU in this area is hindered by the EU’s reluctance to alter the
institutional setup of its security and defense relationship with
Turkey. Ankara argues that because of its geostrategic importance,
proximity to regions of potential instability where EU-led missions
are likely to be deployed, and willingness to contribute assets to EU
operations, it deserves more influence over planning and implementation
of EU security policy. This criticism is voiced all the more strongly
in relation to EU missions where Turkey’s contribution is sought.
In particular, Ankara seeks to be fully associated with the planning
and implementation of EU-led missions rather than being asked to
contribute after the political and technical planning phases have
already been completed, if and when it is needed. This is especially
necessary, in Turkey’s opinion, when the planned action will take
place in proximity to Turkey or in areas of strategic interest
to Turkey. Ankara would like its bilateral contact with the EU to
increase in the areas of crisis management and the convening of the
Committee of Contributors at a higher level. In addition, Turkey
seeks a presence in EU headquarters on operations to which Turkey
contributes, to participate in the work of the European Defense Agency
and to conclude the Security Agreement between Turkey and the EU.
There is also a stalemate in NATO-EU cooperation. The Agreed
Framework, which established the rules of security cooperation
between the two institutions, was concluded in 2002. Referencing the
Berlin Plus agreement–a security arrangement agreed to in the same
year–it specifies that the EU can have access to NATO’s assets and
capabilities provided that the Alliance members unanimously support
the initiative. It also stipulates that NATO and the EU can engage
in strategic cooperation and jointly discuss present and emerging
threats. But at the time that the framework was signed, the EU had
not yet carried out its enlargement of 2004. The agreement covered the
then EU member states and also most of the EU candidate countries. It
excluded Cyprus, a future EU member state that is not recognized by
Turkey, a NATO member.
This is a clear case of an unaddressed legacy problem inherited by
way of enlargement poisoning the EU’s own relations with external
partners–NATO and Turkey. Realistically speaking, a lasting solution
to this conundrum that can herald seamless EU-NATO cooperation is not
to be expected as long as the Cyprus question remains unresolved. There
is no clear incentive for Turkey to permanently lift its veto on
the participation of Cyprus in the EU-NATO Strategic Dialogue. For
Turkish policymakers, the continuing difficulties associated with the
EU-NATO relationship serve as a constant reminder to the EU and the
United States that the Cyprus problem remains unaddressed and that
the international community should not be satisfied with the current
situation. In other words, unless Turkey’s allies decide to invest
more diplomatic capital to solve the Cyprus problem, it will always
hold the possibility of acting as a contagion with the potential to
affect the interests of many others.
Unless Turkey’s allies decide to invest more diplomatic capital to
solve the Cyprus problem, it will always hold the possibility of
acting as a contagion with the potential to affect the interests of
But the EU would also have much to gain from finding a solution to
this conflict. The development of the EU as a continental security
organization is currently constrained. The economic crisis has dealt
a severe blow to the ability of EU member states to develop military
assets that are commensurate with the objective of transforming the EU
into a more effective and influential security provider. In addition,
the nature of the EU-NATO relationship remains problematic.
The EU has no intention, under the circumstances, to duplicate the
hard security assets that are at the disposal of the alliance and so
remains reliant on NATO for some of its more critical missions. The
EU’s role as a security provider would be much enhanced if it could
seamlessly cooperate with NATO.
Closer Turkey-EU cooperation in the area of security and defense
can help the EU overcome these substantial difficulties and enhance
the effectiveness of its security policies. But for that to work,
the desire of Turkish policymakers to be more involved in the
decisionmaking structures of European security policy and, of course,
the Cyprus issue must first be addressed.
In addition, in order to meet Turkey’s aspirations to be fully
associated with European security, the EU should also reconsider a
number of practical arrangements that would allow Turkey to have a
more substantial role in the planning and implementation of EU-led
missions. The guiding principle should be more transparency and
more inclusiveness. In return, Turkey should be more flexible on
EU-NATO strategic cooperation and allow for a more regular if still
informal set of discussions between the two institutions on issues
of real strategic importance, such as smart defense, which entails
the pooling and sharing of resources, among other steps.
The uniqueness of the customs union regime is also its handicap. The
customs union, by definition, binds Turkey to the EU’s trade policy,
but Ankara has no proper means of influencing that policy.
This dependence was initially accepted by Turkish policymakers as a
transitional measure to be eliminated with Turkey’s EU accession.
But as the membership goal is proving more elusive than ever, the
situation is becoming more unsustainable.
As a result, demands that the customs union be transformed into a free
trade area are being increasingly expressed in Turkey, in particular
by trade associations. Such a transformation would allow Turkey to
regain its independence in trade policy and put an end to its policy
dependence on Brussels.
But the way forward may not necessarily be the downscaling of the
economic integration between Turkey and the EU–something that a
switch to a free trade zone would imply. Such a move would introduce
other problems. Trade would become more costly as a result of the
introduction of a complex set of rules of origin that have also proven
to act as disincentives to foreign investment.
Policymakers should instead focus on preserving and deepening the
customs union arrangement while alleviating the problems associated
with Turkey’s policy dependence. The sustainability of the customs
union and Turkey’s trade policy dependence on the EU are issues that
could be addressed by a new virtual membership framework.
The customs union is worth preserving because it has a positive impact
on the Turkish economy, which is now more integrated into the global
economy thanks to the relationship with the EU. The customs union
has been the main driver of Turkey’s trade openness and introduced
a new level of competition in the Turkish market.
Moreover, the elimination of tariff protection combined with the
adoption of a low level of external tariffs for third countries
forced Turkish businesses to compete with their European and even
global competitors, making them more efficient and internationally
When the customs union entered into force in 1995, bilateral trade
increased. For the first five years of the agreement, Turkey’s exports
to the EU grew on an annual basis at 7 percent (compared to 5 percent
for overall Turkish exports). For the same period, Turkey’s imports
from the EU grew at 6 percent annually, twice as fast as imports
overall. After five years, this trend started to decelerate and the
dynamics of bilateral trade started to normalize.
In the last five years, Turkey’s exports to the EU grew less than
Turkey’s average rate of export growth (see table 10). This trend
reversal may be due to the diversification of Turkey’s trade relations
in combination with the deceleration of growth and the onset of
recession in many EU countries.
Another reason for wanting to preserve the customs union is
political. Any modification to the current trade regime would require
amending the core agreements between Turkey and the EU. Such an attempt
to rewrite some of the key provisions of the association treaty would
risk triggering a more extensive debate on Turkey’s eligibility to
become an EU member at a time when the political climate in Europe
is hardly conducive to EU enlargement.
Building a Better Customs Union
The customs union is criticized for its failure to include mechanisms
that enforce a common approach to trade agreements with third
parties. The EU has traditionally concluded free trade agreements with
third countries without consulting Turkey and without taking into
consideration Turkey’s trade interests. For instance, these trade
agreements have eliminated tariff barriers for EU exports but not
for Turkish exports going to third countries, and they enhanced the
export competitiveness of EU industries to the detriment of Turkish
firms. In addition, the Turkish market had to be opened up to the
exports of the EU’s trade partners, but these countries’ markets
remained closed to Turkey’s exports.
There are no simple solutions to this dilemma, which stems from
the asymmetries inherent in the customs union arrangement. Turkey
cannot automatically be made a party to the free trade agreements
that the European Commission has negotiated or will negotiate. Yet
there are steps the EU can take to make the situation more equitable,
and those steps could form part of the virtual membership. Creative
solutions to this problem that avoid creating unnecessary friction
between customs union partners would cement the sustainability of the
customs union arrangement even as uncertainty surrounding Turkey’s
accession prospects increases.
The European Commission can, for instance, encourage its third-country
trading partners to open and conduct trade negotiations in good faith
with Turkey as well. Indeed, the EU has introduced a “Turkish clause”
in some of its bilateral trade agreements that asks its trading partner
to negotiate a similar agreement with Turkey. A further suggestion
in that regard may be to invoke a new sort of conditionality, whereby
the ratification of a free trade agreement between the EU and a third
country could be tied to the conclusion of a free trade agreement with
Turkey. A more procedural option may be to arrange the negotiations
so that any round of negotiations between the third country and the
EU should be followed by a round of negotiations between Turkey and
that third country.
This deepened relationship would also entail two institutional
novelties: the EU would hold regular consultations with Turkey in
advance of and in the wake of each round of its trade talks with
third countries and include a Turkish representative in its Trade
Policy Committee as an observer. These steps would address Turkish
grievances and would force Turkish authorities to become more
responsive to tackling the residual impediments to trade raised by
the EU–such as the lack of intellectual property rights enforcement
or remaining nontariff barriers to imports of goods–in relation to
the functioning of the customs union.
The economies of Turkey and the EU are only partially integrated.
While the Association Agreement and the Additional Protocol foresee
the establishment of a common market between Turkey and the EU,
both the services sector and the agricultural sector currently remain
outside of the scope of the customs union. Deepening the customs union
would entail incorporating the EU and Turkish service industries,
which represent 65 percent of Turkey’s and 74 percent of the EU’s
economy. Services were included in the first version of the customs
union, but as the negotiations were drawing to a close in 1995, Germany
objected to the liberalization of services trade between Turkey and the
EU. The fear among German policymakers was that the door to Turkish
migration would be opened if Turkish service providers were given a
right to establish operations in the EU. A few years later, the two
sides started to negotiate separate trade agreements for services, but
these negotiations were called off when accession talks began in 2004.
Given that accession talks have now stalled, there is ample reason
to restart a separate round of trade negotiations for bringing
the services sector into the realm of the customs union. Moreover,
recent ECJ jurisprudence has overturned the political objection to an
agreement for liberalizing trade in services with Turkey based on the
fear that it would create a back door for migration. These developments
create an opportune moment for launching a new and ambitious round
of talks for the liberalization of trade in services that would
substantially enhance Turkey’s economic integration with Europe.
In previous negations on the liberalization of services trade,
Turkey was asked to adopt the relevant EU acquis, which meant Ankara
would bear a heavy burden of regulatory convergence. Today, a lighter
approach is needed. The World Trade Organization’s General Agreement
on Trade in Services framework can be adapted for this purpose. The
two sides would reciprocally eliminate market access restrictions
and commit themselves to grant national treatment to each other’s
economic operators–that is, eliminate all discriminatory practices
vis-a-vis each others’ companies, without necessarily conditioning
the liberalization of services trade to regulatory convergence.
Climate change policy is an underexplored area for Turkey-EU
cooperation, but it is a natural pillar for the virtual membership.
The EU is in the vanguard of international efforts to curb greenhouse
gas emissions and has implemented an ambitious agenda for mitigating
carbon emissions. Its Emissions Trading System (ETS) is the world’s
most comprehensive system for trading carbon emissions, accounting
for almost 97 percent of all carbon-related trade. If Turkey joined
the EU’s climate change policy, and the ETS in particular, both sides
Every installation covered by the ETS is issued a cap that denotes
the limit on the greenhouse gases that it can emit. Emitters can
exceed their allowance only by purchasing additional emission permits
from the carbon market created by ETS. Similarly, if they emit less
carbon than the amount provided for in their allowance, emitters can
sell their residual allowance back to the carbon market. But the ETS
has been marred with a design problem stemming from a too widespread
distribution of free emission permits that has led to severe price
deflation in tradable carbon emissions. After fluctuating in the past
few years, carbon prices crashed in 2011 because of a glut of emission
permits and low levels of growth in the eurozone. In August 2012,
the EU ETS carbon price was 6.9 euros a metric ton.
For Turkey, linking to the EU ETS–albeit at a higher carbon
price–would introduce a new and potentially rich source of carbon
financing that could change the terms of the domestic debate concerning
the affordability of climate change policies.
According to data collected by the United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change for the period 1990-2009, Turkey has registered the
largest increase in greenhouse gas emissions among all the parties
to the Kyoto Protocol’s Annex I. During these twenty years, Turkey’s
aggregate GHG emissions increased by 102 percent.
The corresponding figures for the EU and the United States are 20
percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.
The Turkish government has been timid in its approach to launch
policies to curb carbon emissions. Turkey has no commitments under
Kyoto to reduce its carbon emissions, and its Annex I status means that
it cannot take advantage of the flexibility mechanisms widely used by
other emerging countries like China and India to channel international
funding to green investments. So far, Turkey has had to rely solely
on its own resources to fund carbon mitigation efforts and to adapt
to climate change. Turkish policymakers are also keenly aware of the
failure of the international community to extricate clear commitments
from some of the more developed emerging economies, like China, India,
and the United States, to reduce their own carbon emissions.
Ambitious climate change policies were viewed as being costly, liable
to harm Turkey’s growing economy, and ultimately unnecessary.
Ankara eventually adopted a National Climate Change Strategy to reduce
its carbon footprint, but implementation is hampered by a lack of
Short of an international climate change deal with binding commitments
from most of the major emitting nations, the ETS is Turkey’s best
climate policy option. A recent study by an expert at Turkey’s Ministry
of Development quantified the potential benefits for Turkey of joining
the EU’s ETS.8 If Turkey were participating in an emission trading
system for projects related to energy efficiency, renewables, and solid
waste, for the period of 2010-2020, it would have received between
$40 billion and $166 billion through the sale of emission permits.9
Turkey could use that money to fund its investments. The estimated
revenue amounts to 12 to 49 percent of the capital expenditures
related to green investments in these sectors.
Such a relationship would also significantly boost EU investments
in Turkey, in the areas of clean energy and energy efficiency
in particular, and further increase the two partners’ economic
interdependence. It would lower the cost for EU industries to fulfill
their emission targets and boost their international competitiveness
because they could then acquire emission permits at lower cost from
Turkey given that the marginal cost of abatement is likely to be
lower in Turkey than in many EU countries.
Visa liberalization is an irreplaceable and core component of the
virtual membership framework. It is perhaps the only area of this
framework with a clear and direct impact on the everyday life of many
Turks. As such, it has the potential to dispel the negativity prevalent
in the Turkish public opinion about the EU and Turkey’s relationship
with the EU. Only a virtual membership augmented with the prospect of
free travel to Europe can garner enough popular support to underpin
the relationship between Ankara and Brussels in the absence of an
unambiguous commitment to Turkey’s EU membership.
Still, mobility remains a sore point in Turkey-EU relations. Turkish
citizens are the subject of onerous visa requirements that severely
limit their opportunities to travel, study, or work in EU countries.
This situation was more acceptable at a time when the EU had visa
restrictions in place for many other European countries, but in
the past decade, with successive enlargements and as a result of a
sustained process of selective visa liberalization, the EU decided
to lift visa requirements for a host of European countries. Today,
while Serbs, Albanians, and Bosnians can travel freely to Europe, Turks
cannot. This state of affairs is at odds with Turkey’s status as the
oldest associate of the EU and as a country negotiating EU membership.
Mobility remains a sore point in Turkey-EU relations.
Under a virtual membership, the EU’s relationship with Turkey in the
area of mobility should be fundamentally reassessed. Two trends are
already pointing in that direction: the developing jurisprudence of
the European Court of Justice and the changing political backdrop of
relations between Brussels and Ankara.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, Turkish migrant workers were invited
by governments in Western Europe to be additional manpower in the
continent’s postwar recovery. But with the economic slowdown in Europe
in the following decade, EU governments started to gradually impose
visa restrictions on Turkish workers and then on Turkish tourists. The
restrictions imposed in the early 1980s continue to exist, but the
past few years witnessed an important reversal.
In successive rulings the ECJ confirmed the visa-free-travel-related
rights of Turkish citizens stemming from the contractual agreements
between Turkey and the EU. The ruling in the landmark 2009 Mehmet
Soysal case provides a partial opening for visa liberalization. The
requirement that Turks crossing EU borders hold a visa was found
to be unlawful only for the countries that had no visa requirements
at the time of their EU accession or those that were members of the
European Economic Community in 1973–Germany, France, Netherlands,
Belgium, Luxemburg, Italy, Denmark, UK, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal.
The ruling is not relevant to the other EU members, and the court
decision only concerns potential service providers and not tourists.
But according to the ECJ, the freedom to provide services also embodies
the freedom to purchase services. More importantly, “tourism” is also
considered a full-fledged service in the EU. As a result of the Soysal
case, then, the tourist visa requirements of some EU governments should
also be found unlawful–a ruling that is believed to be imminent.
The case of Leyla Demirkan, presently before the ECJ, is likely to
further clarify the status of Turkish tourists. A Turkish citizen
residing in the United States, Demirkan missed a connecting flight in
Munich, but German border authorities denied her request to leave the
airport while she waited for her next flight, which was scheduled for
the next day. The Administrative Court in Munich ruled that Demirkan
was entitled to enter the German territory without a visa because of
the rights granted to Turkish citizens by the Additional Protocol,
which includes the right to receive tourism services. The ruling has
been appealed by the German government and is not yet final.
In addition to this series of court decisions, the political
environment within Europe that has so far not been conducive to even a
gradual process of visa liberalization with Turkey is changing because
of growing fears about illegal immigration to Europe from more distant
lands. The EU needs Turkey’s help managing the flow of illegal migrants
across the Turkish-Greek border, which is considered to be “the favored
gateway to the Schengen area for both people smugglers selling passages
to Europe, and those pushed to migrate by floods in Pakistan, political
instability in Iraq and Somalia, or conflict in Afghanistan.” The
creation of such a “land bridge” that runs from Turkey to Greece and
on to the rest of the Schengen area is set to “exacerbate political
tensions throughout the Schengen area as governments realize their
heightened exposure to Greece’s border problems.” 10
The problems associated with the “weak link” of the EU’s external
border cannot credibly be addressed without engaging Turkey.
Ankara has displayed a certain willingness to tackle these issues,
but there are limits to how eager to solve an EU problem Turkey
will continue to be. As very perceptively highlighted by an European
Stability Initiative interview, “countries rarely invest resources
in exit controls, except ‘the former Soviet Union and communist
And key to engaging Turkey on the issues of better border
management and cooperation with the EU on illegal migration is visa
liberalization. A consensus within the EU that Turkey is a critical
partner in the fight against illegal migration has helped to overcome
the political obstacles to and the uncertainties of Turkey-skeptic
countries about initiating a gradual process of visa liberalization
In June 2012, the EU Council gave the mandate to the European
Commission to commence a visa dialogue with Turkey that entails the
prospect of visa liberalization. The mandate also envisions enhanced
cooperation between Ankara and Brussels on justice and home affairs
matters including organized crime and terrorism. In return, Turkey
has signed a Readmission Agreement that when ratified and implemented
will allow the EU to send illegal migrants that have entered the EU
from Turkey back to Turkey.
Of course, there are still EU governments for which genuine visa
liberalization is considered to be too politically sensitive. For
instance, the visa dialogue mandate seems to require the full
cooperation of the Turkish government and all the EU member states,
including Cyprus–a condition that is not very likely to be met
under current circumstances. But the area remains key to deepening
the relationship between the EU and Turkey.
Striking the Right Balance
The virtual membership framework is not designed to be a substitute
for Turkey’s full membership in the EU. Rather, it is a framework for
policy convergence that can supplement the accession process. But if
present-day hurdles–such as the division of Cyprus, the willingness
of EU leaders to win over a lukewarm public opinion and further
the enlargement process, or even the loss of Turkish enthusiasm for
accession–cannot be overcome, the virtual membership certainly has
the potential to become a permanent fixture of the relationship.
Though the virtual membership may be the only possibility given current
circumstances, it is not the ideal. It has one very important drawback
compared to the full membership: the absence of a truly transformative
dynamic, which the drive to enlargement provided in the past.
Enlargement is generally seen as the EU’s most successful policy.
It has been at the core of the EU’s efforts to extend peace,
prosperity, and stability across Europe. The EU’s untainted
political commitment to the idea of enlargement provided some of
that spark. Governments in individual EU countries could change,
economic downturns could be experienced, but the EU’s attachment
to the political objective of enlargement would nonetheless remain,
by and large, undaunted.
The magic of enlargement also stemmed from the candidate
countries’ political acceptance of the conditionality inherent in
the process. Candidate countries had to fulfill the criteria for
membership and so were given an unalterable menu of reforms that they
had to implement, which in most cases required the countries to build
internal consensus on the end goal of EU membership. Bipartisan
platforms involving different political parties, civil society
organizations, and social stakeholders were forged in the pursuit of
that goal. These pro-EU platforms were critical to the success of the
country’s reform agenda and its short-term pain but long-term gain. The
anti-reform proclivity of electoral cycles in candidate countries was
thus overcome with the support of these large and crucial coalitions.
A virtuous cycle existed between these two components of enlargement.
The EU’s unambiguous commitment strengthened the pro-reform, pro-EU
coalitions in the candidate countries and enabled them to deliver the
necessary reforms. The more these coalitions were able to deliver,
the stronger and the more warranted the EU’s backing of enlargement
became. This virtuous interplay of democratic incentives was at the
core of the successful transformation of past EU candidate countries.
For Turkey, these positive dynamics are now a thing of the past. The
internal dynamics that were so instrumental in driving forward
the reform agenda in other candidate countries were significantly
undermined by the ambiguity of the message Ankara received from
Brussels. The carrot of membership that was to underpin the pro-reform,
pro-EU domestic coalitions is now elusive.
Moreover, the remoteness of the full membership objective has visibly
undermined Turkey’s democratic progress. The country is backsliding in
terms of its democratic practices. It has the undignified designation
of having put more journalists in prison than either China or Iran. In
its latest Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked
Turkey 148 out of 178 countries.12 Similarly in his evaluation of
press freedoms in Turkey, Marc Pierini, a Carnegie expert and the
EU’s former ambassador in Turkey states that “the overall diagnosis
emerging” from various official and civil society reports on press
freedoms in Turkey as well as interviews “is rather bleak when
contrasted with the successes of Turkey in other fields. Virtually all
reports point to a deteriorating trend in press freedom and identify
specific causes.”13 And in its regular assessment of democracies, the
Economist Intelligence Unit categorizes Turkey among hybrid regimes,
which falls below the category of “flawed democracies.” 14
In a similar vein, the EU membership process is vital for the
management and resolution of Turkey’s domestic conflicts, from the
treatment of minorities to the constitutional limits on executive
power. The creation of a society-wide consensus, which tackling
these deep-seated problems will eventually require, is easier if an
overarching consensus already exists on EU membership. After all, that
political instrument has proven to be most effective for building a
consensual platform in a society defined by a nonconsensual, polarized
political culture. The virtual membership option cannot alter this
dynamic. It cannot regenerate the positive conditionality inherent
in full membership. It will fall short of reestablishing the EU as
an influential anchor for Turkey’s democratic progress. Though it
can help to create a partnership between Turkey and the EU based on
interests, it cannot build a partnership based on values.
Still, forward motion in specific policy areas under the framework of a
virtual membership is better than stagnation in the accession process
that if left unchecked has the potential to drive the two partners
permanently apart. The virtual membership may perhaps not lead the
two partners down the path of a happy union, but at the very least
it will prevent a nasty divorce. By keeping a degree of momentum in
the relationship, the virtual membership framework will also allow
Ankara and Brussels to postpone the issue of Turkish accession to
a time when a post euro crisis EU will be better equipped to deal
with the sensitive issue of enlargement. That in itself may be the
strongest argument for thinking more constructively about the proposed
ANNEX I: Dialogues in Strategic Partnerships
ANNEX II: Comparisons of Strategic Partnerships
ANNEX III: Cooperation of Strategic and European Partners With
1 See European Court of Justice, Flamino Costa v. ENEL, 1964.
2 See, for case law on enforcement, ECJ, Ospelt (2003): ECJ is
responsible for homogeneity; EFTA Court, ESA v. Iceland (2003):
Reference to ECJ Ospelt; ECJ, Bellio Fratelli (2004): Both courts
are responsible; EFTA Court. Fokus Bank (2004): Reference to ECJ
3 It should also be recalled that the Association Council Decision 1/95
introducing the Customs Union already stipulates that the provisions
of the Decision should be interpreted in line with the jurisprudence
of the ECJ.
4 Ulgen and Grabbe have outlined the mechanics of such a
strengthened cooperation in “The Way Forward for Turkey and the
EU: A Strategic Dialogue on Foreign Policy,” Policy Outlook,
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 2010,
5 A longer list of policy areas where Turkish assistance could
be valuable was provided by Ulgen in “From Inspiration to
Aspiration: Turkey in the New Middle East,” Carnegie Paper,
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 2011,
It is also
worth underlining a recent Commission initiative carried out in
cooperation with the Turkish think tank TEPAV that aims to uncover
areas of trilateral business cooperation between Turkey, the EU,
and the Arab states. The feasability study is to be made available
by the end of the year.
6 Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont, “Aiding Governance in
Developing Countries: Progress Amid Uncertainties,” Carnegie
Paper, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, November 2011,
7 Republic of Turkey, National Climate Strategy
8 “Emissions Trading and the Turkish Practice in Fighting
Climate Change,” SPO report no. 2817, Ankara, 2010,
9 Depending on a low (7.5 euros/tonne in 2020) or a high (35
euros/tonne in 2020) carbon price scenario.
10 Hugo Brady, “Saving Schengen: How to Protect Passport Free
Travel in Europe,” Center for European Reform, London, January
12 Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index, 2011/2012,”
13 Marc Pierini, “Press Freedom in Turkey: An
Interim Assessment and Avenues for Action,” Carnegie
Europe and Open Society Foundation, Brussels, October 5,
14 Economist Intelligence Unit, “The
Democracy Index 2011: Democracy Under Stress,”
Turkey is ranked 88 between Albania and Ecuador.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress