Rhein on Energy and Climate

For the last 50 years Turkey and the EU have been toying around with EU membership. But at the beginning of 2011 they are not really advanced to the point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Negotiations for accession have been going on without enthusiasm for the past five years and might be grinding down to a halt in the near future unless a miracle happened.

One miracle might come from the Turkish side on the Cyprus issue. Turkey might give a push to the negotiations on the reunification of the island, put an end to the blockade of Cypriot vessels and aircraft to and over Turkish territory and withdraw its troops on the northern part of the island, a remnant of the occupation in 1973, which has lost its justification. After a successful re-election in the autumn of 2011 PM Erdogan might be courageous. This would oblige the EU to open all chapters on the negotiation table and lend a new dynamic to the process. Though the Turkish side is not formally part of the negotiation process between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, it possesses substantive leverage on the progress of these negotiations, if only by stopping further payments to the government of the “TRNC”, recognised only by Turkey, and setting a deadline for the withdrawal of its troops. But for domestic reasons Erdogan is unlikely to take any risks. Moreover, he cannot be sure his gesture will lead to a successful conclusion of the accession negotiations. Indeed, the popular mood on Turkey`s membership in the EU is sombre.

Cyprus constitutes a pretext for France, Germany and also Austria the Netherlands, firmly opposed to Turkish membership, to delay the negotiations. France and Germany realise that Turkish membership would fundamentally change the “balance of power” within the EU and oblige them to share their leading role with another historically big power. It would end their present “duopoly”, which has governed the EU during the past 30 years, to the advantage of the Union, whatever criticism may have arisen.

With a population of more than 80 million Turkey would become the most populous EU country. It also has the ambition to become one of the 10 major economic powers in the world before the middle of the century. In the last 10 years Turkey has achieved an economic miracle without precedent in this part of the world. It has become a major regional power and would not like to forego its status as an important international player in exchange for just being one of the EU member countries supposed to have a common external and security policy.

The Turkish entry into the EU would be the kiss of death for a common EU foreign and security policy unless accession is preceded by major treaty changes, the most important of which should be QMV in foreign and security policy. A common external policy will be the major challenge for the EU in the course of the century. Without it, the EU will be increasingly marginalised. The 27 foreign ministers, especially of the bigger countries, have not yet understood that their main function in future should be the shaping of a common external policy. In the world of tomorrow there will no room for national foreign policy initiatives. As an EU member Turkey would naturally reinforce the centripetal forces in in foreign policy.

The EU would not derive major benefits from Turkish membership unless Turkey behaves as a perfectly disciplined “community pupil”, which is most unlikely in view of the bad examples offered by other member countries. On the other hand, Turkey would substantially benefit from EU membership, even if agricultural and structural funds were down-sized and if it had to accept a very long transition period before its workers might enjoy full mobility. Its main advantage would be the membership in a prestigious “club” of rich countries that continue to have influence in the world. This would enhance its standing in the world and enable it to promote its national ambitions, as other member countries have also done.

But the times have changed: the EU can no longer afford to let in new member states that will further complicate the functioning of a system that has reached its limits of efficiency. It is therefore time for the EU to revisit its enlargement strategy. Turkey has to be seen in the context of seven applicants from the Western Balkans and Iceland, which might bring total memberships to countries to 36. What does such enlargement mean for the functioning of the Union? What benefits accrue to the Union; and will these outweigh the inconveniences?

The EU should not allow as many as eight new countries to join without a prior revision of treaty provisions which are crucial for an optimal functioning of an EU of 36 members. It needs a clear vision of the size of the EP, the Commission etc. It must not wait until Croatia may have joined in 2013: the reflection should start now. The European Council should put the issue of enlargement on the agenda of one of its topical meetings before the end of the year and appoint a “committee of the wise” to prepare appropriate recommendations before the end of 2012.

One should not exclude that one of the conclusions of this exercise might be not to complete the accession negotiations with Turkey and to propose instead a privileged partnership, which would be in line with an increasingly enlargement-hostile public opinion. A Union with 28-30 countries might be the maximum compatible with the present institutional framework. Anything beyond will require treaty modifications that will be hard to pass. Above all, it is imperative not to rush negotiations but take all the time necessary for making both candidates and the Union fully fit and not to repeat the mistake of the 2007 accessions.


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  1. Good morning Sir,

    to begin with, a miracle already happened in 2004: the Turkish Cypriots voted “Yes” for the reunification of Cyprus. But the Annan peace plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriots. The Turkish prime minister Mr Erdogan and the whole Turkish government strongly supported the reunification of Cyprus, and together with the exceptional Mehmet Ali Talat, they convinced the Turkish Cypriots to approve the Annan peace plan. As for the Greek Cypriots, they voted “No” to that peace plan because they were brainwashed by their government. Let’s remember that Günter Verheugen said that he was betrayed by the Greek Cypriots and their leader Mr Papadopoulos. Furthermore, Pat Cox and Chris Patten denounced the anti-reunification propaganda of the Greek Cypriot government.

    On april 2004, the EU promised the Turkish Cypriots the lifting of the embargoes.

    We are in 2011, but the EU still hasn’t stood to that commitment.

    That’s why Turkey doesn’t want to open its ports and airports to the Greek Cypriots. In fact, Turkey did underline several times that it will authorize the Greek Cypriots to enter its territory as soon as the EU implements the direct trade that it promised the Turkish Cypriots.

    Thus the EU perfectly knows what to do to unblock that situation. Hence, it is aware of what needs to be done so that the EU-Turkey negotiations remain blocked.

    If there are still Turkish troops in Northern Cyprus, it’s because of the Greek Cypriots. In fact, the Annan peace plan foresaw the withdrawal of almost all the Turkish soldiers (only 600-650 soldiers would have remained). Although the Greek Cypriot leaders knew that, they made the propaganda of the “No”. And the current leader of the Greek Cypriots Mr Christofias teamed up with Mr Papadopoulos. Mr Christofias had an anti-reunifaction stance in 2004.

    The Turkish soldiers are in Northern Cyprus to protect the Turkish Cypriots. If the Turkish troops leave them before a solution is found, there will be a serious risk. Many Turkish Cypriots were recently attacked by some nationalist Greek Cypriots who acted with impunity: the Greek Cypriot government didn’t do anything to prevent these events from occuring. When a Turkish Cypriot singer was seriously stabbed, the Greek Cypriot policemen were watching. Some Turkish basketball players played a match with their Greek Cypriot counterparts, but at the end of the game they were attacked and injured by a few hundred Greek Cypriot nationalists. There were not enough policemen to protect the Turkish players. Well, did not the Greek Cypriot leaders know that these extremists were there? The Turkish minister for foreign affairs Mr Davutoglu had to make a phone call so that the Turkish players were truly protected until the airport. The behaviour of the Greek Cypriot government is suspicious.

    Regarding Cyprus, is not Turkey one of the garantor powers with Greece and the UK?

    Has not Turkey the legitimate right to make its voice heard regarding Cyprus?

    Because of Cyprus, the EU of Merkel and Sarkozy froze 8 chapters.

    But let’s remind that Sarkozy also blocked 5 chapters. But that blocking has nothing to do with the Cypriot issue. Sarkozy blocks these 5 chapters because they are crucial and lead to the EU membership. There’s something really unhealthy and not logical here: since Sarkozy is against Turkey’s EU membership, why does he expect Turkey to implement the Customs union to the Greek Cypriots?

    It is said that today Sarkozy will remind Turkey that commitment. But Turkey ought to remind him the commitment of the EU of 2004 regarding the direct trade between the EU and the Turkish Cypriots. And Mr Erdogan and Mr Gül ought to remind him another commitment of the EU which dates back to 1999: Sarkozy should in fact be reminded that during the Helsinki summit eleven years ago all the EU states signed and recognized Turkey as an official candidate to the EU, and that they stressed that Turkey would be treated as every previous candidate and that the goal is the full EU membership. It would be great to see Sarkozy’s reaction.

    In my opinion, if Turkey were mostly of Christian religion, Sarkozy and Merkel would not have been against its EU membership. Let’s remember that Sarkozy said that Turkey can’t be an EU membeer because it is a Muslim country (and according to him, also because it is not Eurpean). And let’s remember that Merkel, along with the Christian democrats of the EU, tried to include in the so-called EU constitution: “The roots of the EU is Christendom”. But they failed. Fortunately.

    As you wrote, Sarkozy and Merkel as well as Austria hide themselves behind the Greek Cypriots in order to block Turkey’s EU membership. Several EU politicians as well as some EU obsevers of the Cypriot dossier confirmed that theory which I suggested in a former article of my blog.

    Turkey will indeed be among the top 10 economies of the world by 2023, the centennial of the republic.

    According to a report written by Kemal Dervis and some of his friends in 2004, Turkey will be the fifth economy of the EU in 2020.

    I quote: “In the world of tomorrow there will be no room for national foreign policy initiatives. As an EU member Turkey would naturally reinforce the centripetal forces in foreign policy.”

    Well said.

    By the way, the minister for foreign affairs of Finland Mr Stubb stated a few months ago: “Arguably, today Turkey is more influential in the world than any of our member states together or separately.”.

    According to Euractiv Turkey, on february, 14th 2011, the minister for EU affairs of England Mr David Lidington said that the EU will be a global player thanks to Turkey’s EU membership. And on february, 16th 2011, Mr Carl Bildt stated that when Turkey becomes a member it will strengthen the EU (he also stated that Turkey works seriously in order to meet the all the conditions of the membership).

    I quote: “The EU would not derive major benefits from Turkish membership unless Turkey behaves as a perfectly disciplined “community pupil”, which is most unlikely in view of the bad examples offered by other member countries.”

    I want to suggest that astonishing information (from Dünya newspaper – http://www.trtenglish.com/trtworld/en/newsDetail.aspx?HaberKodu=27be8597-3fd5-4710-a1b8-f6037461a8e3 ):

    “According to the EU Commission data, Turkey’s gross government debt to GDP ratio stands at 43 percent, whereas EU average in gross government debt to GDP ratio reaches as high as 79 percent.

    The government debt to GDP ratio which shouldn’t exceed 60 % according to the Maastricht economic criteria are 140.2 percent in Greece, 118.9 percent in Italy, 98.6 percent in Belgium, 97.4 percent in Ireland, 83 percent in France and Portugal each, 77.8 percent in Britain and 75.7 percent in Germany.”

    Moreover, the Turkish economy is so deeply rooted to the economy of the EU that when Turkey becomes a member it will be immediately included into the euro zone (but will Turkey agree to enter the euro zone?).

    I quote: “One should not exclude that one of the conclusions of this exercise might be not to complete the accession negotiations with Turkey and to propose instead a privileged partnership, which would be in line with an increasingly enlargement-hostile public opinion.”

    Turkey stated several times that it will never accept any appalling offer in contradiction with the Helisnki EU summit of 1999. Sarkozy and Merkel’s privilged partnership is actually a “privileged Muslim” partnership that solely aims at preventing Turkey from voting at the EU parliament. That so-called privileged offer aims at isolating Turkey in the ghetto of the EU. That’s crystal clear.

    Sir, regarding Cyprus, I want to introduce these two former articles of mine to you:



    And here is an article about the EU-Turkey relations (I would be very happy if you posted a comment):


    Best regards,


  2. Dear Eberhard,

    Once again your article is very well written and hits the point. Congratulations for your objective point of view, and well balanced arguments.

    Best regards,

  3. the EU will never accept Turkey for 2 reasons. 1- because it will be the biggest and most powerful member and Germany will lose out. 2- which is the no:1 cause because Turkey is a Muslim country, The Eu members can jump up and down and pretend but the truth is as it stands Muslims can not be members of the Eu. If there were a way to exclude Eu muslims from voting it would be ideal for the union. One can believe what he wishes but have a European vote and see what it will harvest.

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