Turkey’s campaign for membership in the European Union has lasted more than four decades. The first Muslim nation to be considered for E.U. membership, Turkey was found by a 2002 survey of E.U. member states to be the least popular of 13 current candidate countries, among them Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia. Proponents of Turkey’s membership, which include the United States, argue that bringing Turkey into the Western fold would help spread democracy in the Middle East and improve regional security. U.S. President George W. Bush, for example, has remarked that Turkey’s acceptance would “prove that Europe is not the exclusive club of a single religion.” Critics contend that Turkey must first improve its record on human rights, and point to Turkey’s continued military occupation of Cyprus as further evidence that it is not yet ready for E.U. membership.
WIDE ANGLE asked the Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven Cook and New York University’s John Brademas to weigh in on the complex issues surrounding Turkey’s bid for European acceptance, and to debate the question: How close is Turkey to achieving E.U. membership?
Read the experts’ positions below and then click on subjects in the report card to read their in-depth analyses of Turkey’s readiness to join the E.U.
Dr. Steven A. Cook
Dr. Steven A. Cook is the Douglas Dillon fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is an expert on Arab and Turkish politics, as well as U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Cook is the author of RULING, BUT NOT GOVERNING: THE MILITARY AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT IN EGYPT, ALGERIA, AND TURKEY (forthcoming, Johns Hopkins University Press).
Dr. John Brademas
Dr. John Brademas, President Emeritus of New York University, is the founding director of the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, a non-profit organization that seeks to foster democratic, pluralist, and peaceful societies in the region, and recently delivered a lecture at Bosphoros University entitled “Democratization in Turkey and Southeast Europe.” He was NYU President from 1981 to 1992. Before coming to New York, Dr. Brademas served as United States Representative in Congress from Indiana’s Third District for 22 years (1959-81).
Steven Cook: A central objective of Turkish foreign policy since 1963, when Turkey became an associate member of the European Economic Community, has been full membership in what ultimately became the European Union. In the following decades, however, three coups d’etat and chronic economic problems represented significant obstacles to Turkey’s membership in Europe’s exclusive club.
To the surprise of many analysts and observers, however, Ankara has undertaken a wide-ranging and thorough program of political reform over the last five years. This process culminated in the autumn of 2004 when the European Commission certified that Turkey had met the E.U.’s requirements — the Copenhagen Criteria — and recommended that the European Council begin the process of membership negotiations with Turkey, which are likely to last 10 to 15 years by some estimates. I believe Turkey is unequivocally ready to move forward with membership negotiations. In an address I delivered five years ago at the Bosphorous University in Istanbul on the theme, “Democracy: Challenge for the New Turkey in the New Europe,” I said, “I would not be here today if I did not believe in the prospect of a new democratic Turkey, belonging to the new Europe, a member of the European Union and a continuing ally of the United States.” Although, it must be clear that I believe Turkey still has a long way to go before meeting the criteria for E.U. membership
Dr. John Brademas: In an address I delivered five years ago at the Bosphorous University in Istanbul on the theme, “Democracy: Challenge for the New Turkey in the New Europe,” I said, “I would not be here today if I did not believe in the prospect of a new democratic Turkey, belonging to the new Europe, a member of the European Union and a continuing ally of the United States.” Although, it must be clear that I believe Turkey still has a long way to go before meeting the criteria for E.U. membership.