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Is Turkey a candidate for EU membership?
By Megan Clark
Posted July 30, 2007



     The Republic of Turkey was established in the early 1900s. So relatively speaking it’s not an old country. However the region is known to be one of the oldest in the world, and its people represent a rich culture that is currently established within the country. 

     That culture is rapidly changing though. On July 22, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won his second five-year term in office under the AKP (Justice and Development Party). Erdogan and the AKP have been making a lot of progress towards membership to the European Union.

     In the past though, the AKP has been accused of political Islam. Based on their progress toward the European Union and their political reformation after the Turkish coup d'état, many sources now say that they have moved away from trying to bring fundamental Islam to Turkey. Still some skeptics think that their political power threatens the secular state.

     The increase in political support during the last election, though shows that many Turks have put aside fear of Muslim ties and believe that the AKP encourages reforms in aspiration of an European Union membership. But will it ever be good enough for the European Union?

     The EU has declared that Turkey is a candidate for membership, but is hesitant because of several reasons. They have stated concerns because of geographical location as well as their political history and human rights. The location seems to be an issue because only a small percentage of Turkey actually lies within Europe. However the issue is probably not how much of Turkey is in Europe, but where the other half is. By admitting Turkey, the EU would be expanding its borders into Middle Eastern countries like Iran and Syria, therefore becoming closer to an area of the world they would much rather stay out of. 

     Another EU concern is human rights in Turkey. The minority ethnic group, Kurds, have a history of being suppressed by the Turks. Their language was banned across the country and their newspapers were shut down within a few editions. They were mistreated and abused for several decades. Over the last few years, however, the tide has shifted in respect to the Kurds. But even though Turkey no longer restricts Kurdish in schools and government buildings, equal treatment is still far from where it should be.  

     Asli Omur, a student at the University of Washington, is from Istanbul, where her family resides. As an international communications major and international studies minor, Omur has strong views on Turkey’s accession into the EU, “Of course, Turkey needs to improve things, every nation does,” says Omur. “There are issues with Kurds in the eastern provinces and uber nationalists who threaten the future of Turkey in an international arena, for example. But Turkey is like any other [country], continually growing and changing, and Turkey herself has proved to be a viable candidate for Europe.”       

     Looking at the current state of Europe, it’s important to note that if Turkey did make it into the EU, it would be the first non-Christian country to do so. The majority of Turks are Muslim, although it is a secular nation. The EU has never commented on religion being a factor, but their members speak for themselves. Whether Europe is worried about another Ottoman Empire or if the predominant religion is just an oversight, which is unlikely, the homogeneity of the EU seems to be a key factor in holding back Turkey. 

     Turkey’s economy has also been on the rise over the last several years giving it leverage and placing it in a stable position for EU membership. Its presence in the EU would have several benefits, not only for Turkey, but also for the EU. It would negate some criticism within the EU about certain beliefs and create a more stable environment within Turkey. But like many political issues around the world, there are always two sides and not all Turks feel it is necessary to be a part of Europe. “Turkey herself does not think she will enter the EU,” said Omur. “Turkey does not need the EU to exist, it has existed this far without it.”


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