Issues Arising from Turkey’s European Union Membership Perspective


European Commission

  • 52 pages
  • EU Restricted
  • October 6, 2004


In parallel with the preparations of the report and the recommendation requested by the European Council, the Commission services have conducted an assessment of the effects of Turkey’s possible accession on the Union and its policies. The clear position of the European Union with regard to Turkey’s status as candidate country and the conditions for the possible opening of negotiations were reconfirmed by the Brussels European Council meeting in June, which concluded that:

“The Union reaffirms its commitment that if the European Council decides in December 2004, on the basis of a report and recommendation from the Commission, that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the EU will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay.”

Given the suggestion put forward by the European Parliament in March for a study on the impact of Turkey’s accession, the Commission services have prepared this paper to be presented alongside the regular report and the recommendation. The purpose is to give an overview of issues arising from Turkey’s membership perspective. The assessment primarily addresses the effects of Turkey’s integration in EU policies. The considerations in the present paper do not constitute additional criteria or conditions to be fulfilled in view of the December decision of the European Council. However the issues examined are relevant to the consideration expressed by the 1993 Copenhagen European Council on the capacity of the European Union to absorb new members. The analysis illustrates the difficulty of undertaking long term projections and the need for further in-depth studies of specific issues relevant for the conduct of negotiations.

Assessing the issues raised by Turkey’s possible accession is faced with a number of uncertainties:

• The future evolution of the Union’s policies, the possible creation of new ones, and the degree of further deepening of integration that might occur.

• Economic and structural developments both in Turkey and in the EU during the next decade, as well as exogenous factors, such as energy prices and the international economic environment at large.

• The Union will have expanded to at least 27 members implying further evolution.

• The timing and scope of the future enlargement process – the countries in the Western Balkans have also been given the perspective of EU membership. Against this background, four working hypotheses have been retained, which do not prejudge the Commission’s position on these issues:

• Although significant policy developments can be expected in several areas over the next 10-15 years, the assessment is based on existing policies.

• Turkey would take over and apply the acquis at the latest upon accession, although possible transitional provisions and special arrangements are also considered.

• Turkey’s accession negotiations will outlast the coming financial perspective.

• The implications of the possible accession of one or several of the Western Balkan countries are not considered. The first section of the paper focuses on political aspects against the background of Turkey’s strategic situation, and attempts to assess the potential implications in the areas of CFSP and ESDP, both in terms of opportunities and challenges. The second section addresses the economic effects on both the EU and Turkey as well as the implications of Turkey’s participation in economic and monetary union. Sections 3 to 6 focus on different policy areas – internal market and related policies, agriculture, regional policy and justice and home affairs – and examine the possible effects of Turkey’s accession, and the associated challenges and opportunities. The final section looks at the possible impact on the EU institutions, as well as budgetary implications.

Summary assessment

Accession of Turkey to the Union would be challenging both for the EU and Turkey. If well managed, it would offer important opportunities for both. The necessary preparations for accession would last well into the next decade. The EU will evolve over this period, and Turkey should change even more radically. The acquis will develop further and respond to the needs of an EU of 27 or more. Its development may also anticipate the challenges and opportunities of Turkey’s accession.

Based on current EU policies and knowledge, the Commission has identified the following main issues for the coming years:

• Turkey’s accession would be different from previous enlargements because of the combined impact of Turkey’s population, size, geographical location, economic, security and military potential, as well as cultural and religious characteristics. These factors give Turkey the capacity to contribute to regional and international stability. Expectations regarding EU policies towards these regions will grow as well, taking into account Turkey’s existing political and economic links to its neighbours. Much will depend on how the EU itself will take on the challenge to become a fully fledged foreign policy player in the medium term in regions traditionally characterised by instability and tensions, including the Middle East and the Caucasus.

• Turkey is at present going through a process of radical change, including a rapid evolution of mentalities. It is in the interest of all that the current transformation process continues. Turkey would be an important model of a country with a majority Muslim population adhering to such fundamental principles as liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

• The economic impact of Turkey’s accession on the EU would be positive but relatively small, both due to the modest size of the Turkish economy and to the degree of economic integration already existing before accession. Much will depend on future economic developments in Turkey. The launch of accession negotiations should help the continued efforts of Turkey to ensure macroeconomic stability and promote investment, growth and social development. Under these conditions, Turkey’s GDP is expected to grow more rapidly than the EU average.

• Accession of Turkey, a lower middle income country, would increase regional economic disparities in the enlarged EU in a way similar to the most recent enlargement, and would represent a major challenge for cohesion policy. Turkey would qualify for significant support from the structural and cohesion funds over a long period of time. A number of regions in present Member States benefiting from structural funds support could lose their eligibility on the basis of present rules.

• The integration of Turkey into the internal market would be beneficial. This depends, however, not only on the fulfilment of present obligations under the customs union but also on more horizontal reforms, such as strengthening corporate governance and regulatory frameworks, intensifying the fight against corruption, and significantly improving the functioning of the judiciary.

• With over three million, Turks constitute by far the largest group of third-country nationals legally residing in today’s EU. Available studies give varying estimates of expected additional migration following Turkey’s accession. Appropriate transitional provisions and a permanent safeguard clause could be considered to avoid serious disturbances on the EU labour market. However, the population dynamics of Turkey could make a contribution to offsetting the ageing of EU societies. In this context, the EU also has a strong interest in that reforms and investments should be made in education and training in Turkey over the next decade.

• Agriculture is one of the most important economic and social sectors in Turkey and would need special attention. Continuous rural development efforts and an upgrading of administrative capacity would be required from Turkey to create as favourable conditions as possible to participate successfully in the common agricultural policy. Turkey would need time to make a number of agricultural sectors more competitive. Turkey would need considerable time in order to avoid substantial income losses for
Turkish farmers. Under present policies Turkey would be eligible for substantial support. In the veterinary area, major efforts would have to be made to improve the animal health situation and controls at the eastern borders in order to avoid serious
problems upon accession.

• Turkey’s accession would help to secure better energy supply routes for the EU. It would probably necessitate a development of EU policies for the management of water resources and the related infrastructure. Because of their sometimes considerable trans-boundary effects, good implementation by Turkey of other EU policies in the fields of environment, transport, energy and consumer protection would also have considerable positive effects for EU citizens elsewhere.

• The management of the EU’s long new external borders would constitute an important policy challenge and require significant investment. Managing migration and asylum as well as fighting organised crime, terrorism, trafficking of human beings, drugs and arms smuggling would all be facilitated through closer cooperation both before and after accession.

• The budgetary impact of Turkish membership to the EU can only be fully assessed once the parameters for the financial negotiations with Turkey have been defined in the context of the financial perspectives from 2014 onwards. The nature and amount of transfers to Turkey would depend on a number of changing factors, such as the EU’s policies and any special arrangements agreed with Turkey in the negotiations as well as the budgetary provisions in place at that time, in particular the overall budgetary ceiling. However, it is clear that the budgetary impact on the basis of present policies would be substantial.

• As to the institutions, Turkey’s accession, assessed on the basis of the Constitution, would significantly affect the allocation of European Parliament seats of current Member States, in particular the medium sized and large countries. In the Council, Turkey would have an important voice in the decision making process in view of its population share which would be reflected in the Council voting system. The impact in terms of the Commission would be less important given the planned reduction of the members of the Commission from 2014 onwards.

1.3. Trans-national issues

Turkey would be an important model of a country with a majority Muslim population adhering to such fundamental principles as liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. This is particularly relevant given the debate and perceptions which have arisen in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks. The EU security interests include energy, transport and border management. Turkey would have a major role to play in the security of energy supply of the enlarged EU, since it would have on its borders the most energy-rich regions on the planet. Turkish accession could help secure access to these resources and their safe transportation into the EU single market. It would diversify possible EU supply lines offering alternative export outlets both for Russia, the Middle East and the countries around the Caspian. Turkey is expected to develop further as a major oil transit country as, in addition to the Bosphorus and the northern Iraq-Ceyhan pipeline, the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline comes into operation. For gas, Turkey will become an increasingly important transit country between the enlarged EU and the Caspian producers as well as the Middle East.

Turkey’s accession would have an important impact on several transport modes. In this respect Turkey’s role as a corridor for road, rail, air, maritime and pipeline connections between Europe and its southern neighbourhood would increase. The economic and trade integration of the Mediterranean region as a whole could thus be facilitated. In terms of border management, Turkey’s EU accession would present a sizeable challenge. At the same time, Turkey’s accession will enhance co-operation concerning organised crime, including trafficking in persons, drug trafficking and illegal migration. Turkey’s relations with its neighbours and other third countries will be affected by the introduction of visas. Turkey will not accede to the Schengen-zone upon or for some time after its accession, but at a later date to be determined by the Council following a stringent evaluation of its border management practices. Accordingly, border controls vis-à-vis Turkey would not be lifted upon accession.

Fighting terrorism constitutes yet another security challenge, where Turkish accession would further enhance already existing cooperation. In recent years, Turkey has suffered several terrorist attacks from extreme-left and radical Islamic fundamentalist groupings. Since the events of 11 September 2001, Turkey has associated itself with several EU initiatives related to the fight against terrorism. Organizations regarded in Turkey as terrorist have been included in the EU list.

The accession of Turkey would present economic challenges, and implicitly opportunities to all parties involved. The main effects of a possible accession of Turkey to the EU may be summarised as described below.

• Overall, EU Member States’ economies would benefit from the accession of Turkey, albeit only slightly. An acceleration of growth in Turkey should give a positive impulse to EU25 exports. Investment opportunities for EU companies are expected to increase as a result of an improved investment climate due to Turkey’s accession perspective. A possible increase in labour supply, stemming from migration from Turkey, could contribute to some additional growth. Taking into account the low income levels of Turkish regions as compared to the EU average, Turkey’s accession would statistically increase regional disparities in the EU.

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