Thursday, February 25, 2010

Turkey and Visions of European Integration

Not to bury a most interesting article in all the political developments occuring at the moment, but worth a read is Ziya Onis' excellent article, " “Contesting for the ‘Center’: Domestic Politics, Identity Conflicts and The Controversy over EU Membership in Turkey (a working paper put out by Bilgi University's European Institute),” on the future of European integration and Turkish accession. A portion of the article has been excerpted on Changing Turkey in a Changing World:
The current constitutional crisis in the EU may ironically create an opportunity space for Turkey. Clearly what is at stake in the constitutional debate is the future direction of the European project. If the outcome of the constitutional crisis is the development of the EU more in the direction of what Jan Zielonka calls a loosely structured “medieval empire”, which is broadly consistent with the British vision rather than the kind of deep integration project favored by the French, this will naturally embody very significant implications for the future place of Turkey in the European context. If the future path of the EU involves a British style integration process of a relatively loose, intergovernmental Europe with relatively flexible boundaries which allows significant scope for national autonomy, the prospects for Turkish accession will be considerably improved. In contrast, if the dominant style of integration is based on the French project of deep integration- the idea of Europe as a “place” with fixed boundaries as opposed to a flexible “space”-the natural inclination will be to include Turkey as an “important outsider” rather than a “natural insider” in a special partnership style arrangement. Our interpretation of the current constitutional impasse in Europe having reached a peak with the negative vote in Irish referendum of June 2008 is that the dominant tendency in the foreseeable future is likely to be the first scenario of flexible integration which clearly constitutes a development in Turkey’s favor.

What we increasingly observe in the current era is the emergence of an implicit broad and mutually reinforcing coalition for “special partnership”, which seems to be deeply rooted, but for rather different reasons, both in the European and Turkish contexts. This constitutes a significant danger from the point of Turkey’s full-membership prospects. The proponents of Turkish membership both at home and abroad appear to be increasingly less vocal and enthusiastic compared to their Turko-skeptic and Euro-skeptic counterparts. The retreat to “loose Europeanization” certainly does not signify the abandonment of the Europeanization project altogether. What it means, however, is that the EU will no longer be at the center-stage of Turkey’s external relations or foreign policy efforts. This, in turn, is likely to have dramatic repercussions for the depth and intensity of the democratization process in Turkey especially in key areas such as a complete reordering of military-civilian relations, an extension of minority rights and a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem, as well as counteracting the deeply embedded problem of gender inequality. There exist key elements within the Turkish state and Turkish society, which would be quite content with the loose Europeanization solution given the perceived threats posed by a combination of deep Europeanization and deep democratization for national sovereignty and political stability. The fears of deep Europeanization are not simply confined to the defensive nationalist camp. There also exists considerable conservatism even in the much more globally oriented AKP circles, when it comes to deep democratization agenda, as it is clearly evident from the resistance to the repealing of the article 301 of the penal code.

A final question to raise in this context is whether the drift towards loose Europeanization is likely to be reversed. The likelihood of a major reversal in the immediate term appears to be rather low. From a longer-term perspective, two possibly mutually reinforcing developments may facilitate a renewed impetus to the deep Europeanization agenda. The first element of such a scenario would involve a new enlargement wave in Europe, which would incorporate the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Turkey as a country, which has already reached the point of accession negotiations will not be immune to such a process. The second element of such a scenario would involve the emergence of a strong counter-movement from the more liberal and Western-oriented segments of the Turkish society, who will place Europeanization and reform firmly on its political agenda.
See also former Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn's comments on "widening and deepening" in this interview with EurActiv.

Also, in terms of more nationalist EU critics within the AKP, see Erdogan's comments on "assimilation" in the interview he gave with Spanish newspaper El País this week -- comments which I should have included yesterday. Erdogan said Turks would be keen to join the EU, but did not want to be "assimilated."

UPDATE I (2/25) -- In the past few days, I have written a bit about the tendency to think of satisfying European Union criteria for Turkey's entrance into the EU as "demands" made by a foreign power versus conditions that must be voluntarily met for Turkey to gain membership in an intergovernmental organization. Some examples of recent grumbling include Turkey's recent ban on the imortation of genetically modified organisms, as well as other restrictions on agricultural practices and food safety, including the use of pesticides. Some growers are also complaining of delays in importing products to Europe as the result of a 10 percent inspection quota.

While increased food safety standards are an overall good idea, there are concerns that the government has done little to make the regulations easier on low-margin growers, such as people selling fruits and vegtables at open-air markets and roadside stands. On food safety, see also the implications of new regulations on traditional foods like kokoreç.

1 comment:

CrisisMaven said...

European Integration has utterly failed. What would have worked very well as a prosperous free trade area became a failed super state of failed member states and with a miscreant currency to boot.