Turkey isn’t going to join the EU any time soon

Part of a series looking at the spin behind a Daily Express article – see this post for details.

The Daily Express is very sure of the future.  In their masthead, they state:

MORE than 12 million Turkish citizens are planning to move to Britain when the country joins the European Union, an explosive poll for Express.co.uk has revealed.

There are many things wrong with this single sentence, and over the next few posts we’ll look at some of them in depth – the number of Turks involved, what they are planning to do, and what the survey actually shows.  However, this post concerns the single word ‘when’.

There are five countries which are currently applying for membership of the EU – Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.  Only the last three of these are currently in significant negotiation, but the EU has made funds available to all five to assist with reforms which will assist their application.  There is a long process that must be undertaken before any new country joins, with states needing to fulfil political, economic and legislative conditions which were defined in a 1993 summit in Copenhagen.  These include:

  • Democracy, including free elections with a secret ballot and the right to set up political parties with no interference;
  • Rule of Law, meaning that the legislative framework overrides parliamentary decisions;
  • Human Rights, which are generally defined by a body entirely separate to the EU, the ECHR;
  • Protection of Minorities, including laws against discrimination;
  • A Market Economy, which is able to cope with competition within the EU;
  • Entry into the Euro, with associated monetary and fiscal criteria; and
  • Legislation to bring the county in line with the EU legislative framework.

These conditions are onerous for all countries who are applying for membership, and even though Turkey has been in talks since 1987 (other countries applied after 2005) it does not meet many of the economic criteria, and is still some way off the legislative framework.  The big political issues, however, are human rights (with the government failing to recognise rights such as freedom of expression) and the Turkish occupation of North Cyprus.

Given this, it is clear that Turkey is not going to be able to join the EU any time soon, and there is no desire within Europe to attempt to fast track its application – indeed, many countries have their own reasons for scepticism. France has historically pointed to the Armenian genocide; Greece and Cyprus will not allow entry while Turkey is occupying land in North Cyprus; Germany has voiced concerns over heavy-handed policing of protests.  Across the EU, a 2007 survey showed that the majority (59%) of respondents were against Turkey joining.  These lone voices cannot be ignored; for a new country to join, every other member state must unanimously agree.

Even if the EU President had a strong desire for Turkey to join (he doesn’t – Juncker specifically stated “under my Presidency of the Commission … no further enlargement will take place over the next five years. As regards Turkey, the country is clearly far away from EU membership”) it only takes one existing member state to say no for entry to be blocked.

Turkey is not going to join the EU any time soon, and the Daily Express is being willfully dishonest when it uses the word ‘when’ to describe that event happening.

A side note: there are four other countries looking to join the EU at the moment, but the newspapers – not just the Express – are focussing only on Turkey.  Why is this?

Certainly, Turkey is the largest of the states, with the potential for more migration if it were to ever join.  However, it also has an educated workforce, good quality infrastructure, and good standard of living.  The main difference which drives the choice of Turkey as the bogeyman is religion.

Although Turkey is a secular state with no official religion, the largest faith group is Islam.  As the UK media has been demonising Muslims since even before 2001, it is easy to use the Turkish link with Islam to make the country itself sound unsafe, corrupt and, well, different.  By confirming readers’ xenophobic beliefs, more papers can be sold.


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