What Will Happen if Turkey Joins the EU?
The European Union, also known as the EU, is an economic and political group of 27 nations in Europe (28 before the United Kingdom left). They initially started in the aftermath of World War II but later developed into a union that covers many different policy areas. Currently, their priorities are striving to be the first climate-neutral continent through the European Green Deal, empowering people in a new age of digital technology, fighting for social prosperity, and strengthening stability through ensuring equality and democracy.
As of right now, Albania, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and most notably Turkey are candidate countries (1). To get admitted into the EU, candidate countries must fill numerous requirements. Turkey has been a candidate country since 1999 and has attempted negotiation talks since 2005. However, they haven’t been able to get accepted for multiple reasons. Turkish citizens have a strong nationalistic pride which is why in 2018 polls, 51% of them stated that they do not want Turkey to join the EU (2). Their belief is that the adoption of the Euro would hurt their economy, especially with the EU’s handling of the Greek economic crisis. Additionally, Turkey’s geographical location makes it a difficult process. The Turkish people do not feel as if they belong to the East or the West which is why they feel hesitant to join the EU or any cooperation with Central Asian countries (2). Also, the EU’s requirements include a democracy which makes things even more complicated for Turkey due to its authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey is infamously known for repressing the media and has a poor human rights track record. In fact, Turkish-NATO disputes have emerged due to Erdoğan remaking the Turkish state into a much more authoritarian state (3). All of these issues make it quite difficult for Turkey to be able to join the EU, especially with their own citizens not wanting to cooperate with the process.
Although Turkey is not in the EU, there are many advantages to adding a country of their nature to the economic and political group. The quite obvious benefit would be the huge economic boost from adopting the Euro. Despite their skepticism of the Euro due to the Greek economic crisis, adopting it would increase Turkey’s GDP by 2.5% as well as a 430 percent increase in its services exports (4). Through more free trade agreements by joining the EU, Turkey can boost its innovation through the increased flow of foreign direct investment. The EU would also massively benefit from Turkish membership since EU companies would be able to have access to the liberalized services market in Turkey (4). In addition, by adding Turkey to its group, the EU would be able to defeat the notion that they are a club of Christian nations. This is quite significant since it would improve Muslim-Christian and East-West relations, affecting the entire world.
In contrast, there are some downsides to Turkey joining the EU. Experts believe that Turkey gains no benefit economically by joining the EU since there are already free trade agreements put in place between Turkey and the European Economic Community which would be similar to trade agreements if Turkey were to join the EU (5). This is proven by the fact that most of Turkey’s agricultural exports already go to European countries. By staying separated from the EU, Turkey is able to make independent decisions during times of crisis and shield itself from potential economic stepbacks that may emerge. This is especially beneficial from a Turkish standpoint due to their high skepticism over the Euro and the way the EU dealt with the Greek economic crisis.
Despite Turkey’s attempts to join the EU since the late 20th century, there are still a lot of questions that emerge about whether Turkish membership is beneficial to the EU. Turkey has the potential to massively boost its economic prowess yet critics argue that nothing will change due to current trade agreements, and the ability to remain independent compared to improved Muslim-Christian relations makes this a complex topic with many different arguments.