Accession of Turkey to the European Union
Turkey is negotiating its accession to the European Union (EU) as a member state, following its application to become a full member of the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor of the EU, on 14 April 1987.
|Turkish EU accession bid|
|Applied||14 April 1987|
|Approved||16 December 2004|
❌ Not Yet Ratified by All EU Member States
|This article is part of a series about the|
|Accession of Turkey |
to the European Union
After the ten founding members in 1949, Turkey became one of the first new members (the 13th member) of the Council of Europe in 1950. The country became an associate member of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963, and was an associate member of the Western European Union from 1992 to its end in 2011. Turkey signed a Customs Union agreement with the EU in 1995 and was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership on 12 December 1999, at the Helsinki summit of the European Council.
Negotiations for full membership were started on 3 October 2005. Progress was slow, and out of the 35 Chapters necessary to complete the accession process only 16 had been opened and one had been closed by May 2016. The early 2016 refugee deal between Turkey and the European Union was intended to accelerate negotiations after previous stagnation and allow visa-free travel through Europe for Turks.
Since 2016 accession negotiations have stalled. The EU has accused and criticized Turkey for human rights violations and deficits in rule of law. In 2017, EU officials expressed that planned Turkish policies violate the Copenhagen criteria of eligibility for an EU membership. On 26 June 2018, the EU's General Affairs Council stated that "Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union. Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen."
After the Ottoman Empire's collapse following World War I, Turkish revolutionaries led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk emerged victorious in the Turkish War of Independence, establishing the modern Turkish Republic as it exists today. Atatürk, President of Turkey, implemented a series of reforms, including secularisation and industrialisation, intended to "Europeanise" or Westernise the country. During World War II, Turkey remained neutral until February 1945, when it joined the Allies. The country took part in the Marshall Plan of 1947, became a member of the Council of Europe in 1950, and a member of NATO in 1952. During the Cold War, Turkey allied itself with the United States and Western Europe. The Turkish position vis-à-vis Europe has been characterized as "Europe has been an object of desire as well as a source of frustration for Turkish national identity in a long and strained history".
Turkey first applied for associate membership in the European Economic Community in 1959, and on 12 September 1963 signed the "Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community", also known as the Ankara Agreement. This agreement came into effect the following year on 12 December 1964. The Ankara Agreement sought to integrate Turkey into a customs union with the EEC whilst acknowledging the final goal of membership. In November 1970, a further protocol called the "Additional Protocol" established a timetable for the abolition of tariffs and quotas on goods traded between Turkey and the EEC.
On 14 April 1987, Turkey submitted its application for formal membership into the European Economic Community. The European Commission responded in December 1989 by confirming Ankara's eventual membership but also by deferring the matter to more favourable times, citing Turkey's economic and political situation, as well its poor relations with Greece and the conflict with Cyprus as creating an unfavourable environment with which to begin negotiations. This position was confirmed again in the Luxembourg European Council of 1997 in which accession talks were started with central and eastern European states and Cyprus, but not Turkey. During the 1990s, Turkey proceeded with closer integration with the European Union by agreeing to a customs union in 1995. Moreover, the Helsinki European Council of 1999 proved a milestone as the EU recognised Turkey as a candidate on equal footing with other potential candidates.
The next significant step in Turkey–EU relations came with the December 2002 Copenhagen European Council. According to it, "the EU would open negotiations with Turkey 'without delay' if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfills the Copenhagen political criteria." French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder expressed joint support for the December 2004 European Commission summit meeting agenda for Turkey joining the European Union.
The European Commission recommended that the negotiations should begin in 2005, but also added various precautionary measures. The EU leaders agreed on 16 December 2004 to start accession negotiations with Turkey from 3 October 2005. While Austria and Germany initially wanted to leave open the possibility that negotiations with Turkey would lead to a privileged partnership, less than full membership, accession negotiations were ultimately launched with the "shared objective" of membership.
Turkey's accession talks have since been stalled by a number of domestic and external problems. Both Austria and France have said they would hold a referendum on Turkey's accession. In the case of France, a change in its Constitution was made to impose such a referendum, but later another constitutional change has enabled the parliament (if a large majority of its members agrees) to prevent such a referendum. The issue of Cyprus continues to be a major obstacle to negotiations. European officials have commented on the slowdown in Turkish reforms which, combined with the Cyprus problem, led the EU's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in March 2007 to warn of an impending 'train crash' in the negotiations. Due to these setbacks, negotiations again came to a halt in December 2006, with the EU freezing talks in 8 of the 35 key areas under negotiation.
In December 2009, the Republic of Cyprus blocked 6 chapters of Turkish accession negotiations, including those on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, Energy and Education and Culture, arguing that Turkey needs to first normalise relations with Cyprus. As a result, no chapters have been opened since June 2010. Hence, there is no chapter Turkey can open other than the difficult and economically detrimental chapters Competition Policy, Social Policy and Employment, and Public Procurement that most candidate countries open at the end of accession as all other chapters are blocked. In February 2013, Turkish Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry for EU Affairs, Burak Erdenir, claimed that the EU had yet to communicate to Turkey the benchmark criteria for opening chapters 23 and 24, Judiciary & Fundamental Rights and Justice, Freedom & Security, which was to be done after screening of the chapters was completed in 2006, thus making it impossible to comply with them. He also suggested this was a deliberate attempt to slow their accession process.
After over two years of no chapter openings, the European Commission set up a "Positive Agenda" designed to focus on common EU-Turkey interests. EU Commissioner for expansion Stefan Füle describes that the goal was "to keep the accession process alive and put it properly back on track after a period of stagnation which has been a source of frustration for both sides." The EU Commission mentioned a broad range of areas as the main elements of the Agenda such as "intensified dialogue and cooperation on political reforms", "visa", "mobility and migration", "energy", "fight against terrorism", "further participation of Turkey in Community programmes", "town twinning", "trade and the Customs Union” and "supporting efforts to align with the acquis, including on chapters where accession negotiations cannot be opened for the time being". The proposal was considered favorably on the condition that it serves as an instrument in support of and complementary to the negotiation process with the EU.
In the framework of "Positive Agenda", Working Groups were established on 8 chapters ("3-Right of Establishment and Freedom to Provide Services", "6-Company Law", "10-Information Society and Media", "18-Statistics", "23-Judiciary and Fundamental Rights", "24-Justice, Freedom and Security", "28-Consumer and Health Protection", and "32-Financial Control"). The "Positive Agenda" kick-off meeting was held on 17 May 2012 in Ankara with the participation of Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. As a result of the Working Groups meetings held so far, a total of four closing benchmarks were confirmed to have been met by Turkey in three chapters (Company Law, Consumer and Health Protection as well as Financial Control chapters).
In 2007, Turkey stated that they were aiming to comply with EU law by 2013, but Brussels refused to back that as a deadline for membership. In 2006 European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the accession process will take at least until 2021. In a visit to Germany on 31 October 2012, Turkish Prime Minister R.T. Erdoğan made clear that Turkey was expecting membership in the Union to be realised by 2023, the 100th Anniversary of the Turkish Republic, implying that they could end membership negotiations if the talks had not yielded a positive result by then. Turkish President Abdullah Gül said that upon completing the accession process Turkey will hold a referendum for Turkish membership in the European Union.
On 20 June 2013, in the wake of Ankara's crackdown on mass demonstrations in Taksim Square, Germany blocked the start to new EU accession talks with Turkey. According to the Financial Times, one Turkish official said that such a move could potentially break off political relations with the bloc.
A Eurobarometer poll which included EU countries and candidate countries as well, showed that 43% of Turks viewed the EU positively, as compared with 60% six months previously. In the same poll, 29% of Turks polled expressed support for an EU Constitution, the lowest level of support among EU countries and candidates polled. Germany says that its reservation stems from a technical issue, but Angela Merkel, an opponent of Turkish entry into the EU, has described herself as "shocked" after Ankara's use of overwhelming police force against mostly peaceful demonstrators. France stated that they would not waive their veto over unfreezing four accession chapters with Turkey until after elections for the European Parliament in June 2014.
The crackdown following the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt by President Erdoğan damaged relations with the EU. Erdoğan has indicated his approval of reinstating the death penalty to punish those involved in the coup, with the EU suggesting that this would end its EU ambitions. Erdoğan stated in November 2016 that he was considering putting Turkey's continued negotiations with the EU on membership to a referendum in 2017. In November 2016, the European Parliament voted in favour of a non-binding resolution to request that the European Commission temporarily suspend membership negotiations due to the "disproportionate repressive measures" of the government to the coup. On 13 December, the European Council (comprising the heads of state or government of the member states) resolved that it would open no new areas in Turkey's membership talks in the "prevailing circumstances"; Turkey's path toward autocratic rule makes progress on EU accession impossible.
In April 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted to reopen its monitoring procedure against Turkey. This vote is widely understood to deal a major blow to Turkey's perspective of eventual EU membership, as exiting that process was made a precondition of EU accession negotiations back in 2004.
The European Commission's long-term budget proposal for the 2021-2027 period released in May 2018 included pre-accession funding for a Western Balkan Strategy for further enlargement, but omitted Turkey.
On 26 June 2018, the EU's General Affairs Council stated that "the Council notes that Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union. Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen." The Council added that it is "especially concerned about the continuing and deeply worrying backsliding on the rule of law and on fundamental rights including the freedom of expression."
Chronology of relations with the EU
Table of chapters
To accede to the EU, Turkey must successfully complete negotiations with the European Commission on 33 of the 35 chapters of the acquis communautaire, the total body of EU law. (Two chapters do not require negotiation.) Afterward, the member states must unanimously agree on granting Turkey membership to the European Union.
early stage / very hard to adopt
considerable efforts needed
some level of preparation
further efforts needed
no major difficulties expected
good level of preparation
well prepared / well advanced
Pre-accession support to Turkey
Until the accession process is terminated, Turkey receives payments from the EU budget as pre-accession support, currently 4.5 billion allocated budget for the 2014–2020 period (about 740 million Euros per year).
In June 2017, the EU's financial watchdog, the European Court of Auditors, announced that it would investigate the effectiveness of the pre-accessions funds which Turkey has received since 2007 to support rule of law, civil society, fundamental rights, democracy and governance reforms. Turkish media commented that "perhaps it can explain why this money apparently failed to have the slightest effect on efforts to prevent the deterioration of democracy in this country."
Expected impact of joining
Effect upon the EU
|Member countries||Population||Area (km2)||GDP PPP
per capita (US$)
The problem of Turkey's membership of the EU is compounded by conflicting views as to what the EU should ultimately become. This has played a significant role in the debate, due in part to the European debt crisis and the fact that as a result of this the eurozone and the EU overall is more federalised on both fiscal, legal and political levels than it was at the time of Turkey's application or at the time that Turkey was accepted as a candidate. Generally those members of the EU who support a rights-based free trade bloc do not oppose Turkey as adamantly as those who support a broader political union. The latter, in particular, are concerned that unification would be frustrated and the European project threatened by Turkey's inclusion.
Proponents of Turkey's membership argue that it is a key regional power with a large economy and the second-largest military force of NATO after the United States that will enhance the EU's position as a global geostrategic player and its Common Foreign and Security Policy; given Turkey's geographic location and economic, political, cultural and historic ties in regions with large natural resources that are at the immediate vicinity of the EU's geopolitical sphere of influence; such as the East Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts, the Middle East, the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia.
According to the former Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, "the accession of Turkey would give the EU a decisive role for stability in the eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, which is clearly in the strategic interest of Europe". Poland is a key supporter for Turkey's bid to join the EU, while the United Kingdom has expressed support previously, but not since leaving the EU.
Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 83 million inhabitants would bestow the largest number of MEPs in the European Parliament. Turkey now has a larger population than Germany. However, as a single country can only hold a maximum of 96 seats in the European Parliament, this would not give Turkey an advantage in the European Parliament.
Turkey's membership would also affect future enlargement plans, especially the number of nations seeking EU membership, grounds on which Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has opposed Turkey's admission. Giscard has suggested that it would lead to demands for accession by Morocco. Morocco's application is already rejected on geographic grounds; Turkey, unlike Morocco, has 3% of its territory in Europe. The vast majority of its population lives in the Asian side of the country. On the other hand, the country's largest city, Istanbul, lies mostly in Europe. On the other hand, Cyprus, which is geographically located in Asia, joined the European Union in 2004. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in January 2007 that "enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept ... I want to say that Europe must give itself borders, that not all countries have a vocation to become members of Europe, beginning with Turkey which has no place inside the European Union."
EU member states must unanimously agree on Turkey's membership for the Turkish accession to be successful. In December 2011, a poll showed that as much as 71% of the participants surveyed in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom were opposed to Turkey's membership in the European Union. A number of nations may oppose it; notably Austria; Germany (chancellor Angela Merkel has long rejected Turkey's accession bid, and has proposed a "privileged partnership" instead); and France (where some are anxious at the prospect of a new wave of Muslim immigrants, given the country's already large Muslim community).
Negotiations to remove the French constitutional requirement for a compulsory referendum on all EU accessions after Croatia resulted in a new proposal to require a compulsory referendum on the accession of any country with a population of more than 5% of the EU's total population; this clause would mainly apply to Turkey and Ukraine. The French Senate, however, blocked the change in the French constitution, in order to maintain good relations with Turkey. The current situation according to the French constitution is as follows: if 3⁄5 of the delegates (from the Senate and the Parliament) agree to the accession of Turkey, there will be no referendum.
Benefits to Turkey
Upon accession to the EU, Turkey expects to receive economic development aid. There is also an expectation that there will be an increase in European foreign investment in the Turkish economy, further driving economic growth. During potential economic crisis events, Turkey could benefit from EU assistance.
Free movement of people across the EU will give many Turkish people the opportunity to migrate to other parts of Europe in search of work, or a higher standard of living. The option of migration out of Turkey will inevitably ease tensions in the east of the country, as the prospect of a better standard of living will tend to cool separatist tendencies. However, there have been problems concerning irregular transit migration through Turkey to the EU.
Some secularists in Turkey envisage that the accession of Turkey will contribute to the spread of secular western values in Turkey. Conversely, some non-secularists in Turkey envisage that accession will contribute to the further growth and acceptance of Islam in Europe. The EU accession bid has stimulated Turkey's political and legal reforms and intensified the democratisation process.
Given Turkey's large and growing population, Turkey will have a correspondingly large representation in the European Parliament. This will give Turkey a strong direct influence over EU policies. Membership in the EU should also increase Turkey's prestige regionally and internationally.
Turkish membership issues
Turkey has taken advantage of a customs union with the European Union, signed in 1995, to increase its industrial production destined for exports, while at the same time benefiting from EU-origin foreign investment into the country. In 2008, Turkey's exports reached US$141.8 billion (main export partners: Germany 11.2%, UK 8%, Italy 6.95%, France 5.6%, Spain 4.3%, US 3.88%; total EU exports 56.5%.) However, larger imports amounting to about US$204.8 billion threaten the balance of trade (main import partners: Russia 13.8%, Germany 10.3%, China 7.8%, Italy 6%, USA 4.8%, France 4.6%, Iran 3.9%, UK 3.2%; total EU imports 40.4%; total Asia imports 27%).
According to Forbes magazine, Istanbul had a total of 37 billionaires in 2013, ranking 5th in the world behind Moscow (84 billionaires), New York City (62 billionaires), Hong Kong (43 billionaires) and London (43 billionaires).
The opening of talks regarding the Economic and Monetary Policy acquis chapter of Turkey's accession bid was expected to begin in June 2007, but were stalled by France. Turkey became the European Union's fifth-largest trade partner in 2015 according to data released by Eurostat.
Turkey is set to receive EUR 9.2bn from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, a funding mechanism for EU candidate countries.
As of 2005, the population of Turkey stood at 71.5 million with a yearly growth rate of 1.5%. The Turkish population is relatively young, with 25.5% falling within the 0–15 age bracket. As of 2021, the population of Turkey is approximately at 83 million people.
Turkey's large population could alter the balance of power in the representative European institutions. Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 83 million inhabitants would bestow it a large number of MEPs in the European Parliament. This is because the European Parliament distributes seats to member nations according to their population. Therefore, if Turkey is admitted, it could influence the EU legislation and administration in line with its own policies.
Cyprus was divided when, on 20 July 1974, Turkey invaded and occupied a third of the island in response to an Athens-engineered coup aimed at annexing Cyprus to Greece. Since then, Turkey has refused to acknowledge the Republic of Cyprus (an EU member since 2004) as the sole authority on the island, and recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus since its establishment in 1983. The Turkish invasion in 1974 and the resulting movement of refugees along both sides of the Green Line, and the establishment of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, form the core issues which surround the ongoing Cyprus dispute.
Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots backed the 2004 Annan Plan for Cyprus aimed at the reunification of the island, but the plan was subsequently rejected by Greek Cypriots on the grounds that it did not meet their needs. According to Greek Cypriots, the latest proposal included maintained residence rights for the many Anatolian Turks who moved to Cyprus after the invasion (and their descendants who were born on the island after 1974), while the Greek Cypriots who lost their property after the Turkish invasion would be granted only a restricted right of return to the north following the island's proposed reunification. Although the outcome received much criticism in the EU as well, the Republic of Cyprus was admitted into the EU a week after the referendum.
The Turkish government has refused to officially recognise the Republic of Cyprus until the removal of the political and economic blockade on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey's non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus has led to complications within the Customs Union. Under the customs agreements which Turkey had already signed as a precondition to start EU membership negotiations in 2005, it is obliged to open its ports to Cypriot planes and vessels, but Turkey has not complied so far; refusing to do so until the EU eases the international isolation of Northern Cyprus. In February 2013, Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış told the Republic of Cyprus, "if you truly want salvation, truly want peace, then remove your blockade of Ercan Airport to EU member countries and Turkey will open its ports to you."
Turkey's refusal to implement a trade pact between Turkey and the EU that requires the Turkish government to allow Greek Cypriot vessels to use its air and seaports has prompted the EU to freeze eight chapters in Turkey's accession talks.
In November 2009, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek declared that, should Turkey be forced to choose between supporting either EU membership or Turkish Cypriots, "[then] Turkey’s choice will forever be to stand next to the Turkish Cypriots. Everybody should understand this."
The issue of Turkish membership has been contentious in Greece. An opinion poll from 2005 suggested that only 25% of Greeks believe Turkey has a place in the European Union. The former Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis stated that Turkish membership of the EU could only be predicated upon, "full compliance, full accession" in December 2006. In 2005 the European Commission referred to relations between Turkey and Greece as "continuing to develop positively" while also citing a key barrier to progress being Turkey's ongoing claim of casus belli over a dispute about territorial waters boundaries. In September 2017, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, mentioned that halting accession talks with Turkey would be a strategic mistake by the European Union, amid a war of words raging between Germany and Turkey. Also, former Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou, has urged European Union leaders to keep the doors open to Turkey and to continue dialogue with the Turkish government, in an apparent reference to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls for the suspension of accession talks with Turkey.
Turkey has a secular constitution, with no "official" state religion, although the country's most prominent imam (currently Ali Erbaş) is a civil servant and head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, or Diyanet. 82% of the Turkish population is Muslim of whom over 70% belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. A minority is affiliated with the Shi'a Alevi branch. A separate study published in 2019 found 89.5% of Turks identify as Muslim. Turkey would be the first and only Muslim-majority country to join or belong to the European Union. Current EU states typically contain large Muslim minorities. By contrast, Christians are believed to comprise only 0.2% of Turkey's population.
Official population census polls in Turkey do not include information regarding a person's religious belief or ethnic background due to the regulations set by the Turkish constitution, which defines all citizens of the Republic of Turkey as Turkish in terms of nationality, regardless of faith or race.
There is a tradition of secularism in Turkey. The state has no official religion nor promotes any, and actively monitors The constitution recognises the freedom of religion for individuals, whereas religious communities are placed under the protection of the state; but the constitution explicitly states that they cannot become involved in the political process (by forming a religious party, for instance) or establish faith-based schools. No party can claim that it represents a form of religious belief; nevertheless, religious sensibilities are generally represented through conservative parties. Turkey prohibits by law the wearing of religious headcover and theo-political symbolic garments for both sexes in government buildings, schools, and universities; the law was upheld by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as legitimate in the Leyla Şahin v. Turkey case on 10 November 2005. However, in 2010, the prohibition of wearing headscarves in universities was lifted..
Cultural differences between Muslim-majority Turkey and predominantly Christian Europe play an important part in the entire debate on Turkish accession to the European Union.
World Values Survey
In an analysis, based on the World Values Survey, the social scientists Arno Tausch and Almas Heshmati came to the conclusion that a robust measurement scale of global economic, political and social values and Turkey's place on them wields only a very qualified picture of Turkey's place on the maps of global values. The study, which is based on 92,289 representative individuals with complete data in 68 countries, representing 56.89% of the global population, looks at hard-core economic values in the countries concerned. From nine dimensions for the determination of the geography of human values, based on a promax factor analysis of the available data, six-factor analytical scores to calculate a new Global Value Development Index were used, which combines: avoiding economic permissiveness; avoiding racism; avoiding distrust of the army and the press; avoiding the authoritarian character; tolerance and respect; and avoiding the rejection of the market economy and democracy. Turkey is ranked 25, ahead of several EU member countries. But there are still considerable deficits concerning the liberal values components, which are very important for an effective democracy. The deficits, the study argues, suggest that the Turkish state, Turkish civil society, and European decision-makers would be well advised to continue to support civil society and secular democracy in Turkey.
Armenian genocide recognition
In 2004, the French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier stated that Turkey must recognise the systematic massacres of Armenians in 1915 as a genocide. However, he insisted that although France did not set a precondition for European Union entry regarding the matter, he stated that France would raise the issue during negotiations. The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, stated that it must be a precondition for Turkey to recognise the systematic massacres of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
The government of Turkey rejects such a precondition for EU membership and does not accept it as a part of the EU membership criteria.
In 2006, the European Parliament voted against a proposal to formally add the issue as a membership criterion for Turkey. A similar proposal by Greek and Greek Cypriot MEPs was also rejected by the European Parliament in 2011.
In contravention of European Union directives on human rights, Turkey banned LGBT pride parades in 2015 and 2016. Reasons given for the ban were security concerns, and religious sensitivities caused by holding the parade during the month of Ramadan.
Article 301 states that "a person who publicly insults the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and two years" and also that "expressions of thought intended to criticise shall not constitute a crime."
The EU was especially critical of this law during the September 2005 trial of novelist Orhan Pamuk over comments that recognised the deaths of thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians. Enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn and members of the European Parliament called the case "regrettable", "most unfortunate", and "unacceptable". After the case was dropped three months later, Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül indicated that Turkey may abandon or modify Article 301, stating that "there may be need for a new law". In September 2006, the European Parliament called for the abolition of laws, such as Article 301, "which threaten European free speech norms". On 30 April 2008, the law was reformed. According to the reform, it is now a crime to explicitly insult the "Turkish nation" rather than "Turkishness"; opening court cases based on Article 301 require the approval of the Justice Minister; and the maximum punishment has been reduced to two years in jail.
Kemal Kerinçsiz, a patriotic lawyer, and other members of Büyük Hukukçular Birliği (Great Jurists Union) headed by Kerinçsiz, have been "behind nearly all of [Article 301] trials." In January 2008, Kerinçsiz was arrested for participating in an ultra-nationalist underground organisation, Ergenekon, allegedly behind the attacks on the Turkish Council of State and Cumhuriyet newspaper, the assassination of several Christian missionaries and Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, as well as allegedly plotting the assassination of Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. The Ergenekon trials were later proven to be a plot organized by foreign-based Gulenist terror organization and all charges were dropped after the attempted military coup by Gulenists on 15 July 2016.
Turkey gave women the right to vote in 1930 for municipal elections. In 1934 this right was expanded for the national elections, while women were also given the right to become elected as MPs in the Turkish Parliament, or for being appointed as Ministers, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Parliament and President of the Republic. In 1993 Tansu Çiller became the first female Prime Minister of Turkey.
In its second report on women's role in social, economic and political life in Turkey, the European Parliament emphasised that respecting human rights, including women's rights, is an essential condition for Turkey's membership of the EU. According to the report, Turkey's legal framework on women's rights "has in general been satisfactory, but its substantive implementation remains flawed."
Turkey is one of two states (along with Azerbaijan) among the 47 members of the Council of Europe which refuse to recognise the status of conscientious objectors or give them an alternative to military service, other than a reduction of service by paying a tax.
In the EU
Public opinion in EU countries generally opposes Turkish membership, though with varying degrees of intensity. The Eurobarometer September–October 2006 survey shows that 59% of EU-27 citizens are against Turkey joining the EU, while only about 28% are in favour. Nearly all citizens (about 9 in 10) expressed concerns about human rights as the leading cause. In the earlier March–May 2006 Eurobarometer, citizens from the new member states were more in favour of Turkey joining (44% in favour) than the old EU-15 (38% in favour). At the time of the survey, the country whose population most strongly opposed Turkish membership was Austria (con: 81%), while Romania was most in favour of the accession (pro: 66%). On a wider political scope, the highest support comes from the Turkish Cypriot Community (pro: 67%) (which is not recognised as a sovereign state and is de facto not EU territory and out of the European institutions). These communities are even more in favour of the accession than the Turkish populace itself (pro: 54%). Opposition in Denmark to Turkish membership was polled at 60% in October 2007, despite the Danish government's support for Turkey's EU bid.
There is a trend in declining support since 2000 that has continued during the 2016–present purges in Turkey. In the past support for Turkish accession came especially from left-wing parties, but more recently both sides of the political spectrum in Europe have been highly critical of Turkey's human rights record. Opposition to Turkish accession is higher in countries such as Bulgaria and Germany which have a high population of Turkish diaspora or Muslims in Europe.
The opening of membership talks with the EU in December 2004 was celebrated by Turkey with much fanfare, but the Turkish populace has become increasingly sceptical as negotiations are delayed based on what it views as lukewarm support for its accession to the EU and alleged double standards in its negotiations particularly with regard to the French and Austrian referendums. A mid-2006 Eurobarometer survey revealed that 43% of Turkish citizens view the EU positively; just 35% trust the EU, 45% support enlargement and just 29% support an EU constitution.
Moreover, Turks are divided on whether to join at all. A 2007 poll put Turkish support for accession to the EU at 41.9% (up from 32% in 2006), with 27.7% opposed and 24.0% indifferent. A 2009 poll showed that support for accession had risen to 48%, even as negative views of the EU had risen from 28% to 32%. A 2013 poll showed Turkish support for the EU bid at one third of the population, and opposition to double that share.
According to the Transatlantic Trends survey for 2013, 60% of Turks have an unfavourable view of the European Union and most Turks believe that working with Asia is more important to their national interests than working with Europe. Around 44% of Turks believe EU membership could be good for the economy in contrast with 61% for EU citizens. During an interview with Euractiv, EU Minister Egemen Bağış stated that: "This is what Europe needs to do; they need to say that when Turkey fulfills all requirements, Turkey will become a member of the EU on date X. Then, we will regain the Turkish public opinion support in one day."
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Major current viewpoints
- 2014 EU Presidential candidates Jean-Claude Juncker (EEP) and Martin Schulz (S&D) promised that Turkey would never join the European Union while either one of them were President, reasoning that Turkey had turned its back on European democratic values. Juncker won the election and became the new president of the EU as of 1 November 2014. He later reaffirmed his stance:
... 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. A government that blocks Twitter is certainly not ready for accession.
- Primary reasons for Turkey's persistent requests to join the EU are, among others, the many Turks in Europe and the importance of trade between the two. Turkey is, however, also increasingly disappointed with the widespread opposition to its accession among EU member states. In September 2012, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan was asked by CNN if Turkey still wants to join the EU. His response: "There are 5 million Turks in Europe and 3 million Turks in Germany alone. We are a natural member of the European Union. Germany invited Turkish workers 50 years ago, however 50 years have passed and we have waited at the European Union's doorstep. No other country has experienced such a thing. We will be patient until a point. However, when we cross that point, we will bring light to the situation and decide accordingly." During a trip to Yalta, Erdoğan expressed his stern disappointment regarding the EU accession process: "We are still an EU negotiating candidate. At such a position, I wish EU accession. Otherwise, such a scenario would affect a large region including Ukraine and Turkey."
- German chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly opposed full membership of Turkey to the EU on German-Turkish summits, advocating instead a privileged partnership. Some Christian Democrats back fuller support for Turkey, risking the chancellor becoming more isolated in advocating for a "privileged partnership". In September 2011, on the occasion of the visit of the Turkish president Gül, Merkel said: "We don't want the full membership of Turkey. But we don't want to lose Turkey as an important country", referring to her idea of a strategic partnership. In 2006, Chancellor Merkel said "Turkey could be in deep, deep trouble when it comes to its aspirations to join the European Union" regarding its refusal to open up its ports to European Union member Cyprus. Again in 2014, when Erdogan urged Merkel to strongly support his country's bid, there was no sign the chancellor had relinquished her skepticism. She revealed after the two had talked: "I personally said that we are in a negotiation process that has certain outcome and no fixed time frame. It is no secret and nothing has changed in my view that I am sceptical about full membership for Turkey." In a TV debate in September 2017, German chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger Martin Schulz both said that they would seek an end to Turkey's membership talks with the European Union.
- Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy opposed the entrance of Turkey in the European Union, arguing the country was too big, too poor and too culturally different to join the EU. Former President Francois Hollande, however, reaffirmed support for Turkey in 2012, intending to smooth the way for French companies seeking contracts in Turkey. Franco-Turkish relations remained tense after Turkey imposed a law in 2009 that criminalised recognition of the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as a genocide; a move France's Constitutional Court reversed, in turn, causing French firms' share of foreign investment in Turkey to shrink from 6% in 2009 to 3% in 2012. Leaders of French infrastructure companies are especially eager to enter the Turkish markets for nuclear security and rail infrastructure, expected to respectively be worth $40 and $50 billion by 2020.
- In September 1999, following a thaw in Greek-Turkish relations after mutual help in earthquake relief, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told The Guardian "Greece not only wants to see Turkey in the EU, it wants to be pulling the cart of a European Turkey", and that it was within his nation's interests as a way to avoid "continual conflict and tension with the block and European standards".
- The 2005 EU Progress Report stated that: "On 29 July 2005, Turkey signed the Additional Protocol adapting the EC Turkey Association Agreement to the accession of 10 new countries on 1 May 2004. At the same time, Turkey issued a declaration stating that signature of the Additional Protocol did not amount to recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. On 21 September, the EU adopted a counter-declaration indicating that Turkey’s declaration was unilateral, did not form part of the Protocol, and had no legal effect on Turkey’s obligations under the Protocol. The EU declaration stressed that recognition of all Member States was a necessary component of the accession process. It also underlined the need for supporting the efforts of the Secretary General of the UN to bring about a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem which would contribute to peace, stability and harmonious relations in the region."
- In November 2006, the European Commission members decided to suspend parts of the talks with Turkey regarding accession, as Turkish officials said that they will not open Turkish ports to traffic from Republic of Cyprus until the EU eases its embargo on Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.
- In 2007, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that Turkey is not ready to join the EU "tomorrow nor the day after tomorrow", but its membership negotiations should continue. He also called on France and other member states to honour the decision to continue accession talks, describing it as a matter of credibility for the Union.
- On 28 June 2007, Portuguese State Secretary for European Affairs Manuel Lobo Antunes affirmed that "Turkey should join the EU once it has successfully completed membership talks, which are likely to run for at least a decade." "We think it is important and fundamental that Turkey joins the European Union once it fulfils all the conditions and all the criteria," he said, adding that "Portugal aims in the next six months to 'put the process on track'."
- On 5 November 2008, the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini declared that "the Italian government will support the inclusion of Turkey in the European Union with all its strength." He indicated that "the Italian Parliament will give a 'clear word' when necessary with the 'enormous majority' of the Berlusconi government, but also with 'the opposition' which it knows it can count on." "Turkey's inclusion will not be a problem, but it will be part of the solution for strengthening Europe in relations with other countries, such as the Caucasus region" he added.
- On 13 November 2008, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi urged the EU to "accelerate Turkey's membership bid" and pledged to "help Ankara gain accession." Berlusconi pledged to "try and win over those EU members resistant to Turkey’s application." "Regarding the opposition shown by certain countries – some of which are important countries – I am confident we will be able to convince them of the strategic importance of Turkey, within the European framework, as a country bordering the Middle East," Berlusconi declared.
- / On 29 May 2009, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled a visit to Sweden scheduled for 2 June 2009, in order to avoid a clash on the question of Turkey's EU membership just a few days before the European elections and a month before Stockholm took over the EU's rotating presidency. The French President, who is an outspoken opponent of Turkey's entry to the European Union, did not want to highlight the strong divergence of views on this topic with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on 28 May 2009. Sweden favours further EU enlargement, including to Turkey. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told the French newspaper Le Figaro that "the EU has 'a strategic interest' in Turkey's EU integration and warned against 'closing the door' to Ankara." "If we judge Cyprus to be in Europe, although it is an island along Syria's shores, it is hard not to consider that Turkey is in Europe," Mr Bildt said, referring to Mr Sarkozy's repeated statements that Turkey is not a European country and does not belong to Europe. In the Le Figaro interview, Mr Bildt said: "My vision of Europe is not as defensive as I observe it with other people." The French president's trip to Sweden was cancelled the day after the interview was published. "Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled his visit because of the Carl Bildt interview," one French minister told Le Monde. "The president wanted to avoid a clash on Turkey and did not want that his visit to Sweden interferes with the elections [five days later]." In March 2013, King Carl XVI of Sweden said that "The EU will become stronger with Turkey"
- On 5 April 2009, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero stated that "Spain firmly supports Turkey’s candidature to enter the EU, provided it meets the necessary requisites." Zapatero told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that "Spain’s position is 'firm, clear and solid' in favour of Turkey’s candidature to enter the European Union." "We must 'open the door' for Turkey to enter 'the EU peace and cooperation project', provided it meets the necessary requisites for integration," Zapatero added; before remarking that "Turkey’s entrance is good both for Turkey and for the EU."
- In November 2009 Greek President Karolos Papoulias stated that he would not support Turkey's accession "as long as Ankara behaves as an occupying force in Cyprus."
- On 4 November 2009, David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, during a visit to Turkey underlined the UK government's support for Turkey's bid to join the European Union, saying: "I am very clear that Turkish accession to the EU is important and will be of huge benefit to both Turkey and the EU."
- On 27 July 2010, David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, during a visit to Turkey promised to "fight" for Turkey's membership of the European Union, saying he is "angry" at the slow pace of negotiations. He added that "a European Union without Turkey at its heart is not stronger but weaker... not more secure but less... not richer but poorer." On 22 May 2016, Cameron said that "it is not remotely on the cards that Turkey is going to join the EU any time soon. They applied in 1987. At the current rate of progress they will probably get round to joining in about the year 3000 according to the latest forecasts."
- On 3 July 2013, at an election rally of Christian Democrat Party in Düsseldorf, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble stated that Turkey should not join the European Union as it is not part of Europe.
- On 7 June 2013 Turkey's Undersecretary of the Ministry of EU Affairs Haluk Ilıcak said “The process means more than the accession. Once the necessary levels are achieved, Turkey is big enough to continue its development without the accession. Our aim is to achieve a smooth accession process.”
- In 2013, Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Nečas said: "We continue to believe that Turkey should be given the chance to become a full-fledged member of the European Union after it meets all accession criteria". He described Turkey as an important partner to the EU and praised the constructive role it plays in the Middle East region.
- In March 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that democracy and freedom were "phrases" which had "absolutely no value" in Turkey, after calling for journalists, lawyers and politicians to be prosecuted as terrorists.
- In March 2017, in a speech given to supporters in the western Turkish city of Sakarya, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said "my dear brothers, a battle has started between the cross and the half moon", after insulting European government politicians as "Nazis" in the weeks before. The same month, he threatened that Europeans would "not be able to walk safely on the streets" if they kept up banning Turkish ministers from addressing rallies in Europe. European politicians rejected Erdoğan's comments.
- In the context of the Turkish constitutional referendum in April 2017, the Vice President of the European Parliament, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, summarized the state of affairs as this: "In law Turkey is still a candidate, in fact, it is not. Nobody believes in Brussels or in Ankara for that matter that Turkey will eventually join the European Union. And that is why we say it is better to make a new start and put the relationship on a new foundation."
- In a TV debate in September 2017, German chancellor Angela Merkel and her challenger Martin Schulz both said that they would seek an end to Turkey's membership talks with the European Union.
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- Republic of Turkey Secretariat General for EU Affairs
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