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Research Report

Turkey on the Threshold:: Europe’s Decision and U.S. Interests

Morton I. Abramowitz
Richard R. Burt
Donald K. Bandler
Frances G. Burwell
William Drozdiak
Eric Melby
Copyright Date: Aug. 1, 2004
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 36
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)
    Christopher J. Makins

    In December 2004, the European Union will decide whether or not to begin accession negotiations with Turkey. Whatever the outcome, the implications for U.S.-Turkish relations and U.S.-EU relations — indeed, for transatlantic relations generally — will be significant. The challenges for U.S. policy both before and after the EU decision are correspondingly important.

    To explore the likely course of Turkish-EU-U.S. relations, and how best U.S. foreign policy might play a constructive role, the Atlantic Council sent a delegation of U.S. leaders and experts to Europe in March 2004. The delegation met with key government and private sector policy makers in...

  2. (pp. 1-2)

    In December 2004, the European Union will face a crucial decision: whether to provide Turkey with a date for the beginning of accession negotiations. This decision represents one of the most significant and irrevocable steps on the road toward Turkey’s goal of membership in the EU. It will signal the start of a difficult and lengthy process of negotiations that will change both Turkey and the Union. Turkey’s potential accession to the EU is not a matter of importance only within Europe. The United States has long had an exceptionally close security and foreign policy relationship with Turkey, as well...

  3. (pp. 2-10)

    For many Turks, the quest for integration into Europe is a reflection of geography, political identity, and economic ties. It dates back to at least 1923, when Kemal Atatürk began a radical transformation of Turkish society by adopting western — primarily European — dress, institutions, and practices, and establishing a secular democracy. Turkey’s political, economic, and military elites believe that integration into Europe will make Atatürk’s reforms — including the secular nature of Turkey’s government — finally irreversible.

    An important step toward inclusion in Europe came in 1952, when Turkey joined NATO. In 1959, Turkey applied to join the then...

  4. (pp. 10-13)

    Three major steps must be taken before Turkish accession negotiations can begin:

    the European Commission will issue its assessment as to whether Turkey has met the Copenhagen criteria;

    the European Parliament will issue an advisory opinion based on the Commission report; and

    EU heads of government will decide at the European Council in December whether to initiate accession talks in light of the Commission report.

    In theory, this should be a fairly objective process — if Turkey is judged to have met the Copenhagen criteria, it should receive a date for talks to start sometime in the first half of...

  5. (pp. 13-18)

    The final decision on the start of accession talks will rest with the European Council. If the Commission unexpectedly presents a report that finds serious failings in Turkey’s adoption of the Copenhagen criteria, the Council would most likely follow the Commission’s lead and delay the start of negotiations. If the Commission arrives at a positive conclusion, however, agreement by the European Council should not be presumed. Decision-making in the Council is often very political and a unanimous verdict must be reached. Apart from Turkey’s satisfaction of the criteria, several major issues are likely to affect Council deliberations.

    Resolution of the...

  6. (pp. 19-20)

    Some EU members have made clear that they view the December decision purely as an internal matter to be addressed only by EU members. But it is unrealistic to think that the United States will remain on the sidelines. The question is not whether the U.S. government will take an active role, but how it will do so. EU officials are practically unanimous in urging that the U.S. government take a sophisticated, low-key approach that would complement the efforts of Turkey’s advocates within the EU. They warn that strong public advocacy such as that before previous European Councils is likely...

  7. (pp. 21-22)

    It can hardly be repeated too often that a date to begin accession talks is not the same as a date for membership. The two are often confused, both by those in the EU wary of Turkey’s accession, and by many Turks, who see a positive decision in December as the final resolution of their relationship with Europe. Agreement to begin accession talks carries with it the presumption that the talks will be successful and the results will be ratified by all existing members — as indeed has been the case with every candidate country to date. But this is...

  8. (pp. 22-25)

    While a keen advocate of EU membership for Turkey, the United States will undoubtedly feel the impact — not always positively — of the accession talks and later of Turkey’s EU membership. The adage “be careful what you wish for” could very well apply as the full ramifications of membership begin to impinge on the close political, economic, and military ties that have linked Turkey and the United States for over fifty years.

    There has been relatively little discussion about the potential impact of Turkey’s accession to the EU on its bilateral relationship with the United States or on transatlantic...

  9. (pp. 25-27)

    The United States should continue to work for a positive decision by the European Council to open accession talks with Turkey in spring 2005. To achieve that goal, the United States should:

    1. Continue to encourage Turkey to fulfill all the Copenhagen criteria, especially stressing the importance of implementing and enforcing the recent reforms.

    2. Work to improve the atmospherics surrounding the December decision by encouraging the resolution of issues that are not strictly part of the Copenhagen criteria. This may involve encouraging a resolution to some remaining specific human rights cases, as well as better relations between Turkey and Armenia, and...