The other side of the coin: the growing opposition in turkey against to the european union accession

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Department of International Relations and European Studies



Master Thesis

Bc. Yasemin Sukatar

Supervisor: Mgr. Hubert Smekal, M.A., Ph.D.

UČO: 390402

Study Field: PL - EUP

Czech Republic

Brno, 2014

I hereby declare that this thesis I submit for assessment is entirely my own work and has not been taken from the work of others save to the extent that such work has been cited and acknowledged within the text of my work.

Date: 16.12.2013 Signature:

First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks to my supervisor, Mgr. Hubert Smekal, M.A., Ph.D., for his valuable assistance and guidance. I also would like to express my profound thanks to my teachers, who are experts in their fields, for teaching their valuable knowledge and giving answers to all of my questions without finding them meaningless. It was a pleasure to be one of their students.
No words can be enough to express my thanks to my family. However, I would like to specify my most sincere gratitude to them for being next to me in my every step of my life in spite of the some distances. Finally, a special thanks goes to a very special person for me, to whom I will start a family. This thesis could not be existed without their support and encouragement.

Throughout 54 years, the most important and unchanging agenda of Turkish foreign policy has been the full membership of the European Union (EU). The relations between the EU and Turkey have witnessed numerous ups and downs, but nothing has not been deterred Turkey from its desire to become a member of the Union. However, the wind began to blow from the opposite direction during last a few years and the opposition against to the EU accession started to grow in Turkey that has almost doubled in 2012, compare to 2004.
By focusing on the declining support in Turkey to the EU accession, the aim of this master thesis is to analyse the arguments of the opposition which come together under the same roof. In this context, two main factors are pointed out to achieve this aim. The first one is the economical ties between the EU and Turkey by highlighting the Customs Union. The second one gives special emphasis on the opinion of “the EU accession is against the sovereignty and integrity of Turkey”. In accordance with this opinion the connotation of the Treaty of Sèvres, minorities issues and Cyprus are examined by taking into consideration the similarities of the arguments.

Key words: Republic of Turkey, European Union, Turkey and the European Union, EU Enlargement, Opposition against to the EU, Interest Level, Customs Union, Cyprus



Number of Characters: 187.415

Graph – 1: Age Groups of Population of Turkey (2012)……………………………..23

Graph – 2: Age structure and population of Turkey (2013-2075)…………………....24

Graph – 3: Real GDP growth rate – volume (Percentage change on previous year)...32

Graph – 4: GDP per capita in PPS - Index (EU28 = 100)……………………………34

Graph – 5: Referendum Tendencies of Individuals in Turkey on European Union Membership…………………………………………………………………………..38

Table – 1: The Current Status of the Accession Negotiations (February 2013)……...21

Table – 2: Members of the European Parliament by Member States…………..…….36

Table – 3: Distribution of Votes for Each Member State…………………………….36

Table – 4: Referendum Tendencies of Individuals in Turkey on European Union Membership by Age Groups (%)……………………………………..….…………...40

Table – 5: Referendum Tendencies of Individuals in Turkey on European Union Membership by Level of Education (%)……………..……………….……………....40

TÜRK-İŞ Questionnaire……………………………………………………………….………...77


The term of "never ending story" is frequently used in the relations between Turkey and the European Union. After all, Turkey's journey with the EU began exactly on 31 July 1959. During last 54 years, there have been many changes in various areas and some of them have vital role in the recent history of the Western world; for example, the changes on the European map, the collapse of Soviet Union, wars in Balkans and, the political, economical and structural reforms in EEC within the series of treaties, but most importantly the Maastricht Treaty that introduced the European Union (EU) and the creation of the single European currency (Euro), as well. From many, these are only a few examples which come into prominence at first glance.
Today, European Union is a strong political and economical union with the numerous institutions and bodies. On 1 July 2013, Croatia became an EU member state by taking its place next to other 27 member countries. In spite of the elapsed time, Republic of Turkey is still just a candidate country of the EU. As well known, the EU membership is the one of the biggest aims of Turkey since its first application and remains a priority for Turkish foreign policy. However, the wind began to blow from the opposite direction during last a few years and the opposition against to the EU accession started to grow in Turkey. Compare to 2004, in the people who are against membership almost doubled in 2012.
The topic of the thesis was chosen in accordance of this declining support to the EU accession. In this context, curiosity of finding the reasons of this decrease created the main question of the thesis: what are the arguments of the people who are against to the EU membership? At first sight, it can come to mind that everybody has their own arguments which can lead the researcher series of difficulties to find the all answers. Nevertheless, people who do not support the EU accession meet in several points of view that they believe and present the same or very similar arguments which are effective to shape public opinion. The arguments were carefully selected by taking into consideration of their similarities, namely, which come together under the same roof. The main opinion under these arguments can simply describe as the EU accession is contrary to the sovereignty and integrity of Turkey. Therefore, the aim of the thesis to present the common arguments of non-supporters by analysing why these people believe and think that the membership of the EU accession is against to the sovereignty and integrity of Turkey.
With regard to the selected chapters, some clarifications are needed in general. Methodological background of the thesis is important in terms of the understanding in accordance of which style the thesis was written and the clear the selected sources. For this reason, the second chapter tries to explain simply the methodology of this work. The third chapter deals with the political developments of the past between the EU and Turkey to stress the reflections on their bilateral relations in today; because despite the strong ties between the EU and Turkey, the last 54 years were not easy for both of them and their relations mostly have continued within ups and downs from the beginnings. Therefore, the section, Historical Background of the Relations between Republic of Turkey and the European Union, presents these ups and downs under four subchapters in chronological order to determine the affected formations on their relations. Under the title of Turkey as Rising Power and Its Effects on the European Union Relations, simply the strengths of Turkey will be emphasised by underlining four main indicators, namely, the population, geographical features, military power and economic status of Turkey.
After explanation of the historical background of the relations and the position of Turkey in front of the EU; the growing opposition in Turkey against to the EU membership will be presented under the forth chapter of the thesis, the Interest Level of Turkey to the EU Accession. To examine the situation, it will be introduced how the support to the EU started to decrease, what are the main arguments of Turkish government officials on the declining and why the opposition started to grow. As the last chapter of the thesis, the Arguments against European Union Membership indicates similar arguments of the people who do not support the EU accession. These arguments can be considered as the most sensitive issues in Turkish policies, especially the part of minorities issues. It is extremely important to highlight, the arguments of the chapter are not contain all the Turkish citizens or the government policies of Turkey. However, after the researches it has seen that the non-supporters have also negative approaches and problems with these specific issues in accordance of the EU accession negotiations. Even though these stated arguments are not supported by whole Turkey, it does not change the fact that they are exist. Therefore, these negative approaches also needed to be analysed by taking into consideration of their effectiveness.


As well known, using the scientific methods helps deepen understanding of the topic of the thesis and answer on the research questions. “As with any field of knowledge, political researchers are prone to use technical language to explain their research findings.”1 However, it is very important to use a clear language since “politics is largely a subjective science”.2

In this thesis, using only one kind of research method was impossible to apply because of providing “the analysis of numerical data”3 as well as the political behaviours and attitudes”4. For these reasons, quantitative and qualitative research methods were tried to use together to minimize the disadvantages of employing only one of them.

By giving importance to validity and reliability, various source materials were utilized in accordance with topic of the chapters in the thesis. Besides using official websites of the Turkish government and the European Union, the selected information were used from the books, which were written by several prominent authors, newspaper articles, scientific journals and research papers that are dealing with the specific issues of each chapter.

The interest as well as the evident effects of Turks to Europe are based on the Ottoman Empire. By signing the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 and then the Pasarovitz in 1718, a legal dialogue – within the written documents which were based on the Peace of Westphalia (1648) in the case of the principles of diplomacy and representation – started between the Europeans and Turks.5 In course of time, their diplomacy level had been reverberated also to their economical relations and social structure.
Westernizing, also called as Europeanization, started in 19th century in Ottoman Empire. Together with the reforms on Turkish law during the 19th century, Turks began to adapt the European understanding of Roman law system. After the proclamation the Republic of Turkey in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Romanization process of law system was completed by adopting the Civil Code in 1926 that was based on the Swiss Civil Code.6 By choosing the European model of governance structure, Turkey became the only pluralist secular democracy in the Muslim world.
The most obvious example of bringing the pluralist democracy to Turkey could be seen on the women rights, especially in the case of the right to elect and be elected. Participation of women in the elections of local administrations (municipal elections) was provided for the first time in 1930 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Through constitutional regulations in 1934, Turkish women had the right to elect and be elected. In accordance with these improvements, women participated in the General Election of Representatives (parliament elections) in 1935. As the result of this participation, seventeen women became the members of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi – TBMM). In 1936, some deputies left their position. For this reason, an interim election was held to choose the new members of the parliament with resulted in being one more woman deputy in parliament and the number of women increased to 18 in TBMM.7 In other words, women in Turkey obtained the right to vote and to stand for election earlier than some European countries such as France (1944), Italy (1945), Croatia (1945)8, Greece (1952) and Switzerland (1971). (Seppälä, 2004: 34)
Turkey has always given the greatest importance to develop its relations with the European countries and continued to be a significant ally in the international platform by joining the United Nations (UN) in 19459, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 195210, the Council of Europe (COE) in 194911, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 196112 and being a part of the Western alliance during the Cold War. In order to draw up one level in cooperation with the European countries, when the Treaties of Rome entered into force and the European Economic Community (EEC) was established in 1958, Turkey made its first application for association to the EEC on 31 July 1959.
After 54 years, Republic of Turkey is still a candidate country. Therefore, it is important to analyze the historical background, and ups and downs of the relations between the Turkey and the EU in the case of main the events such as major steps taken and progress made. For this reason; to clarify the details and determine the reasons of formed ups and downs of the relations, the historical background between the EU and Turkey is examined in four sub-chapters.
As the first subchapter, the Legal Basis of the Relations focuses on the beginning of the relations and the importance of the first agreement which was signed between the EEC and Republic of Turkey. Secondly, the Deterioration of the Relations points out reasons of the worsening changes by taking into account the political situation in Turkey from 1975 to 1983. The third subchapter is the Restoration of the Relations which analyses the period from the second half of 1980s to 2000 by considering the Customs Union and new hopes for Turkey. Finally, the New era in the Relations presents the recent events to elucidate today's situation of Turkey in terms of the EU accession.
III.1. Legal Basis of the Relations
After the application for associate membership to EEC, an association agreement, known also as the Ankara Agreement, was signed between Turkey and EEC on 12 September 1963 and came into force on December 1964. The Ankara Agreement is not only important because of being the first agreement between Turkey and EEC; but also for creating the legal basis of today’s relations, even there have been several changes within the additional protocols over the time. The Ankara Agreement “aimed at securing Turkey's full membership in the EEC through the establishment in three phases of a customs union which would serve as an instrument to bring about integration between the EEC and Turkey”.13 This aim is based on the Article 2814 which takes part in the Ankara Agreement and considers the prospect of the accession of Turkey.15
After three years, the first Additional Protocol was signed in Brussels on November 1970 to determine some regulations on Customs Union. Being a member of the Customs Union brought the new regulations on taxation of the goods within the trade matters between the Turkey and the EEC in the case of liberalization of the trade. In 1971, the advantages of additional protocol were in favour of Turkey, especially in agricultural exports.16 The Mediterranean and South Western enlargement of EEC in 1980s – namely Greece, Spain and Portugal – caused the reduction of EEC imports from Turkey. Nevertheless, as one of the biggest agricultural producers, Turkey is still a very important trading partner of the European Union which represents the continuation of the EEC.
In course of time, the new European countries joined to the EEC through the enlargement processes. In case of Turkey, every single enlargement of the EEC was meant to sign the new protocols with the new member states and to have new obligations about the issues which were also related with the Custom Union.
III.2. Deterioration of the Relations
Besides having unstable relations with the EEC, meanwhile, Turkey started to face the problems inside the country, especially in political matters. Unlike the two previous coup d'états in 1960 and 1971, the democratic regime in Turkish politics was affected more from the 12 September 1980 coup d'état in Turkey that was caused by the political conflicts. The main reason why the army was interfered in politics by making coup d'état was the political conflicts between the radical right and radical left groups. Between 1975 and 1980, more than 5000 people were dead and almost 15000 people were injured by political violence and terrorism. Intensified violence actions caused the loss of legitimacy of the political system, especially between 1978 and 1980. As a result of this loss, Turkish government and parliament had become non-functional as well as economical and international problems occurred.17
This circumstance influenced the relations of Turkey with the other countries through its foreign policies in many areas, especially in political and economic matters. The unstable relations with the member states of EEC were the most affected. Furthermore, “the relations between Turkey and the European Union were de facto suspended for reason of requirement of the European Parliament to suspend the agreement of Turkey - European Economic Community from the European Council and European Commission”18 on 22 January 1982. The agreement had been suspended until Turkey recovered its political situation and guaranteed the human rights.19 As well known, the rule of the civil authority is very important in western democracies. At that time, the military government was ruling Republic of Turkey that can be considered as one of the main reasons of this suspension because the EEC (today`s EU) was (is) based on the rule of law, democracy and human rights. In short, the linkage between Turkey and EEC was virtually frozen until the reconstruction of a civilian government through the multiparty elections in Turkey by 1983.
III.3. Restoration of the Relations
Almost four years later, the dialogues had been started in diplomacy level and Turkey applied for the full membership of the EEC in 1987. After two years, however, the European Commission declared its opinion on December 18, 1989 that “it couldn't accept a new member before completing process of its own internal market (1992) and necessity provisions in terms of economical, social and political developments should be fulfilled before Turkey's pre-accession”.20 Furthermore, “instead of full membership, the Commission suggested the operation of the Association Agreement and the realization of a customs union as foreseen by the 1963 Ankara Treaty and the 1970 Additional Protocol”.21 However, both economical and political reasons of the Commission were not only the obstacles in front of Turkey for opening accession negotiations straight away. The tension between Greece and Turkey was also a question as well as the situation in Cyprus.
The following year, on 7 June 1990, in order to accelerate the relations and cooperation, European Commission submitted a Cooperation Package, so-called the Matutes Package that was applicable in all areas “including completion of the customs union, the resumption and intensification of financial cooperation, the promotion of industrial and technological cooperation and the strengthening of political and cultural ties”.22 Nevertheless, the Council rejected this package due to Greece's objection.
During the Copenhagen summit of the European Council in June 1993, a set of criteria for the membership was introduced that was basically summarized by Müftüler-Baç23 as:

  • stable institutions governing democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and protection of minorities;

  • the existence of functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure; and

  • the ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the principles of political, economic and monetary union.

Turkey has to fulfil these criteria for its accession process of the EU membership.
Preliminary dialogues and preparations were initiated in 1994 and completed on December 1995 for joining the customs union. The agreement was signed between the parties and it was entered into force on 1 January 1996.24 “The level of integration between the Parties reached an advanced point with the Customs Union and the next goal of Turkey became the membership to the EU, as indicated in Ankara Agreement (Article 28).”25 It is very important to highlight in here that Turkey joined to the customs union without becoming a member of the European Union.
On the report "Agenda 2000", which was adopted on 15 July 1997, Turkey was excluded from the enlargement process by the European Commission. This situation was unexpected and not satisfactory from the Turkish point of view; because the Commission re-presented “the same economical and political arguments against Turkey”26 without mentioning about possibility of full membership. Turkey was not pleased from the results because of considering discrimination compared with the countries which had also applicant status. For this reason, Turkish authorities announced on 5th of December that Turkey was no longer willing to discuss about the issues that related with Greece, Cyprus and human rights.27 After a few days, in Luxembourg, the Summit of Heads of State and Government took place and declared the candidate countries in the context of EU enlargement; but Turkey was not referred as one of them, namely a candidate country status was not given. Instead, they made a decision to set a European Strategy “to prepare Turkey for accession by bringing it closer to the European Union in every field”.28 In 1998, European Strategy for Turkey was prepared by the European Commission that introduced several criteria based on some obligations in Maastricht Treaty (1993), such as political and economical in the first instance, for the European Union membership. Furthermore, since 1998, “Progress Reports” have been published at regular intervals on an annual basis.
On the first year of implementation of the new currency “Euro” (1999), the mutual negotiations between Turkey and the Union began to produce results. In European Council Summit in Helsinki, Turkey acquired the candidacy status. Additionally, the Council decided to provide same criteria and supports to Turkey as other candidate states which were preparing for the full membership.

III.4. New Era in the Relations
After Turkey’s recognition as a candidate for accession, so-called “new era” began in the relations between Turkey and the EU. Two important events took place in 2001 that completed accession strategy of Turkey. Firstly, “the European Commission adopted a framework”29 which was determined in February to identify the financial assistance of the EU for accession process of Turkey and it was approved by General Affairs Council. Secondly, the European Council adopted Accession Partnership for Turkey on March 2001.30 These two main events leaded Turkey to introduce its own “National Program” by aiming the fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria. In accordance with improvements of processes the reforms began to be made, particularly in the field of law within Constitutional amendments, including the advancement of human rights, the reinforcement the rule of law and the reconstruction of democratic institutions.
Additionally, by meeting in Laeken, Belgium, European Council of 14-15 December 2001, a substantial decision was taken that allowed Turkey to join the prospective Convention on the future of Europe without discrimination from the other candidate countries.31 Based on the statement during the Copenhagen Summit of European Council in December 2002, it was declared that "the negotiations will be opened if the decisions actualizing Copenhagen criteria are taken".32 In this context, numerous reforms packages, meetings, documents took place in following years to accelerate the processes and to make Turkey compatible with the Copenhagen criteria. On 16-17 December 2004, Brussels, the European Council Presidency Conclusions were stated that "... Turkey sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria to open accession negotiations provided. ... It requested the Council to agree on that framework with a view to opening negotiations on 3 October 2005".33
On the other hand, as the biggest enlargement, 10 new countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia) joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. For Turkey, this new enlargement meant signing another “Additional Protocol” to extend the Ankara Treaty by concerning the inclusion of new member countries. The Additional Protocol, in this manner, was signed on 30 July 2005. However, there were so significant changes in terms of the relations between Turkey and Cyprus. As well-known, a referendum took place in Cyprus to vote a peace plan in Cyprus, so-called the Annan Plan, which was prepared by Kofi Annan as the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 24 April 2004. Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus accepted the plan with 69,4 %, whilst the Greek Cypriots in Cyprus rejected it with 75,83 %. This circumstance caused the continuous problems. Nevertheless, Turkey presented a new solution plan to Kofi Annan on 20 January 2006. In accordance with the plan, Turkey was accepting to open its harbours to Greeks in Cyprus, but first “the isolations on Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus must be removed”.34
On 8 November 2006, European Commission determined that Turkey did not open “its harbours and airports to the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus despite the Additional Protocol”35 Therefore, the Commission gave additional time until the Summit of 14-15th of December. However, Ministers of Foreign Affairs from the member countries met in EU General Affairs Council and adopted the Commission Recommendation, which was made on 9 December 2006. The decision was given that “eight chapters shall not be opened and none of the chapters shall be closed temporarily until confirming the commitments relating to Additional Protocol of Turkey”.36 Moreover, the Heads of Governments from the members’ states met on European Council Summit in Brussels on 14-15 December 2006 and agreed on decision which was given in General Affairs Council. These circumstances prevented the progress for the negotiations. Even today, the problems between Turkey and Cyprus still continue to exist and affect the accession process negatively.
In 2011, the Ministry for European Union Affairs was established under the 61st Government of Republic of Turkey, in order to coordinate the activities which related with the accession process to the EU. Today, there are thirty-three chapters in front of Turkey; but only the chapter “Science and Research” opened and provisionally closed. Other twelve chapters had been opened since 2007. However, eight chapters were suspended in 2006 and still continue to be untouchable because of the Cyprus question. In accordance with the current status of the accession negotiation of Turkey, a detailed list is presented on the next page that was published by the Ministry for the EU Affairs, Republic of Turkey.
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