THE ANTI TURKISH STANCE OF THE FRENCH UMP AND GERMAN CDU/CSU
Marcel H. VAN HERPEN
Director, The Cicero Foundation
Recently the biggest French government party, the UMP, has taken
the official position that Turkey should not be offered the perspective of
EU membership during the Brussels European Council meeting of December 2004.
With this position the UMP joins the German opposition parties CDU and CSU
that have taken identical positions. The reasons invoked by adversaries of
Turkish EU membership are manifold. Let us mention some of them:
Turkey is not a European country
Turkey, as an Islamic country, does not fit into 'Christian' Europe
Turkey is too poor
Turkish membership will lead to a massive influx of new migrants
Turkey is not a fully fledged democracy
Turkey is too big
Turkish membership will stop further integration
How valid are these arguments? That the bigger part of Turkey
is situated in Asia can be verified with a simple glance at the map. But this
is only a formal argument. In fact Turkey has been an important geopolitical
player on the European chessboard for more than six centuries. First was it
considered as a threat, against which Luther wrote his pamphlet "On War
Against the Turk". But these times have evolved: the last half century
Turkey was a close European ally in NATO.
Turkey is, of course, an Islamic country. So are Albania and Bosnia that are
on the list to join the EU. Turkish Islam is not only known to be moderate
and tolerant (when the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 they went to
Amsterdam and Constantinople), but since Atatürk's reforms it is
also banned from the public sphere. Turkey is, as France, and maybe even more
than Germany (where the state still collects the Kirchensteuer - the church
tax), a secular state. It is telling that the 'Islamic' party in power is
one of the most modernising and pro-European parties in recent Turkish history.
Turkey, of course, is relatively poor. In 2002 its GDP per capita was 2600
US dollars, which was only 53 percent of Poland, one of the poorest new member
states. Turkish EU membership, however, will certainly boost its economic
development, as has been the case in other poor acceding countries, such as
Portugal, Spain and Ireland (Ireland has now the third highest GDP per capita
in the EU!).
The argument that Turkish membership will lead to a massive influx of migrants
is often used in connection with the last one. A poor country, so goes the
argument, will export its population. One may, however, expect that the push
and pull factors that determine migratory flows will diminish with economic
development. People prefer to stay in their country, and even in their region,
if they can earn there a decent living. This is not different for Turks.
Turkey is, indeed, not yet a fully fledged democracy. But in a recent past
this was also the case for present EU member states as Spain, Portugal, and
Greece. And it was equally the case for the eight (out of ten) new member
states with a communist past. Together with the GDR, which was absorbed by
the Federal Republic, that makes 12 out of 25 member states that had problems
with their democratic credentials. This is, of course, not a reason to take
this argument not seriously: Turkey still has to implement many of its new
laws and - especially - has to bring once and for all the military under civilian,
political control. The prospect of EU membership will be a strong incentive
to strengthen democracy and to make the necessary changes.
Is Turkey too big? Turkey will, indeed, be the second biggest member country
after Germany as regards population and could even become the biggest one
in the near future. In 1850 some Americans found California too big to be
integrated as a new state into the Union. It happened nevertheless and it
was beneficial for the Californians, as well as for their fellow Americans.
As California did with America, Turkey will do with the EU: it will give the
EU a continental dimension and an immediate presence in one of the world's
Comes, finally, the argument that Turkish membership will hinder further integration
and will fundamentally change the EU from a political project into a simple
free trade zone. There is, however, no reason to believe that such a development
will take place. Until now every enlargement has led to a deepening of integration.
This not because of some automatic functionalist spillover, but for the simple
reason that the system otherwise would not work. It is not clear why this
would change with the entrance of Turkey.
The real question that has to be asked is if there are not some hidden reasons
for the UMP and the CDU/CSU to oppose Turkish membership. Turkey may, indeed,
be too big: not for being integrated, but as a potential power factor. In
the 1960s De Gaulle vetoed twice British membership, because the entrance
of Britain would change the existing power balance in the Europan Community.
Recently France and Germany were forced to open their duopoly to include Britain
into a Directory of the Big Three. With the entrance of Turkey a new important
player would appear. Do the UMP and the CDU/CSU fear that a Turkish membership
would further dilute the Franco-German dominance over the EU and strengthen
'New Europe' versus 'Old Europe'?