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Turkey in Europe: Record, Challenges and the Future

The relationship between Turkey (and its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire) and Europe has been long, often tense or openly hostile, and is in some senses fundamental to the identities and development of each; this relationship also adds a considerable burden of suspicion to Turkey’s current aim of joining the European Union (EU). This essay examines these propositions by providing an account of the history of the relationship and of Europe’s recent, conditional approach to Turkish accession to the EU. While accepting that much remains to be done at the institutional level to bring Turkey into alignment with EU norms, this paper argues that Turkish accession is a historic opportunity for Europe that it should not squander. Despite mixed signals, further development of Turkey’s democracy along the path to Europe is the most likely course. The story is not “never-ending”, but the end will not come quickly.

Turkey in Europe Record Challenges and the Future
The relationship between Turks and ‘Europeans’ may have been suffused with hostility or suspicion for centuries, but history is not destiny.
 

The relationship between Turkey (and its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire) and Europe has been long, often tense or openly hostile, and is in some senses fundamental to the identities and development of each. Since Atatürk created the Turkish Republic and set it on a new path to modernity and Europe, and especially since Turkey made clear its ambition to join the European Union (EU) to consolidate this direction, the historical relationship—and especially the cruder contrasts between Christian Europe and Muslim Turkey—has added a considerable burden of suspicion to achieving EU membership. The EU has decided that while Turkey sufficiently fulfils its basic membership criteria to begin accession negotiations it is not yet sufficiently aligned with the EU’s acquis communautaire, but there is a more general unease about the cultural differences that remains. This essay examines these propositions by providing an account of the history of the relationship and of Europe’s approach to Turkish accession to the EU. While accepting that much remains to be done at the institutional level to bring Turkey into alignment with EU norms, it argues that Turkish accession is a historic opportunity for Europe that it should not squander.

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