With in the next few weeks, Turkey’s request to join the EU will be revisited, but is likely to not be accepted because of its belligerent attitude towards Cyprus and Israel as well as its inability to progress in the economic and political spheres.
Turkey first attempted to join the EU in 1959 but was denied full membership and instead was given associate membership. Since then, Turkey progressed in the economic and political spheres, allowing a free market and freedom of expression with the ultimate goal being full EU membership. This progress culminated in the 1999 decision to grant Turkey “Candidate Member” status. In 2005, talks intensified but quickly stalled because of Cyprus, which is an enemy of the Ankara government and an EU member. In addition to this, liberalization has steadily slowed since that time.
Recently, EU acceptance has become more unlikely, especially in the wake of the Ankara government’s extreme reactions to the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident with Israel that ended with 9 dead Turks and several injured IDF soldiers. In addition, Turkey has involved itself in a private dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter’s official name, siding with Macedonia and condemning Greece in harsh terms.
Turkey has numerous disputes with Cyprus, the most recent of which is a decision to start gas exploration in a trade agreement with Israel. Turkey regards the fields in question as being officially Lebanese and has threatened by Cyprus and Israel with military action if they do not cede the fields to Lebanon and itself. In addition, Turkey has refused to pass additional reforms that would guarantee minority groups equal rights as well as meet any of the commitments listed in the Ankara Protocol. The EU criticized Turkey last week for its lack of progress as well as condemned Turkey’s threats against Cyprus and Israel.
The issues with Cyprus are likely to reach their climax next year when Cyprus assumes the EU presidency. According to Turkish and Cypriot ministers, the move is likely to lead to Turkey completely dissociating itself from the EU and instead wooing other Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon and countries along the North African coast into forming a pan-Arab organization similar to the EU.