Monday, October 4, 2010

EU's Influence on Turkey's Constitutional Referendum

How much of MENA region’s politics and economics are still determined by outside (western) powers, and in what ways?
How could the asymmetries of flows in capital, labor, goods, and services be adjusted?

The first thing that popped into my head when thinking about this question was Turkey and the recent constitutional changes. Turkey was recognized as a suitable candidate for full membership in the European Union in 1999. Turkey’s bid to become a EU member state has been a long and drawn out processes starting in 1959, when it applied to be associate member in the European Economic Community. I’ve always found Turkey interesting in that it’s been a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. What was phrased as the Eastern Question by Western Europe, in relation to eventual decay and fragmentation of the Ottoman Empire still seems to live on. Quite Ironically the Eastern Question now has become should Western Europe allow the 15th largest GDP-PPP into the EU.

The treaty of Balta Liman is consider by some to have opened and integrated the Ottoman economy into the global market. Capitulations were bi-lateral trade agreements in which the Ottoman Empire removed tariffs and regulations; the Treaty of Balta Liman gave British traders exclusive accesses to Ottoman goods. Coincidentally David Cameron the British Prime Minister has been pushing for Turkey’s accession as a EU member state. I find this situation kind of analogues to the past with capitulations. I don’t think anyone has to look to far into history to find evidence of western intervention into the Middle East. But I think Turkey is still struggling with its identity sandwiched between two continents.

The constitutional referendum was amended to satisfy requirements for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU. One of the major changes within the constitution shifts power away from the Judiciary and military to the Executive and Legislative. However there are those who say the pendulum as swung too far in the other direction, and this has laid the groundwork for a power grab by the executive. President Obama congratulated Prime Minster Erdogan on the “vibrancy of Turkey’s democracy.” They’re also those who are worried about the Islamic roots of the Justice and Development Party and how this could be the beginning of the end of secularism in Turkey.

The majority of the opposition to Turkey’s accession into EU comes from Germany, Austria and France. President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 stated “enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept...I want to say that Europe must give itself borders.” I find it interesting that its still a matter of borders and where Europe ends and where the East begins. Mr. Cameron recently said that “Turkey’s accession fell into three categories: protectionists who see its economic power as a threat, “the polarized” who think that Turks should choose between East and West, and the prejudiced who misunderstand Islam.” I agree with all his points that it’s still a matter of drawing that border between where east and west is, and also after 9/11 the fear of Islam and terrorism. In the case of France, they already have a problem with North African immigrants, while Germany already hosts a large Turkish population. But to come back to the main point of how the west still influences the Middle East, turkey essentially amended its constitution to accommodate to EU requirements.

There is also the problem of Cyprus, and how that situation should be handled if Turkey joins the EU. I personally don’t think the EU will accept Turkey as a member sate any time soon. I think it’s a slow process in which Turkey essentially has to prove itself to Western Europe. I had recently found an interesting article on how Turkey is soon to join the European electric grid. As Turkey slowly becomes more integrated with Europe it will eventually change the asymmetries of flows in capital, labor, goods, and services.

1 comment:

  1. Turkey's foreign policy is my topic for the paper. You are right that some European leaders think of the EU more as a culture defined zone than a coalition of states. Turkey's economy is also firmly anchored in the success and prosperity of the EU. Will Turkey even get in? It looks more favorable with the new changes. However, it looked the same way a few years ago.