The hope of joining the EU has driven major reforms in Turkey, including economic liberalization, human rights protection, and greater civilian oversight of the military. But these reforms have fueled suspicions among Islamists and hard-line army officers. EU membership would help Turkey become a successful Muslim democracy, strengthen it as an ally in the fight against terrorism, and foster liberalization in the Islamic world.
A Still-European Union
David Phillips is right to argue that "Turkey is a crucial ally for the West" ("Turkey's Dreams of Accession," September/October 2004) but wrong to claim that only full membership in the EU will preserve that relationship.
The EU, as a community of nations and values, is too important to be subjected to this kind of merely strategic, functional reasoning. The case for Turkish entry into the EU must be judged on its own merits, which Phillips largely ignores. Although he warns of adverse consequences if Turkey is rejected from the union, he fails to consider the consequences of acceptance. Would an EU with Turkey as a member be able to continue building an ever closer political union or speak with one voice?
Today's European Union has an enormously complex structure, to which independent states have handed over impressive parts of their sovereignty-defying doubts, for example, about the introduction and success of a single currency. The process of integration is ongoing: big steps forward are currently being made in the fields of justice and home affairs and in developing a common defense system, which might lead one day to a common army. Such a high degree of integration cannot continue, however, if the union keeps expanding. It is time, in other words, to start thinking about limiting the EU's size.
Rather than simply shutting the door, however, Europe should start thinking seriously about new frameworks for cooperation with outside states: arrangements that would bring maximum benefits to all sides without endangering the EU itself. This is what is meant by a "privileged partnership," and this is what should be considered for Turkey.
Advocating partnership over membership does not imply any prejudice against Turkey or Turkish society. Phillips is right that Turkey's development since World War I has been enormous, and unique. The country has come a long way since emancipating itself from its Ottoman legacy. As Phillips rightly points out, Turkey deserves enormous credit for its success in protecting its constitution and secular society as well as its Muslim heritage. Turkey has made immense progress recently in improving its democratic structures and human rights record. The country's courageous prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has taken bold steps toward the West at a time when the situations in Iraq and Cyprus have not made doing so easy...
This is a premium article
SubscribeSubscribe and get premium access to ForeignAffairs.com.