STRATEGIC BENEFITS FOR THE EU FROM TURKISH MEMBERSHIP
Text of the speech delivered by
Mr. Yaşar YAKIŞ
Chairman of the European Union Commission in the Turkish Parliament,
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs
in the Institute of Strategic Studies
London 13 September 2006
For the purpose of this debate, I use the word “strategic” to express a benefit that transcends the limits of one particular field or one particular country. The benefit that the EU may be drawing from various specific sources may still be a strategic benefit if it completes other benefits and makes a whole together with them.
Turkey believes that its membership to the EU will be symbol of harmonious co-existence of cultures and enriching the spiritual fabric of the EU. As a key regional actor and ally located in close proximity to many existing and potential hotspots that are high on the European and international agenda, Turkey can help enhance stability and promote welfare in these areas. In fact, out of 15 hot spots identified by NATO as potential threat to the alliance, 12 are located in areas adjacent to Turkey or in areas where Turkey has cultural or historical ties. These areas are the Middle East (including Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran and now Lebanon), Caucasus, the Balkans and the Central Asia. I do not want to imply that the EU cannot carry out its goals in these areas without Turkey’s contribution. However, I may say without undue modesty that these goals could be achieved more easily, with less effort and resources and with much less acrimony, if it is done in cooperation with Turkey.
The importance attributed by the US to the role to be played by Turkey in the Iraqi crisis is a living evidence of this. It was an important development when the Turkish government submitted a motion to the parliament to authorize the American troops to cross Turkish territory in order to open a second front in the northern Iraq. It was also an important development when the Turkish parliament denied the authorisation. Two years after the occupation of Iraq, the US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld said that if Turkey had authorized the US troops to cross the Turkish territory, the insurgency would not have gained the present strength. This example demonstrates the importance of both the cooperation and the absence of cooperation with Turkey. At that time it was the interest of the United States, in the future it may be the vested interests of the EU that may be at stake.
President Chirac of France pointed out in a television interview immediately before the 17 December 2004 summit of the EU that “if the EU wants to stay as a free trade area it does not need Turkey, but if it wants to assume global responsibilities it will need Turkey as a full member”. I could not explain the possible contribution that Turkey is likely to make as eloquently as this.
The energy crisis of 2006 pushed the EU to give higher priority to the security of the supply of energy. Turkey is steadily moving forward in its road to become a regional energy hub. It is sitting on a landmass, which is the natural route for the supply of gas and oil from the Middle East and the newly discovered reserves in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Baku-Tbilissi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is completed a few months ego and carries Azeri oil to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. The negotiations are under way to connect Kazakh oil to this pipeline. Kazak oil will cross the Caspian Sea with a pipeline to be laid under the water in the Caspian Sea between Aktau and Baku.
Kirkuk-İskenderun pipeline is in service since several decades.
A gas pipeline called the Blue Stream is carrying Russian natural gas to the Turkish Black Sea port of Samsun and from there it joins Turkey’s national network.
Another pipeline carries Iranian gas to the eastern Anatolian Turkish city of Erzurum.
In addition to these three existing pipelines, there are three more pipelines either under construction or at the stage of planning. These are:
Baku-Tbilissi-Erzurum gas pipeline that is under construction and that is scheduled to be completed by the middle of 2007.
Egyptian gas will be transported through Turkey to the EU countries. The construction has already reached Syria and will be soon in Turkey.
A gas pipeline with a capacity of 12 billion m3 /year is under construction between Turkey and Greece. Greece will initially buy 700 million m3 gas per year and this volume will increase to 3 billion m3/year in the subsequent years. 9 billion m3 gas will be pumped through an under-water pipeline from the Greek port of Igoumenitsa to the Italian port of Otranto.
Nebucco gas pipeline is at the planning stage and will carry 21-31 billion m3 gas/year from Turkey to Austria through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.
The cooperation in the field of energy supply between Turkey and the EU is perhaps one of the most important areas from the strategic standpoint.
Moreover, once Turkey becomes a member of the EU, it will be able to contribute much more to the Common Foreign and Security Policy. With its experience and capabilities in the military field gained in various NATO and international missions, Turkey will definitely increase the weight of the EU in the global arena.
With Turkey as a full member, the Union will no doubt have a stronger voice. Turkey will be able to bring its contribution to the prevention and settlement of conflicts that involve the western community of nations and other countries. Turkey is doing this successfully in Afghanistan. The Turkish parliament voted last week a motion to send troops to Lebanon. This is very much in line with the foreign policy of the EU. The presence of a country whose population is Muslim may sometimes be an added value if the country where international force operates is an Islamic country.
I do not know whether I should mention this area within the context of the strategic benefits but a modern, secular and stable country like Turkey, with predominantly Muslim population, will be an asset for the EU and its admission to EU will be a reconfirmation of the universality of the European Culture. Otherwise Europe will be identifying itself on the confessional terms and will confine itself exclusively to the Christian countries. This will deepen the divide between Europe and the Islamic world as well as the entire non-Christian world.
Furthermore, Turkey’s membership in the European Union will surely be a symbol of harmonious co-existence of cultures, and enriching the spiritual fabric of the European Union.
There is at present more than 10 million Muslims living the EU countries. The membership to EU of a secular country with predominantly Muslim population like Turkey may contribute to a better understanding of secularity by the Muslim population of EU. This may contribute, in its turn, to marginalize Muslim extremism in the EU countries.
Statistics indicate that, because of the aging population, there will be an increasing need for young manpower in the EU countries during the next decades. Turkey’s population is much younger as compared to the EU average. The age group between 0 and 25 constitute 57 % of the entire population of Turkey. The age group between 0 and 14 constitute 36 % of Turkey’s population, as compared to 18 % in most of the EU countries. There are at present 3.5 million Turks working in the EU countries. 2.5 million Turks have worked in the EU countries and now came back to Turkey. They are adapted to a great extent to the living and working conditions in these countries. The EU may use Turkey’s young and hard working population as an asset to minimize the negative effects of the aging population and depopulation in many EU countries.
Entrepreneurs of ethnic Turkish origin have already established more than 80 000 businesses in various EU countries, most of them being in Germany. They created hundreds of thousands jobs in these countries. Their contribution to the national economies of the countries where they are operating will be further strengthened and these economies will continue to benefit further from the creation of such new jobs.
And finally, Turkey is a dynamic and rapidly developing market of 73 million inhabitants and with unsaturated demand for the EU industries. This is a strategic benefit through the economic channel.
Are there strategic benefits for the EU from Turkey’s accession? Due to non-quantifiable nature of the strategic benefits, it can not be proved with figures, but the benefits are definitely there for everyone to assess.