The Borders of Europe (The Point of View of Turkey), Speech delivered in the EU Reflection Group, Warsaw, 29 May 2003


(The point of view of Turkey)

Warsaw, 29 May 2003

 Various terminologies came up to define borders of the European Union since the enlargement of the EU has gained momentum,

 One of them refers to the present member and candidate countries. It includes the 15 present member countries, plus 10 countries which will become full members in March 2004 and 3 candidate countries namely Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. This category of countries are also referred to as countries within the framework of EU enlargement.

             Several other European countries are referred to either as part of Wider Europe or Greater Europe or Neighbouring Countries.

            I will confine my remarks to the borders of Europe within the framework of enlargement of EU. The borders of Europe, in this sense, will have to match the tasks that the European Union assigns to itself.

            It is of course possible to confine the EU to a limited number of States. It will be a compacter, more manageable and less heterogeneous Union. On the other hand, it is also possible to stretch the frontiers of EU to the very end of its geographical borders and even beyond it. We should therefore elaborate in further detail the criteria to be used in order to determine the border of Europe.

                        Among several components which constitute EU, geography and shared values are perhaps the most important ones.

One cannot easily perceive an EU without some sort a reference to a geographical location, that is to say to the European continent in its geographical meaning. But if this were the only criterion, several countries geographically close to the heart of Europe, such Serbia or Albania for instance, would have been already admitted to EU. Therefore geography cannot be taken as the sole criterion.

Our perception in Turkey of what EU stands for, is that EU is more a community of shared values than anything else. But it cannot be used as the only criterion either. Otherwise, distant countries located in other continents, but sharing similar values with the member countries of the EU, would be equally entitled to be part of EU.

Shared values could be political such as democracy, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms and rule of law. They could be economic such as transparency in economic transactions, respect for basic freedoms of free trade of goods and services and free movement of capital. Or they could be related to security and stability.

The EU seems to have struck a fair balance between these elements which have to be taken into consideration when the borders of Europe have to be defined for the purpose of EU enlargement.

            Turkey’s objective has always been and continues to be full membership to the EU. This objective was incorporated both in the Association Agreement signed as early as 1963 in Ankara and in Turkey’s application for full membership in 1987.

            The Helsinki Summit of EU of 1999 was an important turning point in Turkey’s relations with the EU. Turkey’s status as a candidate to full membership to EU was reconfirmed and their relations were geared towards the implementation of measures to attain this target. Successive governments in Turkey carried out economic and political reforms to comply with the Copenhagen criteria.

            The Copenhagen European Council of December 2002 pointed out that “if the European Council in 2004 decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the EU will open negotiations without delay for the accession of Turkey”. Coupled with another decision incorporated in the EU document entitled “One Europe” which provides that the EU enlargement is a continuous, inclusive and irreversible process Turkey believes that its full membership to the EU is also part of this irreversible process.

            Several definitions were offered throughout the history to define what it meant to be a European? At one stage, for a country to be considered as European, it needed to have declared war to Turks. Fortunately for Turkey, this criterion ceased to be used nowadays. It seems therefore that the European countries covered a long distance to overcome their prejudices towards Turkey.

The set of values is a very important element, but is it properly defined in the case of EU? Is it confined to Judeo-Christian values or is there room for other values? This is a choice that EU will have to make sooner or later. Of course, there are advantages in perceiving EU as a group of a smaller number of Christian countries. It will be compacter, more manageable and less heterogeneous. But such an approach has also disadvantages. It will project the image of EU as a Christian Club. At least, it will be perceived as such by non-Christian countries and will support the idea of the clash of civilisations put forward by Huntington.

The foregoing two elements, namely geography and set of values, are perhaps the most important ones, but are they the only ones? Of course not. There are other elements that have to be taken into consideration for EU to identify itself in a more comprehensive manner..

Every single country is a specific case in its relations with EU or at least it has every right to claim that it is so. But we the Turks believe that we are more entitled to claim that Turkey is all the more specific case in its relations with EU.

 Firstly, Turkey is more specific than many other candidate countries, because of its size. Turkey’s geographic size and population is slightly bigger than the population of 10 countries that will join EU May next year with the exclusion of Poland.

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