Turkish EU membership dates back to 60s when it made serious attempts to become member of the European Union however Turkey’s application was formally accepted in 1999 during the Helsinki EU summit. Since then Ankara is hectically engaged with the EU on concluding various chapters. Many of them have already been concluded. There came a pause when Turkey refused to open its ports for the Greek Cyprus vessels saying it will not do it until and unless Turkish Cyprus issue is resolved. The stand-off became acute and consequently EU stopped work on various chapters during the presidency of Ireland.
Those who do not want Turkey to become part of EU give the logic that Turkey is too big and too Muslim. Similarly some of them believe, Turkey historically is not part of Europe. But all these notions have time and again been countered and contested by the Turkish leadership. The Turkish ambassador to Pakistan Mr. Babur Hizlan said in his interview with Centreline, “Turkey is fully committed to the EU accession process. The EU membership remains a strategic goal for Turkey. We will continue to take necessary steps for membership. In that vein, the reform process to meet the EU membership criteria will continue. In addition to the comprehensive constitutional amendments that were passed in the last years to strengthen our democracy, we are also preparing a new constitution to consolidate the reform process. These reforms aim first and foremost to provide the highest standards in every field of life to our own citizens”.
He also contested the notions that Turkey is too big by saying, “as we have always emphasized to our European counterparts, Turkey’s membership will not entail yet another burden on the EU. On the contrary, it will contribute to finding common solutions to the problems of the EU. We remain confident of the future of the EU, where Turkey will be an important part of it”. Europe’s population is getting old therefore it needs younger people to fill that gap and Turkey provides them with a suitable or perhaps the best option.
Apart from above mentioned ‘irritants’ Cyprus issue is yet another hard nut that both sides will have to crack. Cyprus is the only capital in world that remains divided. Both Cyprus governments have been negotiating for a settlement perhaps since 1963 when this issue first cropped up, but so far no agreement seems in sight. Turkish Cyprus wants a confederation while the South Cyprus says Turks can get share in government as per their numeral strength and the area they control.
Ambassador Babur Hizlan said, “The history, unfortunately, is a testimony to the Greek side’s reluctance: Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) having always sought a just, lasting and viable settlement in Cyprus, re-launched the negotiation process towards the end of 2003. It was considered that a solution before 1 May 2004 would be in the interest of all concerned, and in the interest of international peace and security. It would have constituted the only means by which Cyprus could enter the European Union united on 1 May 2004”.
Many Turks believe, Ankara’s bid for EU membership is an endless game, but the Turkish authorities are confident they will be able to scale this goal sooner rather than later. The best platform to raise objections on the Turkey bid was perhaps the forum that accepted Ankara’s membership application. Nobody objected at that time therefore objections at this point in time when much of progress has already been made, does not seem plausible.
Turkey, on its part, is committed to get full membership of the European Union and not a status of ‘privileged partner’, as some of the EU members would tend to say. Keeping into consideration Ambassador Hizlan’s optimism and progress Ankara has made on various chapters, one can draw a conclusion that Turkey will ultimately be admitted as a full member, but when it exactly will happen, is still uncertain.