December 22nd, 2015 -
By: Paul Antonopoulos - Fort Russ -
European Union leaders agreed on 16 December 2004 that negotiations with Turkey to enter the EU will begin on 3 October 2005. Since then we have the seen the stalling of the first potential Muslim country in the EU. This opportunity should be a celebration on the diversity, tolerance and progressiveness on the norms and values of Europe if they were to accept Turkey. However, what we have seen with Turkey is anything but the conformation to the norms and values of the European Union.
First we must consider that in the last 10 months, 98 people have been imprisoned for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The notion of free speech does not seem to exist and rather this violation resembles a dictatorship. This is a freedom enjoyed across Europe. Imagine how dull Charlie Hebdo would be without its insults to Hollande and other French political figures.
In 2014, there were 40,733 blocked websites in Turkey. As of December 2015, this has risen to reach 96,000. The suppression of information again, demonstrates the beginnings of a dictatorship rather than a country ready to propel into the progressiveness of the European Union.
In a scathing attack, Milos Zeman, President of the Czech Republic, insinuated that despite Turkey being a NATO member-state, it behaved as if it was an ally of the Islamic State. This is especially true when considering evidence of a Turkish-ISIS oil trade being exposed, and Turkey violating Iraqi sovereignty by deploying several hundred soldiers and dozens of tanks without approval from Baghdad. Facing the Middle East, Turkey has a policy of causing havoc to its neighbours, but turning around towards Europe, it claims it is progressive enough to conform to the values and norms of the European Union. However, despite being a NATO member, it had not stopped Turkey from violating the airspace 2,244 times of fellow NATO member and European member, Greece. Would these daily incursions stop if Turkey were to join the European Union? Highly unlikely since being fellow NATO members has not been enough to deter Ankara.
However, most importantly and one that cannot be overlooked, is the continuing Cyprus dispute. With Turkey occupying the top third of Cyprus since 1974, Ankara has refused to acknowledge the existence of the Republic of Cyprus as the sole legitimate authority on the island. Turkey is the only country to recognize the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The integration of Turkey into the European Union has been self-sabotaged as they refuse to implement the Customs Union because of their non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. Under the Customs Union, Turkey is obliged to open its ports to all planes and vessels, including Cypriot. Turkey is yet to implement this.
Turkey also refuses to solve the division of the island and insist that military personnel and settlers from Turkish Anatolia remain in a supposed unified Cyprus. Their non-belligerence has served only to keep refugees who have lost their properties to return to their homes in the north of the island.
Despite Turkey having arrested journalists and civilians for mocking authoritarian leader Erdogan, continual air and sea violation of European Union member Greece, its territorial incursion into Iraq and Syria, the downing of a Russian jet, and the illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus, Turkey have been gifted a transaction membership into the European Union. With this, one must question, are Turkey truly ready to conform to the norms and progressive values of the European Union? As the evidence suggests, they are not quite there yet.
Paul Antonopoulos is an MA Candidate doing his dissertation on the Saudi-Iranian Geopolitical Rivalry in the Syrian War.
He is also an analyst for Al-Masdar News.