A Fistful of Euros reminded me of the discussion my friends and I had recently about Turkish membership in the European Union.
The first objection I have always heard is that Turkey is not in Europe except for Istanbul. Mrs. T of A Fistful of Euros “wave[s] [this] aside with a laugh.” Looking at a map, it turns out that Thrace (the European part of Turkey) is about 3% of Turkey’s area.
My question is: What exactly is Europe? What are its boundaries? Is Russia European? Ukraine? The Caucasian states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia? What about Cyprus which is becoming an EU member this year? You do know that Cyprus is south of Turkey and not too far from the Syrian coast.
Looking at the EU website, they list Russia, Ukraine and Cyprus as European countries but not the Caucasian states.
In the end, I think this geographical factor is not important. However, there are some important issues regarding Turkey’s entry into the European Union. Let’s look at some data first.
|Country||Population1||GDP Per Capita (PPP)2||Human Development Index3||Political Rights4||Civil Liberties4|
|New Members in 2004|
Starting from the right, Turkey has the worst record on political freedoms and civil liberties. It obviously has to improve that if it wants admission to the EU. I should note that Turkey has been moving in the right direction in recent years mostly goaded by the EU carrot.
In terms of human development, Turkey is worse than the 10 countries which will be admitted this year but is similar to Bulgaria and Romania, both of whom have a target accession date of 2007.
Looking at GDP per capita, Turkey is much poorer than the current members as well as most of the new members. The only countries with a GDP per capita of less than $10,000 are (from rich to poor) Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria.
These GDP numbers start looking really bad for Turkey when we consider its population. Right now, Turkey is only behind Germany in population. By 2015, Turkish population is expected to be almost the same as Germany.
This large population has two problems. One is that combined with relative Turkish poverty, the EU will have to provide a lot of funding to Turkey. The other is that the current EU members are definitely not thrilled about a populous country entering into the union which could have a lot of influence in all decisions and bodies which were based on population figures.
In the end, I think Turkey should be admitted into the EU. While there are still a lot of improvements, in human rights, politics and economy, required of Turkey, the EU should stop dragging its feet on the general idea of Turkish admission. It won’t be easy though as my anecdotal experience suggests that quite a few Europeans don’t like the idea of Turkish membership.
1 July 2003 estimate from the CIA World Factbook
2 2002 estimate from the CIA World Factbook
3 2001 value from UNDP. Countries are divided into high human development (HDI > 0.8), medium (0.5 < HDI < 0.8) and low (HDI < 0.5).
4 2003 Freedom House survey. Lower is better.