Turkey’s EU enthusiasm wanes

Unlike its neighbour, Greece, Turkey is now doing well.

Turkey’s EU enthusiasm wanes

Just a few years ago, Turkey’s membership was the biggest open question in the EU’s future – now, it is the very future of the EU itself.

In our part of the world, it’s been the habit to refer to a country in financial difficulty as the ’sick man of Europe’. Tsar Nicholas I of Russia coined this nickname in reference to the Ottoman Empire, nowadays Turkey. But Greece is now the sick man of Europe, while Turkey’s GDP grew almost nine per cent last year. EU-membership does not, therefore, interest Turks as much as it used to, says Toni Alaranta, a researcher in political history from the University of Helsinki whose doctoral thesis covered Turkish history.

“Financial success has fuelled the idea that Europe needs Turkey, but Turkey doesn’t need Europe.”

At the turn of the millennium, both the Turkish general public and the AK party, which rose to power in 2002, were extremely interested in EU-membership. This enthusiasm has since waned. The conservative sector of the population has never really felt part of Europe, while the worldlier middle class doesn’t want to be part of the union in its current state. The middle class is more interested in the economic community than in vague European values.

“Ideologically, the middle class should be the group that wants Turkey to join the EU, but these people are very patriotic and don’t want to restrict Turkey’s rights of self-government,” explains Alaranta.

European leaders, such as Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, have also dampened Turkey’s enthusiasm with statements claiming that Turkey is not on the whole a European country. Two thirds of Finns also oppose Turkey’s membership. Turks are proud of their nation and don’t want to join a union that doesn’t want them.

Although Turkey has its supporters, its membership is feared within the EU for a variety of reasons. Political and financial issues hold considerable weight, but Islam is causing the greatest uproar.

Toni Alaranta in Tuhat Research Database » »

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Text: Tuomo Tamminen
Photo: 123rf
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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