Foreign Policy Blogs

EU leaders react badly to Obama's support for a European Turkey

It’s understandable that American leaders believe they have a stake in the EU, as each other’s main trading partners, leaders of the developed world, and the fact that the political project EU would never have existed without US support and encouragemnet. Therefore George Bush and now President Obama are probably mystified at the negative reaction to their declared support of Turkish membership of the EU. The French and Austrians have publically dismissed the Obama comments while Chancellor Merkel of Germany has again questioned the whole idea of Turkish membership.

Turkey was given candidate status for membership of the EU in 2005, under intense pressure from Tony Blair and the US administration seeing a chance for progress under the moderate AK party regime. Since then, Turkey has made little progress on the substantial reforms necessary for membership. Essentially, any country that wants join has to transform its system into a liberal democracy, with extensive Human Rights provisions, strong seperate Governmental Institutions and a strong Civil society, areas where Turkey is still lacking. Indeed, Newsweek commented last week that Prime Minister Erdogan may be losing his will to take Turkey further down the road of integration with the EU.

But geting back to American leaders feeling they have a stake in the EU – this is something to which European bristle audibly. One blogger, for example, commented “why is EU membership being spoken of as a US foreign policy tool? ” To Member-States, the EU is not like NATO – it’s many times more important. If you look to measure the imporatntce of the EU in a very crude way, about half of legislation of EU Member States is from the EU, national politicians and officials spend large amounts of their working time in countless of  EU committees & councils. Decisions take in the EU, in short, have a huge impact on Member-States. Turkey would be one of the largest members of the EU and would wield a large amount of power in EU decision making.

Though the analogy is not exactly correct, it could be like Europe calling for Mexico to be admitted to the United States of America, an act that could profoundly unbalance the political entity that is the USA. Europe will need time and certainty before it takes such a step, and pressure from the USA may be having the opposite effect than what is intended.


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David Garrahy

David Garrahy works in Brussels monitoring European Union activites. He is originally from Ireland and studied a Degree in Law & European Studies at the University of Limerick before earning a Masters in Globalisation at Dublin City Universty. Previously he has worked in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission and as a Legislative Aide for an Irish Senator. His involvement in the EU has included working for the Irish Forum on Europe and campaigning in Referenda in favour of the Nice & Lisbon Treaties.

Area of Focus
Europe; Globalisation; European Comission.


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