By Bhavin Gupta
Europe has always been a vaguely defined entity. While nations from Britain to Romania fall squarely inside the continent, the countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia are listed simply as 'transcontinental'. With the increasing divide of the world into blocs of nations behind an ideology and Putin's quasi-reversion to the pre-Cold War strategy of securing Russian spheres of influence, it has become necessary for world leaders to redefine Europe and place some countries firmly in the Western camp. Unfortunately, this process is complicated by the Republic of Turkey, an Islamic parliamentary republic with a pending application to the EU. In December 2014, the proposed Turkish Stream Project connecting an oil pipeline to Russia has made it ever more urgent that the EU accept Turkey's request, but its prospects for approval have never been dimmer. Due to a pivot towards Russia and the Middle East, unacceptable domestic policies, and the political reality of Turkey's leadership, the time has come for Turkey's EU membership to be outright rejected, a win-win solution to a problem that has dragged on for years.
Bordering the Aegean and Mediterranean, Turkey may be a member of NATO, but policies the government takes today lead many to question its commitment to an Atlantic Alliance. Ankara is currently deliberating choosing French, American, or Chinese missiles as part of its defense system, but by even considering Beijing Erdogan has shown serious gaps in his country's commitment to the West. In addition to increased dialogue with Russia and an ambitious new pipeline, Turkey is undertaking a pivot away from the EU's policies. While some may advocate for accepting the bid in order to keep Ankara firmly in the Western fold, it is far more likely that the EU will be negatively altered by the presence of the Islamist parliamentary republic, one that suppresses speech and compromises defense with foreign-made weaponry. There are no doubts that a secular, democratic Turkey would provide strong benefits to the West, especially as Syria implodes and Iraq collapses. With the Arab Spring a dismal failure in most countries, strong allies are hard to come by. The degree to which Turkey fits this description, however, has been receding backwards. As a country making continually negative progress on rights and free speech, Turkey would be far from a strong ally and would serve to alienate EU members with good track records.
Moreover, Turkey has recently demonstrated an abysmal record when upholding the rights of its citizens. On March 27th, Turkey passed a series of laws that serve to centralize and expand the powers of its police force. If attacked by weapons, police may now fire live rounds at protestors and have the authority to unconditionally detain anyone for up to 48 hours. By suppressing dissent in public spaces, Turkey's draconian set of laws goes against fundamental free speech policies of the European Union. PM Erdogan's statements about how men and women cannot possibly be considered equal highlight the fact the Turkey is unfit to be a member of the EU.
Finally, members on both sides of the current divide oppose Turkey's bid. While powerhouses in Europe such as France and Germany stall the acceptance process, many in Turkey's Grand Assembly also oppose this move. A change in leadership from former President Abdullah Gul to current Prime Minister Erdogan also signifies Turkey's flagging commitment. While Gul is vocally pro-EU, Erdogan is still well-remembered for his request that Russia add Turkey to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in order to disqualify it from EU membership. As the EU passed a non-binding resolution observing the "centenary of the Armenian genocide", Ankara retaliated by claiming it was an evil organization with designs against Turkey, a country that had killed over 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottomans. With Turkey in the European Union, such resolutions would be significantly harder to pass and such a direction is not a positive one for the EU to take.
In the end, the EU would benefit significantly from outright rejecting Ankara's absurd bid to join it. This decision would be welcomed by France, Germany, Cyprus, and many in Turkey itself. While there is no question that a strong Turkey would benefit the EU's policy in the Middle East, in the absence of a secular government it is best for the EU to disassociate itself with Ankara for now. The regional names of the EU and NATO have begun to lose significance as time progresses; if they continue to do so the EU and NATO will lose power as well. While global organizations like the UN may be comprehensive, their resolutions are anodyne dishwater and little effectual global policy can be passed. The EU would benefit from a small, tight circle of secular, democratic nations, and Turkey must be passed over for now.
Bhavin Gupta is a student of international relations who presently resides in Portland, Oregon. In his spare time, the author enjoys playing tennis, amateur photography, and competing in international extemporaneous speaking competitions.