Indeed, the December 1999 decisions in Helsinki will have profound consequences for Turkey and the EU. They could transform the character of the EU. By including Turkey, it would accept a frontier well beyond the borders of what used to be called Christendom. The acceptance of Turkey as a candidate for the E.U. is fuelling expectations that the move will create the impetus needed to solve the country's problems ranging from human rights violations to double-digit inflation.
Prime Minister Ecevit confirmed this view by saying that the prize of candidacy, denied it two years ago at an EU summit in Luxembourg, opened "new horizons" for Turkey. He also served notice that Turkey would meet the membership criteria faster than many in the EU expected – by 2004. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem was more realistic in spelling out a 15-year perspective for achieving full membership. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Turkey's EU candidacy marked "a historic shift towards peace, security and development in our region. Greece and Turkey had the "basis for a new relationship". In the longer-term, Greece would be able to pull back troops from the Aegean islands opposite Turkey and cut defense spending. However, euphoria in Turkey has been tempered by recognition that the path to EU membership would require a big adjustment.
Candidacy designation may soothe--but probably will not heal--Turkey’s breach with Europe. First of all, many Turks see a decision on candidacy as a result more of U.S. pressure rather than European change of heart. Second, Turks understand that the designation "candidate," whatever its psychological and symbolic impact, is only the first step in a very uncertain membership process. Actual negotiations for membership, which would take years, would not begin any time soon, at least not before Turkey meets certain political expectations19. Given Turkey’s economic and human rights problems, nobody expects its full membership to become a serious prospect for a decade or more.
Even that is a significant statement, if one considers the deep misgivings many Europeans harbor about letting in a nation of 65 million Muslims with a population growing faster than any EU state. Some Europeans are concerned that Turkey within the EU is likely to act like the United Kingdom – as a close and trusted ally of the U.S., not only on security issues, but also on economic and trade disputes. However, the possibility of closer ties with Brussels eventually bringing Turkey closer to the EU positions is equally strong.
Yes, Differences Exist The extent to which Turkish and U.S. strategic policies and views have merged since 1995 is striking. Surprisingly, this trend has mostly involved the movement of American positions towards Turkish positions, rather than the other way around. The U.S. has largely abandoned its early-to-mid 1990s hopes of smoothly integrating Russia into the Western family of democratic nations20; instead, it has come to share many of Turkey's doubts about the future stability and peaceful regional intentions of that nation. (Ironically, the U.S. has even warned Turkey against the danger of becoming too energy-dependent on Russia.)
In 1995 (and again in Kosovo), the U.S. shed its earlier squeamishness about the use of force against Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia, as Turkey had long encouraged. The American government shows appreciation for Azerbaijan's strategic energy importance in a way it did not five years ago. For its part, Turkey has softened its view of Russia since the former superpower has emerged as an important Turkish market and its army proved nearly
“Dreaming of Europe”, Dominique Moisi, p.44-62, Foreign Policy, summer 1999, No.115. “Russia and the West: Changing Course?”, Richard F. Staar, p.63-80, Mediterranean Quarterly, Vol.6 No.4, Fall 1995.