Turkey and the EU after the first year of negotiations: Reconciling internal and external policy challenges

Aybet G.

SECURITY DIALOGUE, vol.37, no.4, pp.529-549, 2006 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 37 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/0967010606072947
  • Title of Journal : SECURITY DIALOGUE
  • Page Numbers: pp.529-549


The EU's commencement of accession negotiations with Turkey in October 2005 represents a watershed in Turkish-EU relations. However, even in the area of straightforward technicalities, the negotiations are linked to a wider set of unresolved and highly sensitive political issues, of which the Cyprus question is the most significant. Unresolved Aegean disputes with Greece and the Armenian issue form another set of wider external issues that affect the day-to-day framework of the negotiations. Internal issues that can have repercussions on the negotiations include Kurdish minority rights and the decision of the European Court of Human Rights calling for a retrial of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. The EU accession process has left Turkey with the dilemma of how to reconcile its internal and external policy challenges. Traditionally, Turkey has separated its internal security challenges, such as Kurdish separatism and Islamic fundamentalism, from its external security relations, which are based on state-centric security relationships. This situation is being superseded by an emergent discourse on Turkish foreign policy, as Euro-sceptics who frame Turkey's national security within a traditionalist military-dominant perspective are challenged by pro-EU actors who view economic instability as more significant than traditional military threats. While Turkey's uniqueness - such as the special place of its military within the state and society - is difficult for the EU to grasp, the very speciality of the Turkish case does not in itself warrant an alternative to full membership, such as privileged partnership. All previous accession negotiations have ended in full membership. If Turkey were to become an exception after it has made headway in implementing EU criteria, this would have wider repercussions for Turkey's relations with the West and the EU's image in the Islamic world at large. Thus, the Turkish case probably constitutes the greatest challenge the EU has had to face in dealing with an accession country.