In 1987 Turkey officially applied to become a member of the European Union and has been in the process to join the union ever since. Turkey is already closely affiliated in a number of related agreements and is an important economical partner. Yet, there is still a lot of work to do before Turkey is on the same level of regulation and standard as many European countries. In this debate Sebastian argues for Turkey joining the EU and Dirk takes a stand against that idea.
Image Source: By Marmiras – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia
Dirk – Welcome everyone! Welcome to our latest edition of 2debate.net, our podcast of debates. I am Dirk and my co-host is Sebastian. Hi Sebastian, how are you doing?
Sebastian – Well I’m doing okay, I’m jetlagged actually because I just landed in Jakarta, Indonesia last night, so we’re again recording this at distance.
Dirk – So you’re jetlagged this time, I was jetlagged last time. Let’s try to be equally leveled. I get a chance at last. We will today debate the following motion: should Turkey be part of the EU? Today Sebastian’s going to argument for the motion, that is Turkey being part of the EU. And I’m going to have the pleasure to argue against the motion. Also, by the flip of a flip of a coin we decided that Sebastian goes first. Is that about right, Sebastian? I think I summed it up properly, right?
Sebastian – Yes that’s correct, that’s correct.
Dirk – Perfect! And today we are going to have a heated debate, I think, because it’s going about politics, right, the politics always stir emotions in us.
Sebastian – I think we have emotions regardless of the topic, Dirk. Whether it’s politics, technology, business.
Dirk – OK, let’s shift that. We are debating now if we have emotions. Okay, should we have emotions? Should we have emotions? Is that a good idea? Who is for? Who is against? No, no! So Turkey should be part of the EU. Sebastian for, Dirk against. Sebastian, first. Are you ready, Sebastian?
Sebastian – I am totally ready to start with my little speech.
Dirk – You’re practically born ready, right?
Sebastian – I’m completely born ready.
Voice – OK, let’s do this! Sebastian goes first and argues for the motion.
Sebastian – Karşılama, Dirk. This is Turkish for welcome, Dirk. Because Turkey should be part of the EU and I have many arguments in favour. The first one of which is: the EU is mostly about trade anyway. I wish it was more than trade, honestly, but it’s an economic union before anything else. And Turkey is a dynamic and big market. 75 million people, so having free trade with Turkey would be fantastic. 50% of Turkish exports go to the EU and Turkey is the seventh largest market for the EU. So clearly, for me, the main argument is from an economy standpoint: it makes a lot of sense. We can talk about immigration as well considering that Turkey is very young and the rest of Europe is aging. We’re getting old, Dirk, and I think we need to think about the future and the economy, for positive results on the economy – and we can refer back to another debate that we had on a topic on the free flow of movement, the free flow of people and trade. Another argument is, and that’s slightly connected to the previous one, by making the EU bigger, you make the EU have more influence on world politics. It’s a mechanical thing: the bigger it is, especially since we’ve lost the UK, well, you might as well take another one in the mix. And Turkey is a big one so let’s have a nation which will help influence not only world politics but also regional politics. As we know, Turkey is very influential in the Middle East, for good or for worse, but this is a good way to align ourselves on our policies towards the Middle East. And finally, I want to go back on the energy, on the economy aspect: I was saying energy because this is what I had in mind, I forgot this aspect. We can’t rely on Russia anymore. Russia is being too… maybe too difficult to deal with and we need new energy corridors. Turkey offers that opportunity for Europe so we have to be practical on this economy aspect. And that’s it for my little two minutes.
Dirk – Well spoken!
Voice – Now it’s Dirk’s turn. Let’s hear his arguments against the motion.
Dirk – So in your book, Turkey and the EU expansion is mostly about the markets. And I agree, that is an important part of it. Also, I would say it is about values and shared culture. And even if it would be economy alone, I would disagree because, well, you know in a perfect world, we have free trade and an economic zone that spans the whole planet. Still, that is not the case and it’s also not about the market only, it’s also about the costs. So bringing in another partner into the European Union is associated with additional costs and friction first. It’s an investment to take. And that investment gets all the bigger if you have to bridge cultural and legal barriers first. And the Turkish system, being a large country like this, has been built on top of different practices than the rest of the European continent. And that is my third argument: actually, Turkey is not part of Europe. Turkey is mostly part of Asia and if we bring Turkey to the European Union, we all of a sudden share a border with Syria, Iran, Iraq, all countries where we do not necessarily want to have a border with. And if we want to have a board with them, it brings us to additional problems, geopolitical wise, economic wise. It’s not the Turkish people that immigrated into the EU, all of a sudden, we discuss immigration issues on that border too. So my point is having Turkey as a very close partner to the European Union would be the perfect situation. Having it integrated costs more than it brings.
Voice – Next up, Sebastian. Let’s hear his rebuttal.
Sebastian – So you talk about shared culture. It’s interesting because what you’re not saying when you say shared culture is basically that the EU should be a club of Christian countries or should be like like-minded. But honestly, this is not exactly the signal that I think we want to send to the outside world. We want to show that we can integrate different cultures, different religions. And we know the EU is already very diverse, from Portugal to Greece to Ireland to Sweden: we’re not talking about the same culture across all these countries already. If anything, Turkey is the only Muslim democracy, so it actually sends a very positive signal. And I would add another thing to it is: you’re German, you know this better than anyone else, Turkey’s already in part of Germany! How many millions of Turkish immigrants? So you already have part of Turkey in Germany. It’s not Asia as far as I know. It’s already Western Europe! On this aspect of geography, while I’m half joking about it, Istanbul is on the European side, and one of the biggest cities. In fact let me mention something because this is also slightly related to economy. But the Istanbul airport is going to be the biggest airport in the world: 150 million passengers! They’re rebuilding it and this is again at the border between indeed Asia and Europe. Do we want to miss that for Europe? You want to impose barriers between the biggest airport, one of the biggest countries in the region, and the rest of the EU? I don’t think so. If anything it’s a bridge between Islam and the other religions, it’s a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. In fact, Turkey, on the security aspect, has the biggest army of any country in that region, including the EU. So if anything, we can actually make use of that. And the fact that we would have borders with Syria changes nothing to the fact that Syrian refugees come across Turkey right now for instance and into Europe. So we have this problem anyway today. So if anything, we are making things stronger by having a direct partner that’s part of the EU. You mention it’s a cost. On this, it’s interesting because as far as I know Portugal and Romania are part of the EU. But Romania, to take this example, their GDP per capita is less than 10,000 dollars per year. Do you know how much it is in Turkey? Ten percent more. Turkey is richer than Romania, which is in the EU. So I’m not sure the cost is actually going to be at a disadvantage in the case of Turkey. Or otherwise would have used that argument for other countries. In fact, we talked about culture and values, I want to get back to this, because I’m thinking of Romania. But I’m pretty sure that we will have Bosnia for instance at one point in the EU. Clearly in the geography of Europe. And Bosnia is Muslim. Are we going to say “no” because they’re Muslim? I’m not sure you want to have that stand either. So to summarise, I think: values, we want to show that we are open-minded and I don’t think it’s about that anyway. As I said before, I think it’s about the economy. Secondly, it’s not a costly because you have poorer nations currently in the EU. And thirdly, borders with Syria, if anything, it may actually help having borders with countries which are difficult and we need to think long term in terms of having a global policy for the next decade, not just because we have a refugee crisis today.
Voice – Dirk, let’s hear it!
Dirk – Let me take that one by one. So the GDP that you mention: it’s 13,000 euros right now which is less than half the EU average. If you combine that with 70-something million that live in Turkey, that makes Turkey, not only one of the poorer countries that’s joining the EU, it’s also one of the largest. And by 2050, projections say it would be the largest country in the EU. So that is quite a bit of an expense that you have to shoulder. Even if you argue with Bulgaria and Portugal. Come on you’re not comparing Bulgaria and Portugal with Turkey, are you? It may be equally low but it’s much less and already we struggle with dealing with things like Greece and Portugal and Bulgaria. So the question becomes: how many under-developed economies do we want to pull into the EU before they solve the problems first. Second, having immigration and having people of different cultures: no, of course I don’t want to block anyone from the EU because they have a different religion. Still in Turkey, we talk about a completely different ballpark, because they are majority Muslim and because they tend to fall into reflexes out of that heritage. We can observe that right now by looking at Erdogan, by looking at the current changes and yes it is a democracy but it certainly starts feeling less and less that way in the past month. I’m not sure if we as the US really are prepared to deal with that downfall. Thirdly, and as I mentioned, 78 million people right now in Turkey. Pulling that in, combined with the other two, Turkey would be a very powerful player in the EU and that would not only change how we do things in the EU, it also would prop potentially stir up substantial unrest. Right now, the European Union is struggling as it is. The European Union has to get their value system in order. Right now, we are not even a shared value system as you can see unfortunately looking at the refugee crisis. Pulling in a partner as large, as complex, as culturally different, as also under developed economy wise, as Turkey is opening issues all over the place. I’m not convinced that the EU can actually deal with it right now. So I repeat myself: I think it’s not a good idea to have Turkey is part of the EU. It should be a close ally, it should be a good partner, we should be as friendly, as as cooperative as we can, but pulling it into the EU just for the sake of having a large partner that we add to the list is not doing any good.
Voice – Final statements. Sebastian goes first.
Sebastian – Spain, in the eighties, joined the EU. It was poor, a lot of Spaniards emigrated. In the nineties, there was high growth in Spain and the trend was reversed: people went to Spain. Now it’s actually a net importer of people. There is more immigration within Spain than the opposite. So actually when you have a high-growth economy like Turkey, you’re not going to have people move out of Turkey, maybe you’re going to have Europeans go to Turkey. Secondly, democracy. Look at Poland. Poland is part of the EU. Is it going the right way in terms of democracy with the current government? I don’t think so. Thirdly, you say it is going to be a big player and I think you’re worried because you’re German and it’s going to be as big as Germany. Well, yes, let’s give a fair representation to people who are part of the table, who want to play game. The UK wants to leave. Fine, they can leave. Turkey wants to be in, let’s have them in. Anyway, it takes a long process for them to be part of the EU: it’s chapter-by-chapter to negotiate and make sure that they comply. So once they comply, why would we limit them? And my conclusion is this one: is it Turkey that’s not ready for the EU? Or is it the EU that’s not ready? Teşekkür ederim. Thank you, in Turkish.
Voice – Dirk.
Dirk – You say, or you asked the question: is it Turkey that’s not ready or is it the EU that’s not ready? Well, that’s not the motion, Sebastian. It’s not the question, who is ready and who is not. And if one of the two partners is not ready, then I rest my case and it doesn’t matter if Germany is worried because Germany is the largest player. Right now, Germany is a developed economy. It’s paying into EU households, it’s paying that for others. Yes, it’s taking out its fair share out of the EU, wealth as well. But with Turkey, we would actually be for substantial amount of time paying, paying, and paying, because they are just in a growth area, because they right now have to change a lot of things, because there is a cultural friction that needs also to be paid for. So again, unless both partners are ready, and clearly right now they are not, I conclude Turkey should not be part of the EU, at least not now.
Dirk – So that was it for today’s debate. Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to visit us on 2debate.net, the website to our projects where you can vote for the motion. Let us know if you change your mind. Let us know if there have been other arguments on your mind that we could have used or other tactics in which we could have crafted our debating style.
Sebastian – This is debate number eight if I’m not mistaken and I know you have not won any debate so far, I understand that. But come on. I’m just shutting up because I don’t know if you’re on mute. Oh no, you’re talking. You’re stunned, I know. You are not going to argue. Dirk – The main argument in my book for Turkey being part of the EU by the way is a geopolitical one. I would much rather have Turkey on our side than on the Russian side for instance. And I personally would much rather share the border with Syria, Iraq, and around, because then we have no way of hiding the atrocities that as Europe we are doing at those borders. Right now, having paid Turkey to deal with the refugee crisis for instance is all way out of that cognitive dissonance. So all of a sudden in Europe, we can say: we are so friendly, especially Germany, we took in so many refugees, we are the good guys. And then pay millions and billions of euros to Turkey to build up the wall that we are not openly promoting. We are like Trump, just no saying it. We build the wall in Turkey, or we pay Turkey to build the wall for us so having them in the EU would force us to face that. We would need to feel with that ourselves because it would be part of the EU all of the sudden, that would be my argument for it. And the argument against this, well, I’m not sure if we can actually handle it.
Sebastian – I think the way you said is actually very good and I did not bring it up as clearly as you did, like maybe using Russia as a possible threat, if Turkey would go closer to Russia rather than Western Europe or Europe. And the second thing is about forcing us to deal with the problems instead of just either paying for it or delaying it because probably it inevitably will come back to us or asking someone else take care of it, when especially in this case, I’m not even sure we can completely trust the Turkish authorities to deal with things effectively sometimes. I like your arguments: Russia, dealing with our problems and this cost aspect may be mitigated if we change the rules.