Although Turkey’s path to membership in the European Union began decades ago, the topic is still quite controversial within the EU and within Turkey itself. The top left image is a cartoon, which shows Turkish President Erdogan knocking at the door to the European Union, waiting to be admitted. Behind the door, a set of eyes (representing EU member states) peers out, hoping that Erdogan and Turkey will eventually stop knocking and leave them alone. While some EU member states are less than thrilled about the idea of Turkish accession, I believe the cartoon is problematic in its presumption that all EU members feel the same way about this issue (or any issue). The EU is composed of 28 members, and they ‘fight’ about almost everything, including Turkish accession. Furthermore, if all of the EU was really so against Turkish accession, they would not have let Turkey even start the accession process, but would have instead turned it away, like they did with Morocco.
The top right image shows how Turkish opinions about the EU have changed. Although the data is not very current, I would imagine that the trends shown have continued to the present day, i.e., the percentage of Turks who view the EU as good has probably continued to decline, and the percentage of Turks who view the EU has bad has probably continued to increase. By far, Turks see economics as the primary benefit of joining the European Union. However, the EU (and much of the world) has experienced massive financial problems since 2008. The Turks have witnessed first hand how the EU and national politicians responded to these problems by implementing austerity measures in Greece, Spain, Italy, etc. When the economy of the EU is not doing so great, and the main reason to join the EU is because of economic benefits, it causes the Turkish people to question the value of joining.
The bottom left image shows many of the reasons why the EU might want Turkey to join, some of which are economic. Although the year is not given, the data must be from sometime between 2007 and 2013 because EU 27 is listed under “Private Consumer Spending.” Turkey’s economy and private consumer spending are both growing at significantly faster rates than the listed EU members. Its national debt compared to GDP is much lower, the population is younger, and the unemployment is similar to the given EU members. Combined, these data mean that Turkey could serve as an economic engine within the EU. The Turkish population is young and buying things. By admitting such a quickly growing economy, the EU could help improve its own economy as a whole.
However, Turkey faces major obstacles on the path to accession, especially in France and Austria. The lower right image shows a Front National poster in France asking the people to vote no on Turkey and the EU Constitution. France recently passed a law that required a popular referendum on new EU members. Since then, the law has been altered to only require a supermajority of Parliament. Around the same time, Austria also passed a law requiring a popular referendum. With these laws on the books, it is essentially impossible for Turkey to complete the accession process and become an EU member state.