The EU’s capacity to absorb Turkey

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details November 2005
Publication Date 2006
Content Type

Study from the Programme "European Affairs
The negotiations for the accession of Turkey were officially engaged on 3rd of October 2005. The negotiating framework contains conditions that are more restrictive than those imposed by the EU to former acceding countries. It specifies that “the Union's capacity to absorb Turkey, while maintaining the momentum of European integration is an important consideration in the general interest of both the Union and Turkey. The Commission shall monitor this capacity during the negotiations, encompassing the whole range of issues set out in its October 2004 paper, in order to inform an assessment by the Council as to whether this condition of membership has been met”. This clause reflects the fear of certain Member States (MS) that the UE is incapable of integrating Turkey.
The perspective of Turkish membership of the European Union has a variety of political implications both geopolitical and geostrategic. It also has specific potential impacts on EU institutions, policies and internal political dynamics. Turkey is larger, poorer and more populous than any previous candidate country. It lies in a strategically important but complex and sensitive geographical location. It is a secular state with a large Muslim population. The main impacts on the EU derive from these complex characteristics and the experience of previous enlargements is
therefore not entirely relevant.
The possible implications for the EU of the accession of Turkey have already been the subject of various studies and reports, including the preliminary Commission impact study of October 20041. However the question of whether Turkey will or will not ultimately be a member of the
EU is not academic in nature. It will be, in due time, a politically determined normative decision.
The focus of this study is to identify the likely future political, legal and economic implications of Turkish accession to the EU for the Union itself. It is obvious that the future economic and political development of both the Union and Turkey are highly uncertain by nature, and any
prospective assessments of their respective situation in 15 years time is largely speculative. It is true that some specific political and economic impacts of Turkish accession can be assessed relatively accurately at the present time, but others depend on an unpredictable evolution. In
order to avoid excessive speculation, this contribution is based on the present situation, considered as constant especially as far as regulation is concerned.
The question of Turkey’s respect for fundamental human rights and compliance with the Charter is a political precondition, unrelated to the EU’s absorption capacity, and is therefore notaddressed here.

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