By Kaitlin Smalling
Gender equality, competitive economic development, and standard transportation, agricultural, and energy standards are among the principles that the European Union emulates. The union emphasizes social and economic development, so when nations attempt to qualify for the Union it often garners Union-wide attention. Such is the case of Turkey: since 2001, it has tried to reform itself to European Union standards. Unfortunately, Turkey cannot reform itself on its own and in the last few steps of application to the EU, Turkey has required aid to transform its social principles.
In fact, the European Nation Neighborhood Policy Commissioner, Stefan Fule, contributed a $317 million reform package to Turkey on Friday, November 22, 2013. This package specifically concentrated on strengthening the current judiciary system by creating a more self-sufficient and objective institution to enforce laws that will qualify them for the EU.
However, sometimes it is less a matter of money and a more a matter of mindset. The Turkish people have given their government a hard time about the new changes because not all of them want to join the European Union. To deter aid-giving nations from helping Turkey qualify to the EU, violent demonstrations by a Kurdish minority in the capital have become the norm. For example, protesters gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for the two weeks leading up to June 11, 2013, when they rioted against police to prevent the modernization of the square and the government on principle. They argue that the changing government involves more of a parliamentary approach rather than a participatory approach, which increases the chances that voices are ignored. The Turkish government figures that admission to the EU may aid in the longstanding problem with the Kurdish minority, but it is currently just exacerbating the already established political polarization.
Unfortunately, the rebellious citizens are not the only thing standing in the way of Turkey’s qualification: Turkey’s policies regarding women in the political sphere are not up to par for EU standards. Although 1% of Turkish municipalities have female mayors, that is insufficient for the gender equality that EU members boast. In addition to this difference in ideals, not all aid-giving countries want Turkey to be admitted because those countries send aid to help areas like infrastructure instead of aid to help transform the judiciary and government itself for qualification. For instance, Great Britain contributed £1.2 Billion for Turkish sewage and infrastructure improvements, but the EU Commission only just realized this last week. Not only does this question if the EU Commission tracks where aid is going, but it also tells Turkey that even its aid giving allies are not necessarily on its side in getting admitted; they are simply concerned about being able to say they aided Turkey in its application.
This drew attention to the financial assistance program Turkey was working with, which is called the Accession Partnership document. The Accession Partnership Document identifies areas where progress is needed the most to prepare for accession, or admittance to the EU. Part of its initiative is to increase democratized versions of human rights, macroeconomic stabilization, and communicative powers in national legislation. Unfortunately, with the direction the aid packages are headed, the EU Commission is considering an 11% decrease in foreign aid spending in the 2014-2020 budget. This not only implies that Turkey will be more isolated in its attempt to gain admittance to the EU, but also implies that other disadvantaged and developing nations will not receive as much aid as prior. Is it fair to these countries that nations like Turkey are indirectly taking away from their care packages when they need it the most? In many cases it’s not, but it’s ultimately up to the people of Turkey to propel themselves in the direction of EU and international standards.