Even if something is moving in relations between Turkey and the European Union, the steps are so modest that, for the present, they do not change the general impression that the relationship is still in crisis. One of these movements has been the opening, on November 5, 2013, of a new chapter in accession negotiations. This is chapter 22, which deals with regional policy. If negotiations between Turkey and the EU were symmetrical, a decision of this kind would be almost imperceptible. But Turkey’s candidacy is not like the others, nor do negotiations with Turkey unfold in a climate of normality.
Turkey has been knocking at Europe’s door for more than a half century; in fact, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing on the Ankara Agreement, which established the association of Turkey with the then young European Economic Community, and which affirmed that the ultimate purpose of this association was to smooth the path for the integration of Turkey into the common market. With its 74 million inhabitants and a per capita GNP that places it in the middle of the EU average, the incorporation of Turkey alone would pose a challenge similar to the accession of the ten countries that joined in 2004. This, in addition to the intense debate on European identity and the limits of Europe, is the reason why Turkey’s candidacy generates deep division in the EU. Some governments, political forces, and an important section of public opinion reject its accession, more or less explicitly, for political, economic and cultural reasons. To simplify, for these voices Turkey is too big, too poor, and too Muslim.