Many factors contributed to the French and Dutch objections to the proposed EU Constitution. One – usually unstated – factor is a fear of Turkish membership in the Union. That membership drive, however, has already transformed Turkey.
In order to prepare for EU accession, Turkey has undertaken vast and serious legal, political, and economic reforms. Turkey’s bureaucrats, politicians, and citizens united to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership and tolerated the pain of the IMF-directed structural-adjustment programs. The looming accession process will be even more painful, but Turkey’s people are firmly resolved to face this challenge.
Turkey’s transformation has already put an end to the Cold War-style security-state apparatus that ruled the country for half a century, and has changed the framework of the country’s domestic and foreign policy. By modernizing and democratizing at home, Turkey’s politicians gained self-confidence in their ability to conduct a successful regional policy. As a result, Turkey’s leaders are now willing to pursue active diplomacy in the Middle East in an effort to minimize problems with neighboring countries.
Of prime importance is the fact that Turkey is emerging as a role model for those across the Middle East who are seeking reform and modernization. This influence does not imply a hegemonic relationship, but rather points to an alternative path for reform and economic development that other primarily Muslim countries might take. The EU is associated with peace, democracy, and economic development, while the Middle East is characterized by instability, authoritarianism, and economic backwardness. Turkey’s reform process shows that the latter is not an unavoidable destiny for the countries of the region.