Impact of Enlargement on External Relations of The EU

The summary of a article (of Haluk Özdemir)

In this article, I will try to evaluate and discuss the European Union’s struggle which aims to reach a more integrated Europe or European Union. The European Union’s current state is unique, and no similar region in the world can be thought; in that, although European countries had quite bad relations with each other, and while the two big world wars are clear indicators of these relations, they seems to be integrated very strictly. Especially, when we think of the great confrontations between France and Germany in historical background, which continued for centuries, the current state of the union should be appreciated. Nevertheless, European Union members seems to be not satisfied with recent state and wants to be a more integrated union in many aspects.

The European Union’s enlargement is one of the most important processes which will shape the future of both the EU and Europe in general. Discussions about the future of the EU converge around deepening and enlargement in general, and the draft constitution specifically. The future of the Europe will be shaped by both external and internal dynamics. Considering this, the constitutional debate is an example of the endogenous dynamics which is more related to the deepening of integration. In addition to this, relations with the neighboring regions and future enlargement of the union, as the exogenous dynamics, constitutes another important part of the future of the EU. This article will be based on enlargement in explaining the EU’s future, as Haluk Özdemir did in his paper.

The last enlargement and its waves have had great impacts on the union; after this enlargement process, some changes which could be revolutionary ones, started to be quite ordinary and natural occurrences. The EU’s external relations and enlargement process cannot be seen as diverse subject, but they both overlapping in formation of the union’s future. Enlargement does not only mean border or zone flourishing, but more related to changes in the identity and culture and policy. When we looked at the EU’s policy in the past, we can easily see the fact that EU’s enlargement is more related to the political needs and conditions of the time. That is to say, enlargement itself is a political subject that The EU resort to it, whenever it is required.

Within this context, we can give some examples. For instance, the access of the Greece, Spain, and Portugal is not the matter of their competence, but of political needs of that time. That is, the inclusion of Greece, Spain, and Portugal is a part of a message about democracy and the issues surrounding the Cold War area.

While discussing the enlargement subject, it would be useful to mention ‘the European borders’. In fact, beside the geographical definitions, it is hard to talk about strict and certain Europe zones or EU borders. For several reasons, Europe can be defined as cultural concept, and because of this, there is no any clearly defined EU culture. “ The EU is not a culture, but a family of culture.” says Smith. This family includes individual freedoms, free market economy, democracy, even nationalism, fascism, communism, and anti-Semitism.

It can be argue that Europe is a strategic concept defined by the national interests of the European countries. Therefore, where Europe is, where its boundaries lay, and where Europe starts and ends are defined by the national interests of the core European countries, namely Germany and France until recently, but this might change with enlargement. In other words, the borders of Europe stretch as far as the interests of the core European countries’ interests require. The last enlargement clearly shows that. During the Cold War period Eastern countries are not in the EU zones, but after the collapse of Soviet Russia, in order to fill the vacuum in Eastern part of the Europe, the last enlargement implemented and also NATO took active role to fill this vacuum. So, as we see, the meaning and boundaries of Europe are fluid and changeable. Indeed, instead of asking what Europe is, we need to discuss the meaning of Europe in different periods of history.

Turkey, especially in this context, poses an instructive example. Turkey was accepted as a European country during the Cold War, and it was incorporated into the security structures and other European organizations. This approach toward Turkey is just a process which Europeans had benefits at that time. However, after the Cold War, Turkey was no longer stayed as the beneficial political subject for Europeans. Europeans began to doubt about the position of Turkey, in The EU. They began to think of Turkey as a diverse country from the EU and then they redefine their borders where Turkish-Greek and Turkish-Bulgarian borders begin.

In general, Europe has dynamic borders; for instance, the Europe of the 1960s and that of the 2000s are not the same. The same thing is valid for the Europe of the 1930s and today’s Europe.
When and where this enlargement process will end can be question mark. However, we should know the fact that Europe is benefiting from this enlargement strategy, and they are using this strategy as a power and this consequently makes European Union power which do not need any kind of weapons and military power. Briefly, European Union is using its attractiveness and credibility and even, in many aspects, its advanced democracy as a soft power. Any exclusionary approach will lead to the EU to face serious problems; confrontational relations with its neighbors, which may curb the effectiveness of the union.

Enlargement is not a random policy that EU proceed, but a well-planned one which have certain goals. The first goal is to transform Europe into a regional or global superpower by gathering required power assets through this enlargement. Before doing this, EU needs to have a common identity and common external relations, which seems to be hard to achieve.

The second aim of enlargement can be identified as conflict management for keeping or establishing regional stability. As we see in the example of the Eastern European countries, by filling this vacuum Europeans achieve to manage any possible conflict and confrontations in the region.
As a result of the enlargement, EU has new neighbors; Turkey, Russia, and the US or Transatlantic relations.

Starting with Russia, it is undeniable fact that Russia is inevitably should be a partner of the European Union. The European Security Strategy document of 2023 refers to Russia as the most important geopolitical actor. The EU wants to have good relations with Russia; so, Russia will not turn into a competitor, but into a cooperator in economic and security organizations. It is said in the European Commission internet site that “if modes of transport are the arteries of our society, then energy is the blood.” E The EU is very inactive to act freely in energy ensuring ways. They mostly have to supply their needs from Russia and this requires them to have good relations with Russia.

When it comes to the US or transatlantic relations, Although the EU and European countries have had good relations with the US, especially old EU members want to be freer and determine their own policy by getting rid of the US protection umbrella. Moreover, it’s been long time that the EU countries want to be equal partner with the US, which is not accepted by the USA. Because of this, they do not want to be depending on the US. However, Eastern members of the union are not in favor of the enhancing distance with the US. Because they want to be protected, but the EU has no such an effective military power, and this makes it important to have close relations with the USA.

As for Turkey, as we discussed before; at the time of the Cold War, as European countries required it, they accepted Turkey to all of their organizations generally and Turkey considered as a European country. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Russia Europeans no more needed Turkey and its existence in the EU. Therefore, Turkey began to be seen as a neighbor of the EU, rather than a part of it. Turkey and Greece applied to EU for membership together, but beside the Greece inclusion 17 other country accepted to be member of the EU while Turkey seems to be quite long-term candidate and is still waiting for inclusion. However, as EU has prejudices and biases about Turkey, it cannot easily be asserted that Turkey will be a member of the union at the end. And this will reinforce the thought that the EU is a Christian club and have nothing to do with Muslim World.

To sum up, there are many advantages of the enlargement as well as disadvantages. However, enlargement even with its disadvantageous aspects cannot be ended by the Europeans or the EU.

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