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Turkey: Not EU, but Member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

The Shanghai Cooperation Oganization (SCO) was formed in 1996 when China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan came together primarily to settle land disputes. Then known as the ‘Shanghai Five,’ they expanded over the next two decades to include many member states and observer states. In 2001, after accepting Uzbekistan, it took its present name. As of May 2018, the SCO has eight (8) member states, four (4) observer states and six (6) dialogue partners – the 18 nations – representing about 45% of the world’s population.

This article will address Turkey’s position with the EU, NATO and the SCO; and why Turkey will likely become the next member-state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It will also offer a very brief summary of Turkey’s history.


Brief History of Turkey

In 1453, Muslim Sultan Mehmed II captured the Christian city of Constantinople and ended the power of the Byzantine Empire. At that time, Turkey was the center of the Ottoman Empire. War World I ended and resulted in the partition of the defeated Ottoman Empire. In 1923, the Grand National Assembly declared Turkey a republic. In 1928, the Government removed Islam from the state religion, although Turkey remains over 95% Muslim by profession. After World War II, Turkey joined the United Nations and by 1950 held free elections. In 1952, Turkey joined the NATO alliance. After some instability and a couple of coups, in 1963 the nation joined the European Economic Community (EEC). In 1965, Suleyman Demirel became Prime Minister (his first of seven times). The 1970s and early 1980s saw several coup attempts and a new constitution in 1982.
Since 1984, Turkey has been off and on again at war with the Kurds in various parts of the Middle East from Turkey to Iraq. In 2002, the government struck down a law in which the man was legally regarded as the head of the family and elevated women to a state of equality. In 2018, there is still much instability after the July 2016 failed coup, continued tensions with the Kurds (namely the P.K.K. or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, its occupation in Cyprus, and fighting on their southeastern border with Syria.

            Turkey still not accepted in the European Union

The continental divide between Europe and Asia, places several countries such as Turkey and Russia in both Europe and Asia. There are 50 recognized sovereign states in Europe (51 if including the Holy See – Vatican); of which 44 are members of the United Nations (in that their capital cities are in Europe) and 28 are members of the European Union.

About 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community began to unite European countries. The six founding nations were Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome established the EEC or European Economic Community. February 7, 1992, the Treaty on European Union was signed in the Netherlands; and in it the name ‘European Union’ replaced ‘European Community.’

According to (2018), and the ‘history’ of the EU, ‘1993:’ “More than 200 laws have been agreed since 1986 covering tax policy, business regulations, professional qualifications and other barriers to open frontiers…” In 1973, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the EEC; then Greece in 1981. Next, in 1986, Portugal and Spain joined; followed by Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. Nearly all of the countries were Western European nations.

In 2004, ten (10) eastern European countries – including Hungary and Poland, joined the EEC, mostly former Eastern Bloc countries; and Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007. The last country admitted to the EU was Croatia in 2013. They made the 28th member country.

Six countries are currently listed as ‘candidate countries’ on the EU website: Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, former Yugoslav and Turkey.

In 1949, Turkey was one of 10 nations to join the Council of Europe, which now has 47 members. It is separate from the EU, through the Council is an UN Observer. About 1963, Turkey began applying for membership into the EEC. If it would be accepted, it would be the second largest member, behind Germany.

According to the European Commission, “in 1987, Turkey applied to join what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) and in 1997 was declared eligible to join the EU… Accession negations started in 2005…”

According to the EU website and the article ‘EU and Turkey’s History:’
“Turkey was one of the first countries, in 1959, to seek close cooperation with the young European Economic Community (EEC). This cooperation was realized in the framework of an ‘association agreement,’ known as the Ankara Agreement, which was signed on 12 September 1963. An important element in this plan was establishing a ‘Customs Union’ so that Turkey could trade goods and agricultural products with EEC countries without restrictions. The main aim of the Ankara agreement was to achieve “continuous improvement in living conditions in Turkey and in the European Economic Community through accelerated economic progress and the harmonious expansion of trade, and to reduce the disparity between the Turkish economy and … the Community.” 1987 Turkey submits application for full membership… 1993 The EU and Turkey Customs Union negotiations start. 1996 the Customs Union (with) Turkey takes effect… 1999 at the Helsinki Summit… the European Council (EC) gives Turkey the status of candidate country for EU membership… 2001 the European Council adopts the EU-Turkey Accession Partnership… providing a road map for Turkey’s EU accession process… the Turkish Government adopts the NPAA (…EU law)… 2004 …the EC decides to open membership talks with Turkey… October 2005 the ‘screening process’ …began under 35 titles… December 2013 Visa liberation dialogue launched. November 2015 the First EU-Turkey Summit held.”

According to the European Commission ‘working document,’ ‘Turkey 2018 Report:’ “Turkey remains a key partner for the European Union. Turkey has been linked to the EU by an Association Agreement since 1964 and a Customs Union was established in 1995. The European Council granted the status of candidate country to Turkey in December 1999 and accession negotiations were opened in October 2005. Within the framework of accession negotiations, 16 chapters have been opened so far and one of these was provisionally closed. The Turkish government reiterated its commitment to EU accession but this has not been matched by corresponding measures and reforms. On the contrary, Turkey has been moving away from the European Union. The Presidency conclusions of December 2016 stated that under the currently prevailing circumstances, no new chapters are considered for opening. The EU and Turkey continued their dialogue… Leaders’ meetings in May 2017 and March 2018… The state of emergency declared in the wake of the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 remains in force… Since the introduction of the state of emergency, over 150,000 people were taken into custody, 78,000 were arrested and over 110,000 civil servants were dismissed… some 40,000 were reinstated… The government overhauled the legal framework governing the civil-military relations and increased the powers of the executive over the military significantly… The military and intelligence services continue to lack sufficient accountability in Parliament.
The situation in the south-east has continued to be one of the most acute challenges for the country… the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) remains on the EU list of …groups involved in acts of terrorism… While the government has a legitimate right to fight against terrorism, it is also responsible for ensuring this is done in accordance with the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms… Turkey’s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. There has been further serious backsliding in the past year, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary… The country has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption, where no progress has been achieved… Turkey’s track record of investigation, prosecution and conviction in corruption cases remained poor, particularly regarding high-level corruption cases… Turkey needs to improve its legislation on cybercrime…
Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighborly relations, international agreements and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter… Turkey is well-integrated with the EU market in terms of both trade and investment… However, significant problems remained with regard to the quality of education. There was no progress in improving the transparency of state aid. …In all areas, more attention needs to be given to enforce legislation whilst many areas require further significant progress to achieve legislative alignment with the EU acquis.”

Thus, it took about 52 years from application, for Turkey to see an official ‘Summit’ with the EU; and now about 69 years since it joined the Council of Europe, Turkey still does not have member status in the EU. As the summary of the 2018 Turkey Report from the European Commission shows, Turkey has much improve to make; their nation must fill put off by the EU and more welcomed by the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization).

In November 2016, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told journalists, ““Turkey should first of all feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated” (about joining it)… “Some may criticize me, but I express my opinion. For example, I have said ‘why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai 5?’”

Turkey and NATO

According to the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in their article ‘Turkey’s Relations with NATO,’ they state: “Ever since our NATO membership in 1952, the North Atlantic Alliance has played a central role in Turkey’s security and contributed to its integration with the Euro-Atlantic community. Turkey, in return, has successfully assumed its responsibilities in defending the common values of the Alliance.
Turkey attaches the utmost importance to NATO’s role in maintaining security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and in providing a forum for political-military consultations on topics of interest to its members. Indivisibility of Alliance security, solidarity among Allies and a fair risk and burden sharing as well as the consensus rule, are NATO’s guiding principles and should remain as such…
Turkey welcomes the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU in accordance with the agreed framework between the two organizations. This partnership should be based on mutual support, complementarity and transparency and will contribute to addressing more efficiently existing risks and threats. Turkey’s approach to NATO-EU cooperation is a natural result of its NATO membership and EU membership perspective.
Turkey also strongly supports NATO’s partnerships. Turkey also believes that a constructive relationship based on mutual understanding, transparency and cooperation between NATO and Russia is important for Euro-Atlantic peace and stability and that the NATO-Russia Council provides the necessary forum for such a relationship.
Turkey believes that the integration of all Western Balkan countries in Euro-Atlantic structures is the key to lasting peace and stability in the region. Turkey therefore supports the membership of interested countries, in particular Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in NATO, the irreversible strengthening of security in Kosovo and the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
With the understanding that European security cannot be dissociated from Mediterranean security, Turkey shares the belief that the Mediterranean Dialogue should be strengthened in areas where NATO can bring an added value. Turkey also supports further enhancing the relations with Gulf countries through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.”

It is clear that Turkey is not seeking to replace NATO with the SCO; only use its treaties and alliances for the benefit of its nation.

Turkey and the SCO

June 2002, the SCO Charter was adopted at the SCO summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Fifteen (15) years later the SCO Charter represents significant efforts of cooperation between some of the most powerful countries in the world and their allies and trade partners. At the 2017 SCO Summit in Astana, the SCO Secretary-General, Rashid Alimov, stated, “the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has passed the test of time, and millions of people around the world have embraced the principles of the Shanghai Spirit… The SCO continues to increase its involvement in global affairs. Cooperation with the UN and other international organizations and associations has risen to a new level…”

January 2013, then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (2018 president) stated, “SCO is much better and much more powerful (than the EU). Pakistan wants in. India wants in as well.” At the 17th SCO Summit, June 2017, India and Pakistan were granted full membership. Turkey remained 1 of 6 dialogue partners; in addition there are 4 observer states – the United States has been denied this status. The SCO has been expanding into the Middle East and currently represents (2018) over 45% of the world’s population.

Turkey has been an SCO dialogue partner since 2012 and has sought observer status or full member status since 2013. Although Turkey contains several NATO military facilities; the SCO is not a substitute, but a chance to gain more economic and political support. China had evaded Turkey’s interest in membership until about May 2017 when Yu Hongyang, the Chinese Ambassador to Turkey, told Anadolu Agency that his government was prepared to support a Turkish SCO application, saying “China, which understands Turkey’s intention of becoming a member of the SCO, is ready for Turkey’s membership… in consultation with other member countries.”

According to News source from Istanbul, late 2016, Yaser Yakis, a former Turkish foreign minister said, “The chances for Turkey to be upgraded to the observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization seem to be stronger now than they were several months ago.” This came after President Erdogan said, ‘Why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai Five?’

November 2016, it was announced that Turkey would chair the SCO Energy Club meeting. It became the first non-SCO member state to do so. This showed Russia and China’s support towards Turkey.

A foreign ministers meeting of the SCO was held before the June Summit on April 24. India did not support China’s Belt and Road infrastructure project which like the old Silk Road would connect China to the rest of Asia. China is currently working on its $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. Regardless of the Belt and Road project, the SCO continues to show it economic, political and even military power through many joint operations.


The 2018 SCO Summit will be held in June in Qingdao, China. Be assured that Turkey and other dialogue partners, such as Azerbaijan (became a dialogue partner March 2016) will be looking to expand their roles in the SCO.

For more on the SCO and their timeline:

Who is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)?

Timeline of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)


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