Myth: Turkey will join EU in 2020
InFact: Turkey has a long way to go before it can join EU – if, indeed, it ever does. The process of Turkey’s EU integration goes back to 1959 and has been the most tortuous in EU history. It remains nowhere near completion. Indeed, the European Commission froze further EU enlargement for five years in 2014. And every existing EU member, including the UK, has a veto over any new country joining.
UKIP has said Turkey will join the EU in 2020. It is unclear where it gets this date from, but it may be the earliest theoretically possible date for accession. But that doesn’t mean it’s remotely likely.
To join the union, candidate countries must satisfy the Commission that they have adopted European policies in 35 “chapters”. Since applying for full membership to the then European Economic Community in 1987, Turkey has managed to close only one chapter – science and research. Talks haven’t even opened on 20 chapters.
The Commission says Turkey has many issues to solve before further chapters can be closed, notably in a 2015 report that highlighted concerns on “discrimination against women and gender-based violence” and “backsliding” on freedom of expression, media and the internet.
Even if Turkey opens and closes all 35 chapters – which is far from certain – all existing EU members would have to approve its EU accession. Britain’s right of veto means UKIP’s contention that Turkey could join without the British people having a say is disingenuous. In any case, some other EU member states are strongly opposed to Turkish membership.
Scaremongering about Turkey has gathered steam because the EU is dangling the carrot of visa-free travel for Turks in the Schengen area in return for cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants to Greece. But it will be a long time, if ever, before Turkey belongs to the bloc.
This article is an adaptation of a piece that previously appeared on InFacts.
Edited by Hugo Dixon