The European Union (EU) is not one without flaws, that much is accepted. The high cost of an EU membership, overcrowding in developed countries due to immigration, or a single currency that restricts independent monetary policy in poorer member states, are just some of the problems the EU face. But amidst these issues, it is easy to overlook the most remarkable and arguably the most important achievement by the EU – its ability to achieve peace.
In partnership with the European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) and the Warwick Economics Summit (WES), ENC urges everyone to continue championing EU’s shared value of democracy, rule of law and justice in this era of unprecedented challenges. We explore their thoughts on the drivers of peace, as well as on EU-Turkey Relations and the steps needed to move forward.
The post Second World War period between 1945 and 2019 represents the longest period of non-war in the region over 2000 years. During the past 70 years, geographical and political stability allowed Europe to flourish economically as greater trade and migration strengthen bonds between the EU nations.
“The importance of free and open education [in preserving this peace] cannot be overstated,” said Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, Managing Director of ENC, in a booklet to WES. Through critical thinking found in open education, Mr Vesterbye explains, it facilitates the growth of innovation which drives all economic development and growth. Innovation drives down the prices of goods and creates demand, which incentives trade between countries. Trading partners are less likely to engage in conflict as long as companies pay their taxes and citizens are treated fairly, Mr Vesterbye argues.
“In the future, peace may indeed become our most valuable asset,” Mr Vesterbye said, calling for stronger international rules to foster this value.
With President Trump’s administration continuously flexing its economic might by threatening protectionist policies in hopes of addressing local social inequalities, opponents of free trade often misunderstand the importance of connectivity for stability and prosperity. “When social inequality is a problem, it is never solved by increasing barriers to trade. On the contrary, it is widely proved that growth, jobs and innovation happen as a result of open trade,” ENC said, arguing that economic growth and innovation directly increase the chances of peace, while contributing towards technological advancement and prosperity.
Turkey is a paradox. Since 1987 it remains an EU applicant country, but realistically has low chances of joining the EU. Initial progress in the early 2000s by Turkey in updating laws to EU standards and reforming the country was gradually undone after 2006. Turkish media became less free and judicial courts acted with less independence from the government.
In February, the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee voted to formally suspend Turkey’s talks on EU membership. This decision was in response to the European Commission’s latest annual progress report on Turkey, which highlights issues of “the disregard of human rights and civil liberties, the political influence on the judiciary and the unresolved territorial dispute with Cyprus.”
Yet it would be unfair to squarely blame Turkey as the only cause of its deteriorating situation, ENC said. An important source of friction for both the EU and Turkey is the territorial dispute of Cyprus between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, it explained, which is caused by the 1974 Turkish military invasion and occupation of the northern third of Cyprus. When the EU granted membership to Cyprus in 2004, this posed a serious obstacle for Turkey’s accession to the EU. This is because Cyprus rejected the United Nations Annan Plan for reunification in 2004 and now holds a veto on Turkish EU membership.
“A reset of relations needs trust and mutual understanding based on both sides’ priorities for the future,” ENC said, mentioning that this requires both economic and political cooperation in areas like innovation, defence, trade rules, as well as social and consumer rights. Fostering closer relationships between the EU and Turkey could help secure mutual well-being and increased prosperity.
But perhaps more importantly, it could mark the potential ending of Europe and Turkey’s four biggest shared threats: energy dependency, climate change, conflict and global economic instability. “That’s why the value of peace isn’t uniquely European. Together we have an obligation to maintain higher living standards, while developing international rules and better trade to foster this value,” Mr Vesterbye said. “In the future, peace may indeed become our most valuable asset.
Information about the ENC
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) is an independent think tank that conducts research and implements projects with the aim of strengthening a common European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the promotion of a Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy. The ENC conducts research that aims towards improved dialogue and neighbourhood coordination among EU member states alongside European Neighbourhood Policy (countries), including the ‘Neighbours of the Neighbours’ (Central Asian Republics, Gulf Cooperation Council, Iraq, Iran, and Sahel Countries).
Link to the ENC website: http://www.encouncil.org/about-enc/
Hennigan, M. March 2017. The longest period of peace in Europe in over 2,000 years. [online]. Available from: http://www.finfacts.ie/Irish_finance_news/articleDetail.php?EU-at-60—the-longest-period-of-peace-in-Europe-in-over-2-000-years-775# [Accessed 13 December 2018].