Turkey & The EU Essay


The following paper was written for my HONS 282: Introduction to International Studies class. We were told to write a paper addressing a challenge faced by developing countries. My paper was specific to Turkey since Turkey is central to my academic interests. Just a disclaimer: This paper is the original work of me, Christopher Jackson, and was written for Prof. Malte Pehl's section of HONS 282 in the fall semester of 2012.

Environmental Degradation Due to Economic Expansion in The Republic of Turkey

Developing nations across the globe are faced with tremendous struggles: malnutrition, lack of resources, political corruption, and mass violence. However, in the twenty-first century, economic expansion is at the forefront of nations’ policies. Many developing nations strive to cultivate booming economies, and in doing so, develop unsustainable industry. Despite improvements to its Human Development Index, Turkey still struggles in providing adequate widespread education and suffers from a below average lifespan (Turkish Daily News 2006). In addition, Turkey is classified as a developing country by the CIA despite being classified as an “upper middle income” country (CIA World Factbook; The World Bank 2011). Turkey serves as a strong case study because of its unique position, which straddles Asia and Europe, providing a glimpse into how intricate international relations can play into economic expansion and air pollution. Nations that straddle multiple regions, such as Mexico and Kazakhstan, share similar issues. However, Turkey’s case is dependent on Western pressure for improvement, which is devoid in countries such as India and China. Despite shortcomings, Turkey’s case offers a unique view on the West’s roll in developing economies. With that said, one of the most pressing issues faced by developing countries is environmental pollution due to unsustainable energy use caused by Western standards of economic development, which can be seen clearly in Turkey’s relationship with the European Union. 

Environmental Crisis 
Turkey applied for entry into the European Union (EU) in 1987. Since then, Turkey worked to develop its economy to make the nation appear favorable for EU admittance. Initially, the EU found Turkey to be “too poor” for admission (Middle East 2011: 24). Determined to improve economically, Turkey reduced the inflation rate by 95.74% from the 1990’s, and in 2010 Turkey experienced a 9% economic growth (Middle East 2011: 24-25). However, with rapid expansion, Turkey needs an increased supply of energy. Currently, Turkey demands an alarmingly high amount of energy, much of which is imported. This energy consumption strains the economy and produces high volumes of air pollution (Kaygusuz 2010: 1075). 

As the need for energy in Turkey rose, the demand for foreign imported energy sources sharply increased. In fact, of the energy that Turkey consumes, only 28% of it is produced domestically, leaving the remaining 72% to be imported (Yüksel 2010: 1468). Furthermore, it was projected that between 2000 and 2010, Turkey’s energy demand would double and increase yet another five times by 2025 (Yüksel 2010: 1469). The increased energy demand in Turkey caused by the initial economic expansion links EU pressure for economic development to air pollution. 

However, it is important to fully understand the scope of the linkage between Turkish air pollution and the EU. With the expansion of industry, CO2 emissions increased in Turkey due to energy consumption, creating the source of air pollution. As mentioned previously, Turkey applied for full membership to the EU in 1987. Between 1990 and 2007, at time of economic development, Turkish CO2 emissions rose by 118.1% (Kumbaroğlu 2011: 2419). This solidifies that as Turkey developed economically, air pollution rose due to the increased demand for energy. However, not all air pollution can be explicitly linked to Turkish aspirations at joining the EU but rather can be attributed to increased Turkish involvement with the EU. Though air pollution was brought on by Turkey’s initial attempts to develop economically, Turkey aspires to join the EU in order to develop further. In fact, in 2004, the Turkish economy was no longer considered a hindrance for EU admission, and the formation of an incomplete customs union in 1996 has led to a strong trade relationship between Turkey and the EU (Nowak-Lehmann, et al. 2007). The modern energy crisis, therefore, is due less to Turkey’s aspirations at joining the EU but rather increased Turkish-EU trade. Liberalized trade through the customs union encouraged further development, therefore causing CO2 emission to rise. 

Air Pollution and the European Union 
As Turkey vigorously worked to attain admission into the EU, the nation’s industry unintentionally began to hinder its acceptance. In addition to a wide range of factors impeding Turkish admission, such as geographic restrictions and European-Turkish moral clashes, Turkish air pollution sparked concern among current EU nations. Seeing air pollution as a “borderless” issue, Europe was hesitant to associate with Turkey. Though air pollution will likely not be the overlying factor hindering Turkish admission, transnational pollution can certainly be used as yet another reason to keep Turkey from gaining full admission by those who are against Turkey’s application. As stated earlier, air pollution in the form of CO2 emissions drastically increased within Turkey in the last 20 years. However, in response to concerns, Turkey recently ratified several laws dealing with renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the Prime Minister also made statements suggesting that Turkey has a goal and ability to significantly reduce CO2 emissions by the year 2020 (Kumbaroğlu 2011: 2419). Though promises of a cleaner future have been made, they often contradict predictions that suggest that the demand for unsustainable energy will only rise within Turkey as time progresses due to the national desire to play “catch up” with the Western world (Yüksel 2010: 1471). The issue of Turkish air pollution created an ironic situation for the Turkish case for admission into the EU – the same economic expansion that the EU saw as a necessary item for admission consideration is now causing air pollution, adding to the case against Turkish entry. Turkey has now been presented with the economic burden of forming more environmentally friendly chemical, automotive, iron, and steel industries (Turkish Daily News 2007). Increased development led to increased pollution, which in turn placed further economic burdens on Turkey due to EU environmental standards, demonstrating the struggle of a developing country to expand in accordance with “Western” standards. 

Moreover, the pollution crisis is complicated by EU energy aspirations. The Turkish nation is almost entirely located in the Middle East; only a small portion of the country, Istanbul, is located on the European continent. This geographic location attributes to Turkey’s description of being the bridge between the Middle East and Europe; this quality presents itself as an opportunity for European countries. In 2006, Russian oil supplies ceased to flow gas reserves through the Ukrainian territory, causing concern for some European countries (Rogojanu 2009: 622). Due to the fear of further threats on energy, the EU became concerned with a somewhat abstract concept known as “energy security” (Rogojanu 2009). As Europe debated over how to handle the problem of Russia, eyes shifted to Turkey. Turkey’s desires of becoming a major energy hub could be easily realized if the EU used Turkish energy (Rogojanu 2009: 624). If the EU begins to utilize Turkey as an energy hub, it will continue to exploit resources from the developing nation, placing an even larger stress on the already dire energy and pollution situation in Turkey, reinforcing the cyclical issue of environmental and economic stress. 

In addition to Turkey serving as an energy security, the EU speculated using Turkey as a passageway from the Middle East for natural gas transport, further complicating international energy relations and pollution. In 2011, Turkey agreed to Russian terms concerning the South Stream project, which would allow Turkish access to the Black Sea in order to pipeline natural gas and bypass the Ukraine (Atiyas, Cetin and Gulen 2012: 10-11). It is easy to see a trend in which the West hopes to manipulate an already exhausted and flawed Turkish energy industry. This cycle will inevitably solidify Turkey’s destiny as an energy wasteland and complicate matters of Turkish membership in the EU due to increased pollution. 

Conclusion and the Future of Turkey 
Despite grim energy habits, Turkey made strides towards a more sustainable energy future. According to a 2010 country brief, Turkey constructed a 966 megawatt renewable energy generation and managed to reduce greenhouse gas emission by roughly 1.7 million tons per year (The World Bank 2010). Furthermore, Turkey’s economy remained relatively steady during the economic crises in 2000-2001 and 2008 due to well-regulated banks and a strong monetary sector (The World Bank 2010). Finally, a number of donors helped Turkey form a more secure future in energy production. The Global Environment Facility provided funds for several projects planned between 2010 and 2015, and the Millennium Development Goals Fund also donated money in hopes of helping Turkish adaptation to climate change (United Nations Development Programme 2006). Despite a more promising future in Turkey, many developing nations face the same issue, such as India and China, which lack a substantial international pressure to improve. The EU raises concern for Turkish CO2 emissions, but India and China feel no substantial pressure to improve by neighboring nations and suffer no international consequences if they ignore environmental problems. However, Turkey still remains a strong case because it demonstrates the potential solution of Western intervention in pollution, which could prove useful for other developing nations in the future. For example, studying the EU’s role in Turkish CO2 reductions could inspire the US to act as a stronger environmentally conscious role model for a nation such as Mexico. 

In conclusion, Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU caused large economic expansion that led to unsustainable energy practices. Though in comparison to other developing countries Turkey is fairly established, the case of Turkey’s application for the EU strongly demonstrates both the negative and positive impacts of Western standards of development on environmental well-being. As seen in instances like the Turkish-Russian South Stream project agreement, oftentimes environmental stress finds itself intertwined with international politics, further exacerbating pollution. As Turkey worked to develop under Western standards of wealth, air pollution skyrocketed, leaving a developing nation to heal a broken energy system while simultaneously juggling future European aspirations on the Turkish energy market. Perhaps as the EU demands more sustainable energy production, Turkey will adapt to Western standards while also maintaining national economic and environmental stability. 

Works Cited

Atiyas, Izak, Çetin, Tamer, and Gülen, Gürcan. 2012. Reforming Turkish Energy Markets: political economy, regulation and competition in the search for energy policy. NY, New York: Springer.

Central Intelligence Agency – The World Factbook. “Appendix B: International Organizations and Groups.” 23 November 2012. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/appendix/appendix-b.html>

IC Publications Ltd. 2011. “A new global best friend.” Middle East, July.

Kumbaroğlu, Gürkan. 2011. “A sectoral decomposition anaylysis of Turkish CO2 emissions over 1990-2007.” Energy 36:2419-2433.

Nowak-Lehmann, F., Herzer, D., Martinez-Zarzoso, I., Vollmer, S. 2007. “The Impact of a Customs Union between Turkey and the EU on Turkey’s Exports to the EU.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 45:719-743.

Rogojanu, Dumitru-Cătălin. 2009. “The Role of Turkey in the Energy Security Environment of the European Union.” Philobiblon: Transylvanian Journal of Multidisciplinary Research in the Humanities 14:621-633.

Turkish Daily News. 2006. “UNDP: Turkey’s human development index is improving.” Turkish Daily News.

Turkish Daily News. 2007. “EU regulations hit Turkey’s industry.” Turkish Daily News.

United Nations Development Programme. 2006. “UNDP Turkey: Environment and Sustainable Development Programme.” 30 September 2012. <http://www.undp.org.tr/Gozlem2.aspx?WebSayfaNo=112>.

The World Bank. 2010. “Country Brief 2010.” 30 September 2012. <http://www.worldbank.org.tr/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/ECAEXT/TURKEYEXTN/0,,contentMDK:20630704~menuPK:361720~pagePK:141137~piPK:141127~theSitePK:361712,00.html>.

The World Bank. 2011. “Data: Turkey” 23 November 2012. <http://data.worldbank.org/country/turkey>

Yüskel, Ibrahim. 2010. “Energy Production and Sustainable Energy Policies in Turkey.” Renewable Energy: An International Journal 35:1469-1476.

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