The Copenhagen Criteria – extending Maastricht to the East

The Presidency Conclusions of Copenhagen European Council June 21/22, 1993 are commonly described as the Copenhagen Criteria. Shortly after the end of the Cold War, the European governments agreed to extend the EU towards the former socialist states in East-Central Europe to underpin the transformation process in the region (Bohle, 2003). However, with its decisions, the council defined the general requirements for states entering the EU - and therefore for Turkey as well.

References to democracy and fundamental rights mark a prominent ideological and discursive dimension of the EU’s enlargement politics. Therefore, the Copenhagen Criteria are primarily read as a program enhancing fundamental rights and political freedoms in accession states. In fact, the European Council of Copenhagen 1993 not only dealt with enlarging the EU. It addressed a broad range of issues (including, for instance, unemployment, economic stagnation, the Economic and Monetary Union, custom politics and foreign politics). The council took place half a year before the Treaty of Maastricht (signed in 1992) came into force. The Treaty of Maastricht can be best described as an attempt to deal with the problems of economic stagnation and unemployment in many of the EC/EU2 member states by further neoliberalizing the mode of European integration (Deppe, 1993). Therefore, the treaty intended to stimulate economic competition among the member states by making the national monetary policies more convergent through collectively introducing Monetarism as a guiding paradigm, completing the European Single Market, introducing the Schengen Area and preparing the European Monetary Union. Last but not least, independent regulatory bodies, depoliticizing the economic decision-making, were strengthened. Preparing the next rounds of EU-enlargement, the 1993 Copenhagen European Council laid down the juridical foundations for extending the neoliberal mode of integration to (potential) membership states. The Copenhagen Criteria are tying the criteria related to democratization to the agenda of accelerated neoliberalization:

Membership requires that candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate’s ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

(European Council Copenhagen, 1993, 7.A.Ill)

To understand how Copenhagen’s double-bias of democratic criteria and an agenda of accelerated neoliberalization impacts the societal relations in Turkey, we need to put the Turkish experience in neoliberalization into a historical perspective.

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