Europäische Institut für Menschenrechte - Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -
      Europäische Institut für Menschenrechte - Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu -

Europe's Integration Dilemma: An Examination on Ukrainian Grain and Turkey's Potential Membership

Europe's Integration Dilemma: An Examination on Ukrainian Grain and Turkey's Potential Membership



Prof. Dr. Dr. Ümit Yazıcıoğlu


1. Introduction

The European Union (EU) has witnessed numerous instances throughout history where diverse national interests and concepts of sovereignty could clash with the ideal of union. This is particularly evident in recent approaches of Eastern European countries towards Ukrainian grain. This article focuses on how such approaches influence the internal dynamics and future of the EU. Beyond policies regarding Ukrainian grain, the extent to which Eastern European countries adhere to or oppose Brussels' decisions highlights the tension between a unified European ideal and national interests. This raises questions about the EU's ability to act in an integrated and coordinated manner, while also revealing how member states' concepts of sovereignty and national priorities interact with union policies. Another dynamic that further complicates this complex situation is the issue of Turkey's potential full membership. Turkey's accession process to the EU could profoundly impact the EU's enlargement policy and geopolitical stance. Turkey's geographical position, economic potential, and cultural heritage all hold the potential to shape its possible role within the EU. However, just like the issue of Ukrainian grain, Turkey's full membership could also lead to divergent approaches and views among EU member states.


In conclusion, this scholarly article emphasizes the friction between the EU's ideal of being a union and the concepts of national interests and sovereignty. Both the matter of Ukrainian grain and Turkey's potential membership are among the dynamics critically shaping the future structure of the EU.


From its inception, the European Union (EU) has consistently been in interaction with both national sovereignties and the collective ideal of union. Recently, one of the most pronounced areas of this interaction is the political stance of Eastern European countries regarding Ukrainian grain. On the other hand, Turkey's potential full membership emerges as another significant dynamic influencing the union's enlargement policy and geopolitical position. This analysis is based on an in-depth study presented as a conference series at Oxford, Luxembourg, and Seoul Universities.


2. Recent Decisions of the European Union

Recent decisions of the European Union indicate certain challenges in the understanding of unity among member countries. Notably, the diverse approaches concerning the accommodation of migrants following the Mediterranean route from Africa indicate these challenges. Simultaneously, the matter of Ukraine's grain supply also reveals different approaches within the union. In both these examples, disparities between Eastern and Western Europe have become evident.


3. Stances of the Five Eastern European Countries Bordering Ukraine

Last March, five Eastern European countries that share a border with Ukraine - Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia - applied to the European Commission to impose restrictions on grain imports from Ukraine. This request was aligned with the need to protect the agricultural interests of these countries. Brussels considered this request and protected the markets of the said countries against certain agricultural products coming from Ukraine. This restriction began on May 2 and lasted until September 15. However, from this date onward, the European Commission lifted the restrictions.


Yet, following the termination of this restriction, many countries still did not want to see Ukrainian grain in their markets. This sentiment was particularly pronounced by Poland, which plans to establish a closer relationship with Kiev in the near future.


Deep within European politics, Poland-Lithuania Community Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated that Poland was determined to proceed on its own path. "We will continue our restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports. We will set our own policy without considering the opinions of Berlin and Brussels," he commented. This stance was concretized with the announcement of new restrictions on some agricultural products from Ukraine on September 16.


Hungary's leader, Viktor Orban, also launched a notable criticism towards the central administration of the European Union. He pointed out that the EU tried to persuade some Eastern European countries to support Ukraine's grain exports, but this grain did not actually reach the needy in Africa. Orban emphasized that this situation adversely affected Hungarian agriculture.


In addition to these criticisms, Hungary expanded its restrictions on many products coming from Ukraine.


Slovakia, on the other hand, adopted a more silent approach on this matter. However, a decision by the Slovak Ministry of Agriculture blocked the entry of Ukrainian grain into the country. The reason given was that this import would harm local farmers.

In previous periods, an official from Poland mentioned that Romania would also expand its restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural products. However, this expectation did not materialize, and Bulgaria took a step towards lifting the restrictions.

4. Skeptical Stance of Some Eastern European Countries Towards Brussels

In light of these events, some Eastern European countries, especially those with a more skeptical stance towards Brussels, appear inclined to act more independently against the EU's centralized administration. Conversely, countries that are closer to the EU seem to adhere more to the central administration's will.


Poland's current administration's disputes with Brussels are well-known. In September 2021, the EU Court ordered Poland to pay a daily fine of 500,000 Euros due to its operations in the Turow mine, known for its proximity to the Czech Republic and Germany. Prague spearheaded this lawsuit, citing the mine's adverse environmental and citizen impacts. However, Poland was resistant both to shutting down the mine and meeting its penal obligations. This issue was resolved in February 2022 with an agreement between the Czech Republic and Poland.


The matter of Ukraine's grain imports may potentially be addressed in the EU Court. However, this process can be time-consuming, and there are upcoming elections in Poland. For the ruling Law and Justice Party, mismanaging this situation could pose a political risk. Polish agricultural producers represent a crucial voting bloc for both the government and opposition parties like the "Civic Platform."


In light of upcoming elections in Slovakia, the opposition "Direction - Social Democracy" party sharply criticizes the current administration and potentially has a chance to come to power. Slovakia's current government has to adopt a cautious approach regarding relations with Kiev.


Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban is known for his inclination to act independently from the EU when national interests are at stake. In this context, the bans imposed on Ukrainian grain imports can be seen as a reflection of Orban's stance.


Challenges by Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the EU's market principle might not signify a radical change in relations between these countries and Brussels. However, the differences between nationally oriented states of Eastern Europe and the EU's globalist leaders are becoming increasingly evident.


The Ukrainian grain issue might deepen this growing rift. In the future, EU member states will either fully constitute an international union or depart from the EU. There are indications that some Eastern European countries are leaning towards the latter option.


5. The Independent Action Tendency of Eastern Europe Against Brussels and the Future of the EU

The increasing tendency of Eastern European countries to act independently against the European Union's (EU) central body, Brussels, brings the need to reconsider the EU's principle of integrity and the integration process. These movements not only bring economic benefits of expansion but also highlight the political and cultural challenges, pointing out the need to reassess membership criteria and values.


The expansion of the EU has led some Eastern European countries to follow a different trajectory from Brussels, combining their unique domestic political dynamics with external influences. In this context, it's essential to focus on how economic dynamics shape these countries' relations with the EU.


These findings prompt the EU to reconsider the needs of its deeper integration process and solidarity among member states. However, it's essential to bear in mind that such tensions between membership criteria, values, and norms can trigger varying integration speeds within the EU. This situation necessitates strategic thinking and planning for the future of the EU. It's possible that the EU might evolve into a multi-speed Europe, where groups of countries integrate at different paces due to their unique challenges, values, and objectives.


In summary, the changing dynamics in Eastern European countries and their increasingly independent stance towards Brussels emphasize the evolving nature of the EU and the challenges it faces. While the EU's primary goal has always been integration and unity, the realities on the ground highlight the need for flexibility, understanding, and innovative solutions to ensure the Union remains strong, cohesive, and relevant in the face of changing circumstances.


6. The Future of the EU: An Assessment on Turkey's Full Membership and the Unity of the Union

Since its inception, the European Union (EU) has grown through various expansions and established tighter political and economic ties through integration processes. However, challenges faced by the EU in recent years indicate that the future of the Union is uncertain. One of the primary causes of this uncertainty is the issue of Turkey's full membership.


The EU accession process for Turkey began with the Ankara Agreement in 1963, took a new turn with the full membership application in 1987, and the start of negotiations in 2005. However, during this time, relations between Turkey and the EU have been unstable due to various political, economic, and cultural barriers. Especially in recent years, Turkey's geostrategic position, its influence on energy corridors, and its role in regional balances have become critically important for the EU.


If the EU does not accept Turkey as a full member, it means that the Union will significantly lack geopolitical and economic potential. Demographically, Turkey, with its young and dynamic population, can invigorate Europe's aging demographics. Economically, Turkey, with its growing economy, geographical position, and strategic role in energy routes, can offer significant advantages to the EU.


On the other hand, the rejection of Turkey's full membership could lead to a decrease in the EU's power as an actor on the global stage. Considering Turkey's role in regional and global issues, excluding this country could limit the EU's international effectiveness. Moreover, excluding Turkey could set a discouraging precedent for other potential member countries, which could negatively affect the EU's expansion and integration processes.

In conclusion, the rejection of Turkey's full membership in the EU can both diminish the EU's regional and global influence and negatively affect the Union's expansion and integration processes. In this context, it's possible to say that Turkey's full membership holds critical importance for the future of the EU. If this potential isn't acknowledged, the unity and global effectiveness of the EU could be at risk.


7. Conclusion

The European Union, comprised of a diverse array of member states, inherently sees the emergence of different national interests and approaches. Recent events regarding Ukrainian grain showcase, in particular, how strongly Eastern European countries hold on to their national interests. Independent actions of countries such as Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary against Brussels' decisions point to challenges and potential fractures for the future of the EU. However, it should not be overlooked that in such issues, parties usually find a way towards reconciliation. Nevertheless, tensions like these in recent years raise significant questions about the evolution of the EU as an international institution. The determination of some Eastern European countries to protect their national sovereignty provides insights into the future structure and operation of the EU. In this context, one of the most critical issues for the coming periods is how the EU will balance the national interests of member states with the general interests of the union.


The independent stance of Eastern European countries against the European Union (EU) brings to light the need to re-evaluate the EU's integrity, integration process, and membership criteria. Economic, political, and cultural dynamics of these countries have led them to chart a course different from Brussels, necessitating a review of the EU's integration process and solidarity among member states. These tensions underline the need to shape the future of the EU and accentuate the importance of strategic planning.


The future of the European Union (EU) is closely linked to the issue of Turkey's full membership. Turkey's geostrategic position, demographic structure, and economic potential offer significant advantages for the EU. If Turkey is not admitted as a full member, the global effectiveness and integrity of the EU could be at risk. In this context, the critical importance of Turkey's full membership for the future of the EU is emphasized.


The independent political approaches of Eastern European countries, especially regarding Brussels' decisions, indicate a tension between national and collective interests. The policy on Ukrainian grain can be viewed as a tangible example of this tension. Turkey's potential full membership is of great significance in terms of the EU's expansion strategy and geopolitical dynamics. Turkey's geographical position, economic capacity, and cultural context can determine both positive and negative aspects of its relationship with the EU. Both the Ukrainian grain issue and Turkey's potential membership offer crucial insights into how the future of the EU will be shaped. These two dynamics reveal challenges and opportunities that Europe's integration process might encounter in the future.



Note: This meticulously prepared analytical assessment has been presented as part of a conference series at internationally recognized universities such as Oxford, Luxembourg, Cambridge, and Seoul. In these elite academic platforms, my work has been met with high praise and interest, adding a valuable perspective to academic discussions and reviews.



19 September 2023, Luxembourg.







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