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The EU-Turkey future under a magnifying glass

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  • The EU-Turkey future under a magnifying glass

    The EU-Turkey future under a magnifying glass

    Sunday, July 10, 2005



    The European Union Commission in Brussels had a heated, four-hour
    debate on Turkey's future with the bloc. At least six EU members
    including Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Luxembourg and
    Slovakia were strongly outspoken for various reasons related to their
    own national interest against Turkey's full membership, within a
    decade or so. Viviane Reading of Luxembourg supported the Merkel idea
    of a privileged partnership and proposed [being] honest with Turkey to
    pacify the public fears regarding the Luxembourg referendum. These
    words echoed Sarkozy's line, as Luxembourg policies generally follow
    those of France, to no surprise. Benita Ferrero-Waldner of Austria
    claimed the EU has been pursuing the wrong policy with regard to
    Turkey right from the beginning. EU policy, according to him, must be
    open and clear and tell Turkey point-blank that negotiations will not
    lead to full membership but to a special status to be arranged, so
    that a close relationship with Turkey can be possible, to paraphrase.

    This gang of six, with other secret sympathizers keeping quiet in the
    trenches, urged inclusion of the Armenian question as well as issues
    in the Aegean.
    Although this group did not enjoy much success in this
    round, there will be 106 opportunities to veto Turkey in the next
    decade. They hope to push Turkey into a corner so it will throw the EU
    towel in, to their relief and comfort.

    Herald Tribune reporter Grahan Bowley was right in saying in his title
    story the next day, on June 30, Tough Conditions Set for a Difficult
    Road for Membership. He himself later replaced the word tough with the
    superlative toughest for the conditions set for Turkey for full
    membership. No candidate country was ever set goals anything similar
    to Turkey's by the EU, Bowler stressed.

    Olli Rehn, honest broker, commissioner for enlargement from Finland,
    made it purposefully public that, It was a politically lengthy and
    argumentative debate. Guenther Verheugen argued logically, It would be
    the wrong message to give to Turkey, at the end of so many years of
    effort, not to bring it into the fold simply to appease the defeatist
    six. Turkey is the EU's most successful project, which should not be
    turned into a defeat, the German Social Democrat concluded.

    For full membership, Turkey must make its best effort to reach this
    goal, Louis Michael from Belgium argued. Turkey is a model for the
    Islamic world. Turkey within the EU will be proof that the EU is not a
    Christian club. If we cannot create a multiethnic, multicultural and
    multi-religious EU community, the EU will be condemned to shrink, with
    only a lowly limited target, he continued.

    Rehn made it clear that the EU should underline the fact that the
    target is full membership and there is a need to be faithful to the
    spirit of the Dec. 17 decision.

    Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal, the chairman of the EU Commission,
    although initially made some wavering remarks following the French and
    Dutch referenda, supported the Rehn, Verheugen and Michael line, while
    underlining the "open-ended" nature of the negotiations and more
    importantly the capacity clause to digest Turkey. It is well
    understood that the EU is going through a deep crisis, so the EU does
    not need another crisis to cope with was more or less the basis of
    Barroso's argument trying not to offend the anti-Turkish gallery.

    But what was the reaction of the international media as Vox Dei in
    response to the road map? The Financial Times, which generally defends
    Turkey's EU membership, could not help but be pitying, saying: Poor
    Turkey. The time to begin negotiations with the EU could not have been
    worse, after waiting in the antechamber of Europe for 42 years. The
    Times concluded that the already bumpy road of membership to the EU
    for Turkey now includes another obstacle.

    According to authoritative left-wing Le Monde of Paris, None of the
    conditions of the document included in the framework are new, which is
    correct. The Guardian mentioned that The efforts within the commission
    to defeat and kill the possibility of Turkey's membership of the EU
    was itself defeated, but there is an increasing pessimism in Brussels
    about Turkey's chances for EU membership. Many Turkish opinion makers
    and analysts, including this writer, now share this [prognosis],
    although Ankara is trying to show a brave face."

    Die Welt spelled out what was in the heart of many Germans, Christian
    or Social Democrat, Merkel or not, and bluntly called a spade a spade
    and said: In fact, the framework document is a road to privileged
    partnership. But again from Germany, Bild disagreed. Europe needs
    Turkey. Now the obstacles in front of Turkey to begin the negotiations
    are definitely removed. Now Ankara faces a long and hard process,
    which will last 10-15 years.

    Berliner Zeitung was also on the side of general pessimism. Whatever
    interest there was in Turkey's EU membership, that has completely
    evaporated during the last few weeks, it sadly concluded. In Spain,
    ABC was factual: The EU has made the conditions for membership harder,
    although in spite of the EU crisis, keeps the promised date to start
    the negotiations. The most important thing was to restate the EU's
    target for full membership for Turkey. Also from Spain, La Vanguardia
    recalled the two parallel storms in Brussels the same day: One in the
    sky over the clouds, the other under the roof of the EU Commission
    with a wry humor. Der Standard of Austria repeated the Austrian
    position: The EU must be honest with Turkey. The EU must make it clear
    to Turkey, that it will not be admitted as a full member in the end.

    Now will the EU Council of Ministers of 25 approve the framework
    document? Rehn thinks, Most likely they will, but of course they have
    the power to change the framework.

    A Financial Times cartoonist summed it all up. The two goal posts are
    lined from end to end with the players of the 25 member states rather
    than the usual one goal keeper, while Erdogan is poised to score the
    first goal, with a ball painted with Turkish symbols.

    The EU Commission's document is nearly identical to the EU Council's
    Dec. 17 report on Turkey, which gave the Oct. 3 start date for the
    negotiations for membership, with many conditions and strings. These
    were agreed by the council then, and now the commission is repeating
    them in spite of themselves, with no enthusiasm, but remorse.

    There is no attraction or love between the parties in not recalling
    bad blood, historic enmity and hatred. There is a mutual suspicion and
    obvious fear on both fronts that time may still iron out. The
    indisputable fact is Europe needs Turkey and Turkey needs Europe,
    whether they like each other or not.

    It was a wave of nationalist backlash that swept over the French and
    Dutch referenda. It would not be surprising if the same kind of
    nationalist feelings are revived in Turkey, if the same kind of
    popular questioning and doubt replace some 80 percent support for a
    Turkey in Europe.

    No doubt, it is not a fair game but what is fair in international
    politics and diplomacy? It is the reason of the stronger that
    prevails, as the French saying goes. As it was yesterday and is today,
    power is the order of the day and Turkey has to prove its worth to get
    a better deal. As Quentin Peel said in his recent FT article, Turkey's
    geopolitical card is strong, its energy will bring power to the EU,
    she will add wider regional security to the EU within globalism. But
    the man in the street in France, the Netherlands and generally in the
    EU countries will have the last word in the next 10 years. There is
    ample time and space for the European governments to educate and
    inform their general publics on Turkey. We in Turkey need a
    people-to-people public relations campaign for what we are and what we
    can contribute to the EU and what with determination and zest as never
    before, as a liberal economy, democratic and secular system, as an
    example to the Islamic world.
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