Saturday, October 16, 2010

Turkey's EU Bid

Turkish negotiator has criticized the EU for being unfair towards the Turkish bid of the EU Membership. “We want justice, we should be treated fairly”- stated Egemen Bagis, who is also a Minister of the EU Affairs of Turkey. Turkish issue, which has moved to somewhat different level after the recent referendum, is becoming even more trickier. 

Although the EU has been reluctant to open accession negotiations with Turkey, it has long been anxious to maintain good relations with her. Accordingly, the strategy of dealing with Turkey’s desire for membership has until recently been to establish as close relations with it as possible - short of opening accession negotiations. A base to conduct relations in this way existed from 1963, when an association agreement was contracted between the EEC and Turkey. The agreement included a range of trade, aid, and cultural and political cooperation provisions. It also contained a membership perspective but country, which has applied for membership in 1987 (!) still remains outside the bloc. And if we glimpse the attitude of the Turkish population, seems like they are not as keen on wasting energy on the matter which has very ambiguous solutions, especially after the recent developments in the country.

In the first quarter of 2010 the Turkish economy grew by 11.8 percent and it is indeed a significant number if we take into account the overall situation in the EU/world. Deriving from this numbers, Turkish government became confident and stresses on the assets of the Turkish membership. Turkish Minister on the EU Affairs also cautioned the EU that “If the EU decides to freeze the accession talks with Turkey, it will be a serious mistake.” Will it be? There should be an end of this long story and neither prolonging the negotiations, nor offering the privileged partnership are solution Turkey needs to hear from the EU.

Turkey seeks for the full-fledged membership and apparently have some tangible arguments to criticize the EU for using double standards. Turkish government can always use an example of the last enlargement wave, when Romania and Bulgaria were granted the full membership. Everyone knew that these countries were not ready for the EU, but the mistake has been made and Turkey can always imply on that. But is the EU ready to make another mistake? Is it time for another enlargement? It’s true that Turkey is developing rapidly, but there are too many risks to venture Turkish accession.

The other day, I was debating with my friends on the question of Turkish interest, and still for many people it is not clear why the country which is developing so rapidly want to get a ticket on a sinking boat? There are many answers on that question which covers the privileges of the EU membership (especially 4 freedoms) but from my standpoint the main issue is related to the identity matter. Country which is on the border of two artificial continents endeavours to become truly European. The EU membership could end up questions about the identity; even though there is no doubt over the Turkey’s geographical belonging (97% of the territory is in Asia). Apart from the geographical difference, we often hear explicit implications on the religious matter and even though it is sort of tabooed issue, more and more people in Europe talk about the cultural differences. Some of them were/are even radicals and openly oppose Turkish accession because of the cultural difference. For example, Valery Giscard D’Estaing, once warned that Turkish accession would be ‘the end of Europe and would change the nature of the European project.’ Former President of France, Chirac attempted to campaign for a privileged partnership between the EU and Turkey rather than Turkish EU membership - an idea that was also floated by Giscard D’Estaing and incumbent French President also supports the idea. Though it doesn’t really coincide with the Turkey’s EU ambitions.

As regard to the matter, Noam Chomski recently accused Europeans and especially Germans in Racism! "Europe can claim with some justification that Turkey has not satisfied all of the human rights conditions. On the other hand, I don't really think this is the reason. ... I think it is plain racism," Mr Chomsky told Zaman, a right-leaning Turkish newspaper. It is true that Germany is one of the few countries, furiously opposing the Turkish membership, but apart from the purely power-sharing related matter (with current voting system, Turkey could become a key player of the EU), one shouldn’t forget that Germany is the country with the biggest Turkish representation. And nothing new to say that this particular group is not the most integrated one in Germany. Concerning the same subject Turkey’s EU affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, called on the Turkish people living in Germany to integrate and to send their children to school, reminding them that they are the "ambassadors" of Turkey.

Correct! But a bit late to change situation significantly. Turkey needs a prompt action from the EU, which could be an explicit answer on their membership prospective and the EU is unable to give a certain date for ending the accession talk. Not to mention that Cyprus issue still remains unsolved and unless the case is more or less frozen, Turkey’s EU future stays equivocal. 


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