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The International Press on Turkey's European Union Membership Bid

Comment and analysis from London, Dubai, Beirut, Frankfurt and Istanbul, Oct. 8, 2004

Left to right: Gunter Verheugen, E.U. enlargement commissioner, Romano Prodi, European Commission president, Josep Borrell, Union parliament chairman, in Brussels, Oct. 6, 2004. (Photo: Thierry Monasse/AFP-Getty Images)

London The Independent (liberal), Oct. 7: The Beatles were in the charts and John F. Kennedy in the White House when Turkey first sought admission to the common market. In the four decades that have since elapsed, the door to the club has opened to 19 other states, but it has remained firmly shut to the Turks. Yesterday [Wednesday] their membership of the European Union finally became a realistic … prospect … It is an overdue recognition of the impressive changes Turkey has undergone to turn itself into a modern participatory democracy. ... The Turks must not be spurned again.

London Al-Hayat (pan-Arab), Oct. 7: Many of the continent's states and architects of its dream have doubts about Turkey's European belonging. Some said that even if a part of Turkey is in Europe, this does not cancel the reality that Turkey lacks European roots in its culture and traditions. It was also said that Turkey is very large, very poor, and very different … With the European Commission's approval to begin negotiations regarding Turkey's joining the EU, a new phase begins … It is obvious that Turkey must change in order to join the European club. It is also clear that its accession would change the club's mood.
--Ghassan Charbel

Dubai Gulf News (independent), Oct. 8: No one expects this to happen for at least 10 years but there is no denying that this is a significant moment in European history. No country that has started the process of EU accession has ever failed to be granted membership. While the EU's 25 heads of government have the final word on when talks will start in earnest at their December summit an unstoppable momentum is now gathering.

Beirut The Daily Star (independent), Oct. 8: A decade may sound a long time, but the ball is finally rolling on Turkey's European Union membership after 40 years of wavering talks … Turkey will now be undergoing major changes which will eventually, inevitably, affect the region, Syria and Iraq in particular. Besides help from Europe, Turkey will also need help from the region, and the best way the Arab and Islamic worlds can help -- and benefit themselves -- is to participate in Turkey's economic, social and political transformation. How Turkey develops as an incubator of Islam in the modern Western world will be one of the most fascinating aspects of the 10-year transition period to full EU membership -- presuming the accession process is carried through to a successful conclusion.

Frankfurt Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (conservative), Oct. 8: The economic difficulties involved in the integration of a country like Turkey into the European Union are relatively easy to gauge because they can be expressed in figures and as risks and opportunities. The cultural consequences will be far more revolutionary: The relationship to Turkey is not marked by the same feeling of a common identity that Europeans shared even when they were at war with each other. Yet this perception of belonging together is needed if Europeans are to accept, even grudgingly, and consider legitimate the financial transfers at the core of the EU. If the ground is pulled from underneath the historic feeling and self-perception of a common destiny, there will be no more reason for political solidarity either: The idea of the EU as a global political force, which already appears overly ambitious today, would finally become an illusion.

Istanbul Turkish Daily News (liberal), Oct. 8: The first important sign of change in the EU was indeed delivered on Wednesday. The recommendation of the commission to the EU Council to start accession talks with Turkey was not a decision confined to Turkey talks only but was at the same time a declaration that the EU was changing its direction from a club of Christian nations into a multi-cultural, multi-religious political project. Both the EU and Turkey will be facing serious challenges of change along the accession talks process and acting like members of the same team will help reduce the pains of this uphill trip together. That is in the best interests of both Turkey and the EU.
-- Yusuf Kanli

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