Turkey and the European Union

A banner on display in Istanbul

A banner on display in Istanbul reads “Europe in Turkey, Turkey in Europe.” (Photo: Mustafa Ozer / AFP-Getty Images)

A Recipe for Disaster

BEIRUT — The Daily Star (Independent), Sept. 29: Although the European Parliament’s resolution to add new conditions to Turkey’s accession to the European Union will not affect the start of negotiations toward this end, the move was yet another example of Europe’s deep reluctance to welcome Turkey into the union … We have already seen the benefits of Europe’s engagement with Turkey. To get this far in the process, Turkey has made great strides in implementing a number of wide-ranging political reforms. The government has abolished state security courts, reformed the penal code, scrapped the death penalty and allowed Kurdish to be taught and spoken in schools. There is still much more that needs to be done in terms of political reform, improving human rights, protecting minorities, recognizing Cyprus and acknowledging the Armenian genocide. But keeping the process of negotiations alive will ensure that there is continued progress on these and other fronts. Breaking away from this process prematurely, however, would be a recipe for disaster. Without the goal of membership in view, there is little motivation for Turkey to continue on its current path.

Frustrated and Confused

ISTANBUL — Turkish Daily News (Liberal), Sept. 30: Soon we may be asked to start walking on our hands in order to be qualified to start membership talks that would aim for everything but membership … There is total frustration and confusion among the Turks regarding Turkey’s treatment by Europe. Whereas, we have to be realistic and must come to understand that what is at stake for Europe goes well beyond Turkey’s membership. The start of accession talks with the Turks will mark the start of a new phase in the European Union project. Unlike any of the previous expansions, the E.U. will change shape with Turkey’s inclusion. The current discussions in Europe over Turkey indeed reflect to a large extent the mental and physical state of unpreparedness on the continent for such a gross change. However, even the staunchest of Turkey’s opponents must be aware that the E.U. membership of this country has become unavoidable. It’s just a matter of time … Turkey’s E.U. membership is no longer just a Turkish project but at the same time is a project for transforming the old continent into a multicultural, multi-religious peace project. Just lend an ear to the conservatives of Europe. Is this not what they say? They are aware that their old club will soon be replaced with a new Europe erected on the pillars of internationality inclusive of all differences rather than the narrow, exclusive, racist fallen walls of the nation-state — a relic of the French revolution. Are we Turks prepared to join such a club? Are we prepared to get rid of our nation-state? Not yet, but perhaps one day if we manage to continue reforming ourselves to be patient and avoid becoming frustrated.
— Yusuf Kanli

Miracles Happen

COLOGNE — Deutsche Welle (International Broadcaster), Sept. 30: Anyone who still thinks that one day in the distant future, after 10 or 15 years of negotiations, Turkey will become an EU member, is either naive or has no clue about the country’s inner workings. Turkey is a country on the periphery of Europe and therefore, a country whose stability means much politically, economically, and in terms of security, to Europe. Those who are sensible would want to include Turkey in the continent’s integration process and to get Ankara to pursue the values and visions of Europe … But the EU is making a big mistake by demanding the maximum from Turkey, i.e. recognizing Cyprus or dealing with the Armenian genocide, right at the start of the negotiations. They’re playing their trump cards wrongly, creating resentment and hardening the country that could, and also has to, address such topics in the course of drawing closer to European values. Turks’ enthusiasm for Europe has, for the most part, disappeared. The country’s nationalists are gaining in popularity and are reconquering territory it had lost before. It’s no secret that in the next elections, expected in two years, Turkish nationalism will experience a rebirth. The feeling is growing among Turks that the numerous reforms in the past and the strengthening of democratic forces in Asia Minor since the signing of the 1963 Association Agreement with the EU have all been for naught … When the EU and Turkey start negotiations as planned, the participants will already be sapped of their strength. They will be short of breath for the long road ahead—unless a miracle happens.
— Baha Güngör

No Better Candidate

London — The Independent (Liberal), Sept. 30: It didn’t rate a mention in his speech to the Labor party conference, although it did produce an impassioned plea from his foreign secretary in Brighton. But Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union is likely to be the first major test of Tony Blair’s presidency of the E.U. And a crucial challenge to his and Jack Straw’s powers of persuasion. The U.K. has always been strongly in favor of accession talks with Turkey, and rightly so. If the Union is to keep expanding to its geographic and historic shape, if it is to act as a catalyst for democratic change in the surrounding regions, and if it is to prove a means of bringing Islam into cohabitation with the Christian West, then there could be no better candidate for inclusion than Turkey … [But] opposition to Turkish membership is building in the Union, while nationalist antagonism to Europe’s prevarications and changes of mind is rising in Turkey. If negotiations are to proceed, then the timetable has to be kept. If ever there was a time for Tony Blair to exercise his undoubted skills of charm and persuasion, it is now. Otherwise an historic opportunity may be lost, with incalculable effect on future relations with the Muslim world.

Let the Talks Commence

LONDON — The Guardian (Liberal), Sept. 30: Since the rules require such big decisions to be agreed by all 25 member states, Austria alone has been able to block this one, demanding that instead of negotiating full membership like every other country seeking to join the club, Turkey should be offered only a “special partnership.” Ankara rejects such an approach as discriminatory. So, to their credit, does everyone else, including the governments of France, the Netherlands and Germany, despite the strong anti-Turkish feeling that played a big role in the paralyzing rejection of the E.U. constitution this summer … Turkey, once plagued by military coups, torture and hyper-inflation, has met the E.U.’s criteria for membership — democracy, the rule of law, human rights, protection of minorities, a market economy and the capacity to manage competition. Even if implementation of new laws has been patchy in Kurdish areas the very prospect of E.U. membership has been a powerful spur to unprecedented reform … Turkey’s secular Muslim democracy has demonstrated that it is ready to join a tolerant, multicultural Europe. Let the final deal be done and the talks commence.