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Mail call: Ankara and the EU 6 février 2007

Posted by Acturca in Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Newsweek International

Feb. 12, 2007 issue 

« Who Lost Turkey? » drew readers’ skepticism on Turks’ joining the EU. « Strength is not a matter of numbers, » one said, « but stems from common values and political, economic, ideological and social cohesion. »

Turkey’s Troubled EU Bid

The root cause of the European Union’s botching its strategy regarding Turkey’s admission (« Who Lost Turkey? » Dec. 11) is the fact that the EU (constitution or not) has never given itself a geographical definition. By all accounts, Turkey is a borderline case as far as membership in the EU is concerned, but one could argue that if Turkey is a trusted and strategically important member of NATO, it should be acceptable to the EU as well. The whole mess is a typical case of Brussels hypocrisy. The EU couldn’t formulate a common foreign policy when it had 15 member states; it is even less capable with 25. Strength is not a matter of numbers but stems from common values and political, economic, ideological and social cohesion.

Karl H. Pagac, Villeneuve-Loubet, France

Owen Matthews hoped Turkey could show that a « democratic Muslim nation can be just as modern and European as a Christian one. » This is an oxymoron, as there is no example now or in the past of a democratic Muslim nation; the very nature of Islam is incompatible with a secular democracy as developed by Christian Europe. The only reason that Turkey has come as far as it has in overcoming its « authoritarian legacy » is due, first, to that great leader Kemal Ataturk, who introduced strong measures to curtail the influence of Islamic ideologies on Turkish society and the state. Second, the recent reforms in Turkey have been entirely due to pressure from the European Union, which no internal Turkish political force ever could have achieved as your writer states. (How does this sit with Matthews’s earlier view that Turkey could be a model for the rest of the Muslim world?) We should not forget that Europe lost Turkey once before, in 1453, with the fall of Constantinople. Prior to that, the large area known today as Turkey had been solidly Christian for more than 1,000 years before Christianity was suppressed by invading Muslim armies. Europe has the triple legacy of faith, freedom and law that came to us from Israel, Greece and Rome to make up the fabric of Western civilized life. The only way Turkey can participate in Europe is to throw off the oppressive shackles of Islam and accept this legacy.

Russell Armitage, Hamilton, New Zealand

It makes sense for an American to support a Turkish EU membership, as it promises stability and economic advantages for a NATO member and American ally. But admitting a rather poor country of Turkey’s size, with 70 million to 80 million people, is no small task for the EU, especially considering that it is not only a political but also an economic community with the aim of shared prosperity. By today’s rules, this would result in huge transfer payments and subsidies from the rich and less-rich member countries to Turkey. The EU just swallowed the 2004 enlargement round, and has since found it hard to keep the system functioning. One should not forget that at the time of its accession, Turkey would become one of the largest member states. So the EU itself would need to adapt or change a number of its principles and mechanisms before it could absorb a country like Turkey–especially given the prospect of a line of would-be followers once Turkey is in, including Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and Ukraine. The religion-based reservations about Turkey’s accession are often cited to avoid talking about these thornier problems, which would come with such an enlargement and are hard to sell to the populace of EU members.

Andreas Pomianek, Klosterneuburg, Austria

Your correspondent Owen Matthews conflates facts and opinions. He says that Turkey’s bid for membership in the EU has failed and that it’s a disaster for everyone. These are opinions expressed in a news article. Matthews probably thinks the EU is a democratic free-trade area that would improve governance in Turkey, and that its benign influence would convert the whole Islamic world to peaceful ways. The EU is a customs union, and it’s not democratic: all its officials are appointed, and their vote in a single-chamber Parliament has little binding power. The EU issues decrees to its member countries, which use them as excuses to implement unpopular policies they dare not introduce themselves, all without debate. When referendums on EU issues don’t bring the « correct » result, they are held again. Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty and Ireland didn’t want to use the euro currency. Both votes were repeated and the result was changed. When it comes to democracy, the EU would not satisfy its own entry criteria. A majority of voters in England would like to leave, so maybe most Turks are not keen to join, either.

Paul Dillon, Leatherhead, England

Washington champions Turkey’s entry into the EU in order to encourage the spread of secularism within the Islamic world. Is it wise to use EU membership as a geopolitical deus ex machina ? On this basis, the EU eventually would be extended into Central Asia, North Africa and farther into the Middle East. The free movement of people (including Turks and Turkish Kurds, if Washington has its way) is a bedrock principle of the EU. Not being able to control who can reside in the United Kingdom (or in any other EU country) is a fundamental abridgment of sovereignty. This abridgment is tolerable only as long as the EU does not extend much beyond Western Europe. The United States, the land of immigrants, has no intention of allowing Mexicans unimpeded entry. Could it be that it is a more democratic polity than the EU?

Yugo Kovach, London, England

I have no previous knowledge of Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Turkish Nationalist Action Party, but he is right on the button when he says that the European Union is a « project » designed to weaken, divide and disintegrate not just Turkey, but any country unfortunate enough to fall within its orbit. The EU consistently fails to account properly for the vast sums it allegedly spends on behalf of its member states. This bloated bureaucracy is an unelected, unaccountable mess of meddlers whose main specialty is the drowning of member states in red tape. If the people of the United Kingdom had been allowed an opinion, they never would have voted to join this « project. » Turks should shed no tears if their effort to join this club is a failure. They will have had a lucky escape.

G. McKeown, Bangor, Northern Ireland

Your article « Who Lost Turkey? » has left me speechless. We can all understand that any union loses something by not accepting a new member. However, this is not a reason to accept members that do not qualify for membership. This is not an issue of Christians against Muslims or West against East. And it was rather disappointing to see Owen Matthews imply this. How can he talk about « Europe overcoming prejudice » if he is aware of the condition in Turkey as far as human rights are concerned? Is it a prejudice to demand that Turkey have standards equal to those of other nations that make up the EU? Matthews also should be more careful when he quotes R. T. Erdogan’s words about « world peace » and « fighting global terror » being at risk if the EU does not accept Turkey: this sounds like a threat. Matthews also calls the causes of the denial of Turkey’s application « numerous and petty. » Is requiring that Turkey recognize a member of the EU such as Cyprus a minor detail? Or maybe Turkey’s refusal to accept an infamous genocide involving Armenians is irrelevant.

Zahariadou Hrisanthi, Thessaloniki, Greece

I was shocked when I saw the caption that ran under the photograph of the Galata Bridge: « A view from the famed Galata Bridge linking Europe with Asia. » In fact, the 130-year-old, small Galata Bridge is built across the Golden Horn and joins two European districts of Istanbul [the Sultanahmet area and Galata]. The old Galata Bridge has nothing to do with the ultramodern, magnificent Bosporus Bridge that links Europe to Asia.

Ulug Capar, Professor, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey

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