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Europe must let Turkey in 24 mai 2007

Posted by Acturca in EU / UE, France, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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The Guardian (UK), May 21, 2007 Monday, Pg. 26

Peter Preston

The prime minister of Turkey asks a rasping, scornful question: « How many Frances are there? » Which, simply interpreted, means that he’s sick of Sarkozy, sick of Brussels’ temporising, sick of 40 years of diplomatic effort fading away – and (less obviously) sick at heart for the future of his country.

It’s the supposed spectre of the two Turkeys he’s trying to deal with, of course. European Turkey and Asia Minor, just across the Bosphorus; secular Turkey, taking to the streets in demonstrations 1.5 million-strong, and Muslim Turkey, where the headscarf and the mosque dominate; cosmopolitan Istanbul, a metropolis of 17.5 million, growing by the day, and rural Anatolia, where those who remain store potatoes under the house to see them through another bitter winter; democratic Turkey, the one the elected politicians rule, and military Turkey, the one where a veiled threat from the chief of the general staff is only a telephone call away. So Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Muslim premier struggling along an avowedly secular path, has to embrace attack as his best form of defence.

Even without the French presidential election, he was probably on a slow ride to nowhere very enticing. Entry by 2014 had become a drifting dream. Cyprus, with Nicosia playing a wrecking game, was lingering crisis rather than final solution. Iraq had turned American enthusiasm for Turkish membership into a minus, not a plus. Those who seemed warm enough in the beginning – including Britain – had slithered into genteel mutterings.

What, 75 million Turks joining all those Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Romanians, Bulgarians on the Daily Mail’s immigration alert list? What, the biggest Islamic version of a Trojan horse you could imagine after 9/11? Old Europe might have given its word and entered negotiations in good faith; but even older Europe knew how to slide away. Thus, whatever the upheavals in Paris, there has not been some sudden change of tack here, merely a desultory trimming. Does it matter so much, then? Who can get too upset over what’s been obvious for months – and what can still, in extremis, be formally denied at EU summits? Where is the penalty to leaving Turkey on the outside looking in? But let’s not kid ourselves. The reasons for welcoming Ankara into our stagnating club are stronger than ever. Erdogan begins with the big one when he talks of an « alliance of civilisations », and adds that « freedom does not exclude, freedom is not divisive ».

Introversion is a constant factor in Istanbul as journalists, professors and the rest debate every issue under the sun as though it were the special one. Should the president’s wife wear a headscarf? Was Ataturk a 20th-century Thomas Jefferson? Who’ll win a general election designed to break the impasse over Islamists or secularists on top? These are the preoccupations of a Turkish elite talking to itself.

Step back, though. Look at the map and Turkey’s three southern neighbours: Syria, Iraq, Iran. This is a hub of a nation, seeking to define itself. The temptation is to plonk secularism and western enlightenment in the same neat tray – leaving the urban and rural poor to side with Erdogan’s AKP. West versus east, educated versus ignorant: a pat, facile confrontation.

It is also rubbish. The secularist demonstrators in Yizmir last week weren’t calling on Brussels to open its doors. On the contrary, their slogans were nationalistic, concerned with keeping their place in a Turkey spurned by Europe. It was Erdogan and his Muslim supporters who had led the campaign for entry, offered all the Cyprus compromises the generals would wear, instituted reform after reform to make Turkey fit for membership purpose. And it is they who have nowhere to go now.

Back into power after election victory? Probably. The AKP has delivered enough economic success to feel confident of delivering more. But without Europe there is no road map, no compulsion for further change. This is a country at the crossroads. Tehran and Baghdad and prospective chaos are not so far distant. Burgeoning nationalism, a severing of ties and aspirations, makes it more, not less, vulnerable.

Where does Turkey go if not closer to Europe? What is it to become if not de facto gatekeeper to our continent? It may be 2,000 miles from Montparnasse to Asia Minor, but the connections are harshly inescapable. There is only one Turkey, struggling for a modern identity. And, alas, there is only a two-faced Europe, in cringing denial of its word, duty and self-interest.



1. Jean-Pierre C - 30 mai 2007

Turkey isn’t an european country… they hadn’t vocation to enter in EU.
And that for many reasons :
1/ military : its TOTAL alledgeance to USA in NATO council is proved.
2/ human rights : they are not a true democracy, Army still has the control on the poliies affairs
3/ corruption
4/ justice which denies the press liberty
5/ the armenian genocid that Turkey still refuse to recognise
the list isn’t exhaustive…

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