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Francophone Turks on the impact of French policy 30 septembre 2008

Posted by Acturca in France, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Today’s Zaman (Turkey), 30 September 2008, Tuesday

Nicole Pope

The wave of Turkey-skepticism that has swept through European public opinion in recent years has undoubtedly cooled Turks’ enthusiasm for European Union accession. Nowhere has the opposition to Ankara’s bid been expressed as bluntly and tactlessly as in France. 

The Open Society Institute has just published a report on the impact of France’s policy, seen through the eyes of Francophone Turks. As France is currently president of the EU, the document aims to alert French political circles and public opinion to the damage that is being caused to bilateral diplomatic relations that go back centuries.

As the rapporteur who interviewed academics, former diplomats, businesspeople and intellectuals to piece together this document, I felt their frustration and disappointment. Familiar with French culture, Francophone Turks had hoped that Paris would help Turkey through the accession process. Instead, France’s hostile attitude is fueling resentment in Turkey and hindering further reforms. Above all, they highlighted the contradictions of French diplomacy, which aims on the one hand to develop bilateral ties with Ankara while, on the other hand, laying obstacles in its EU path.

France’s objections to Turkey’s candidacy on « cultural » grounds (usually meaning religious) is a particularly sore point for Turks educated in Francophone institutions such as Galatasaray or St. Joseph, or in France itself.

These Turks, who feel European, attribute the strong opposition partly to French domestic political factors, but also to poor knowledge of Turkey. Their country, they feel, is often reduced in the French media to a set of issues, such as the Armenian question, the Kurds or the headscarf debate, without the broader context of a rapidly changing and complex nation. They point to nostalgia for an Orientalist past, present even among those who support Turkey. One could perhaps argue that a similar longing for a France that has long vanished exists on the Turkish side.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has been vocal against Turkey, but France does not speak with one voice. One good example is that of former Prime Minister Michel Rocard, who has just published a book in favor of Turkey’s EU accession. His « Oui à la Turquie » was written in cooperation with journalist Ariane Bonzon, who has a long experience with Turkey. In excerpts that I have seen so far, Rocard argues that the federalist European dream died in 1972 when Britain joined the EU, and he advocates Turkey’s inclusion in a union of diverse nations as a « life insurance » policy for Europe, from economic and strategic points of view.

Francophone Turks expect France, which approved Ankara’s candidate status, to stick to its commitments and refrain from rash judgments until the accession process runs its course.

But ultimately, it will fall to Turkey to win over European public opinion, which cannot be blamed for Ankara’s recent inaction. So far, the « mehter march » approach to reforms — two steps forward, one step back — has sent unconvincing signals to EU capitals and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is rapidly losing the reformist credentials it earned in its first years in power.

As some of the Turks I interviewed pointed out, by the time Turkey will be ready to enter the EU, today’s leaders will no longer be in power. Focusing on French politicians’ negative comments is counterproductive. Turkey must pursue its reforms and improve its image through deeds rather than glossy ads. Above all, it needs to engage more with European public opinion through various platforms. If a referendum on Turkey’s membership is ever held in France, it will be today’s young people, rather than Nicolas Sarkozy, who will have the power of decision.

 Tükçe

Frankofon Türkler Fransız Politikasının Etkileri Hakkında Görüş Bildiriyor

Français

Les Francophones Turcs S’expriment Sur L’impact De La Politique Française

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