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Erdogan and Gul differ on country’s EU aspirations 22 novembre 2012

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Financial Times (UK) Thursday, November 22, 2012, p. 4
Special Report: Investing in Turkey

By Daniel Dombey

Europe. The president hopes that joining will complete the country’s transformation but hurdles abound, writes Daniel Dombey

It is a matter, President Abdullah Gul tells the Financial Times, of completing the country’s transformation – and yet Turkey’s bid to join the EU could hardly be more tortuous, or its outcome more uncertain.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister, once put membership at the heart of his project of government, but as EU states’ reservations about Turkish membership have hardened into formal blocks on talks, so Ankara’s ardour has cooled into indifference.

On a recent trip to Berlin Mr Erdogan said the bloc would have to admit Ankara by 2023 or « lose Turkey » and has floated the idea of reintroducing the death penalty, which would sound the death-knell for his country’s bid.

And yet Turkey’s EU talks, troubled though they are, are still vital for the country’s orientation. Three-quarters of foreign direct investment comes from the EU, even though sales to the bloc are now little more than a third of total Turkish exports.

The loss of EU influence, as talks have stalled, has coincided with increased complaints within Turkey about such issues as media freedom and the rule of law.

« There should be no doubt with respect to the determination of Turkey to successfully complete negotiations, » says Mr Gul, who talks about Turkey’s EU aspirations in a markedly different way from Mr Erdogan. « This is what is going to complete the transformation of Turkey. »

Mr Gul concedes Turkey may finally decide not to proceed with membership and that a country such as France or Austria could veto its accession at the last gasp. But he argues that the mere fact that it will have completed the talks will have brought Ankara up to EU standards.

He also insinuates that Turkish entry, as potentially the biggest member state, may be less threatening to other Europeans at a time of flux in the EU, when the bloc may be reshaping along the lines of a eurozone inner core and an outer periphery.

« We are very closely following the difficulties that the EU is facing at the moment – the ongoing political and economic restructuring, » he says.

« There may be new mechanisms that emerge in the EU, and Turkey should take its rightful place within this overall picture. »

In a likely reference to Turkey’s ambitions as a rising power on the world and regional stage, he adds: « The EU countries should also appreciate the fact that there is no substitute for Turkey; they have to recognise the contribution that Turkey can add to the EU. »

But while Mr Gul speaks of a virtuous cycle in which the possibility of EU entry serves to speed Turkey along the path of reform, today a vicious cycle applies: the EU censures Ankara for its failings, yet those very failings make it more difficult to revive the negotiations.

The EU’s most recent report on Turkey, issued last month, was its most critical yet, raising serious concerns over the country’s jailing of journalists, the legitimacy of high-profile court cases and internet censorship.

« The progress report was basically raising one question: ‘Where is this country going?' » says Jean-Maurice Ripert, EU Ambassador to Ankara.

He adds that the dynamic could yet be changed with the opening of new negotiating chapters, something that can be achieved if, as European diplomats hope and expect, France lifts reservations put in place during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy.

« The EU has to give signs that we still care, this is really important, » Mr Ripert says.

But even that hope depends on the government of Francois Hollande detaching Turkey’s EU aspirations from the vexed issue of whether massacres of Armenians in Anatolia almost a century ago constituted genocide, a controversy that has put Ankara at loggerheads with Paris.

Marc Pierini, Mr Ripert’s predecessor, is worried Mr Erdogan’s government may have decided for religious and ideological reasons that it does not want to be too close to Europe.

And yet he, too, thinks greater EU attention could still change the country’s course, for economic reasons among others. « Look at Gulf investment in Turkey; it is shopping malls, » he says. « The future of Turkey as a Bric is with Europe. »

Download full report (Format Pdf)


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