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Europe and Turkey should keep talking 24 juin 2013

Posted by Acturca in Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Financial Times (UK) June 24, 2013, p. 10                               Deutsch Français Türkçe


Just as France has softened its longstanding objections to reviving Turkey’s accession talks with the EU, opening the way to a resumption of negotiations after a three-year hiatus, another member state has mounted the barricades.

Germany last week blocked the reopening of discussions with Ankara about regional policy, one of the 35 chapters of the rule book prospective joiners must agree to adopt before their application can be considered.

Berlin says its objection, which is not final, is « technical in nature ». But in the absence of a clearer explanation the move has been interpreted as a response to Turkey’s crackdown on demonstrators . Following news a week ago that Istanbul’s German hospital had been attacked by police and a hotel used as a refuge by protesters (and also occupied by German politicians) tear-gassed, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that the response had been « too harsh ».

Ms Merkel may perceive some political benefit in putting the Turkish talks on ice ahead of Germany’s general elections in September. German public opinion is generally sceptical about Turkish entry. While her Free Democrat partners are more open to the idea, her own party’s draft manifesto observes drily that Ankara does not presently meet « the criteria for joining the EU ».

True, by cracking heads and threatening liberties, Mr Erdogan has not advanced his country’s cause. His response to predominantly peaceful protest betrays a whiff of authoritarianism and threatens to upset the delicate balance between Turkey’s secular and religious communities.

But constantly stalling the talks makes a mockery of the process. Already humiliated by repeated rebuffs, Turkish politicians now openly question Europe’s sincerity. Some have concluded that Turkey should turn its back on Brussels.

The irony is that Mr Erdogan and his AK party have been principal beneficiaries of the opening to Europe. Legal convergence has allowed Turkey to democratise, shaking off the dead hand of the authoritarian Kemalist state.

The EU should make its views known about the response to protests. But it is cant for member states that have blocked Turkey’s path to accession, relaxing the pressure for further liberalisation, to argue now that they cannot negotiate because the government in Ankara is too authoritarian.

If EU governments mean what they say about wanting a pluralist Turkish partner, they must climb off the barricades and talk.


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