THE CONTROVERSIAL MARRIAGE BETWEEN ANKARA AND BRUSSELS - The Reykjavik Grapevine

THE CONTROVERSIAL MARRIAGE BETWEEN ANKARA AND BRUSSELS

THE CONTROVERSIAL MARRIAGE BETWEEN ANKARA AND BRUSSELS

Published January 14, 2005

The European Council has already decided Turkey’s fate. On December 17th 2004, 25 governments agreed that negotiations would start, although with no guarantee of accession, if Turkey respected the Copenhagen Criterion set in 1993.

Three Anti-Turkish Factors
So what are the obstacles for the opening of negotiations if the ‘big countries’ of the EU do not seem to block Turkey’s entrance? Firstly, there is the problem of the European public opinion which opposes Turkey’s entry.

Secondly, there is the so-called ‘Avalanche Effect’. Until now, few voices have said ‘No’ openly. But some new factors could provide fuel for a fire in Brussels against Ankara’s ambitions.

The final problem is the recent failed move by Turkey’s government to re-introduce the penalization of adultery in a project which was supposed to bring the Turkish penal code in line with European standards, not with the Islamic law.
To weigh up the advantages of the EU’s project for Turkey’s possible entry is a very difficult task. How would Europe change with Turkey’s entry? Could it acquire a real strategic power, necessary for facing up to its future challenges? The solution for the Turkish dilemma could also be found in answering this question.

Three Pro-Turkish factors
Contrary to the arguments expressed before, some voices in Europe say that everyone wins if Turkey joins the EU. Therefore, the advantages of Turkey’s membership, both for Turkey itself and for the Union, need to be analysed clearly and concisely.

1. A geopolitical mutation
Europe is first and foremost a human project. Currently, debates concentrate on what Turkey actually is: whether it is part of Europe or not, its population, its Muslim heritage and its level of economic development. But geopolitical stakes are also important. Turkey occupies a pivotal position between Europe and Asia. Turkey joined NATO in 1952. Now that the EU has enlarged to the East, why not accept Turkey which would give the Union a foothold in Asia and the Middle East? Substantial hydrocarbon and oil reserves recently discovered in the Caspian region will only increase Turkey’s strategic importance.

2. A closer union between different peoples
Demography will also be a significant factor. Turkey has a young and dynamic population in contrast to the other European countries. Turkish membership will positively change the demography of Europe and reinforce the spirit of enterprise and the market economy, contributing to prosperity.

3. The clash of civilizations:
Just say no
The EU’s founding fathers wanted to bring peace to the continent through an ever closer union between peoples. At a time when some discuss a ‘clash of civilisations’ and a new religious war, allowing Turkey, a Muslim country, to join the Union would refute once and for all such dangerous theories. The EU has an historic opportunity to substitute the ‘clash of civilisations’ with an attitude of rapprochement between peoples. Firstly, by offering a positive model to the 11 million Muslim Europeans on living together, proving the ability of a modern and peaceful Islam to act against divisions caused by terrorism or regional conflict. Secondly, by demonstrating that the EU could be a model for the whole world, a structure which can integrate Nation States and peoples with very diverse histories and cultures. Thirdly, by allowing the Union to play a much more important role than it does today in finding peaceful resolutions to the world’s conflicts, thus contributing to global stability and the development of democracy, human rights and greater economic equality.

Against Membership by Force

Turkey’s entry is not primarily a question of acceptance into a strategic diplomatic union, or some kind of commercial pact, but one of sharing a common destiny. Turkey’s candidacy is different simply because our fellow citizens feel it is, and this must be taken into account.

The automatic opening of negotiations amounts to saying to European citizens that their concerns don’t matter. Turkey is a very different kind of candidate and one should not overlook European public opinion. In my view, the question of holding referenda on this issue cannot be automatically eliminated by our governments. Europeans need to be properly informed and consulted.

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