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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

07 September 2005

Turkey on trial

On October 3rd, the European Union has promised to begin membership talks with Turkey; it is rather embarrassing, then, that Turkey has just decided to put Orhan Pamuk, a world renowned novelist, on trial for “[complaining] about the conspiracy of silence about the mass murder of the Ottoman empire’s Armenians during and after the first world war” (1). Even worse, however, is the news that comes from polls that capture the European attitudes to the prospect of Turkish membership: in nine EU countries surveyed, only 22 percent thought Turkish membership was a good thing, 29 percent were opposed, and 42 percent were undecided (2).

More than anything else, this public ambivalence offers a hint about the future of the European Union’s relations with Ankara. Currently, the problem revolves around European politics—Europe’s leaders have made gestures and commitments implying that Turkey could one day become part of the European Union while the European peoples retain an enduring skepticism of that membership prospect. The big problem, therefore, is how to satisfy both the European public and avoid a Turkish rebuff.

The answer could be to put the question of Turkish membership to referendum. Under this scenario, Turkey will continue to make progress in implementing the acquis communautaire, therefore making Turkey adhere to standards that it would otherwise not; then referenda will decide the issue of Turkish membership—if accepted, then the gap between what leaders want and what people are willing to accept will have been bridged; otherwise, Turkey will have already been converted into a country whose orientation and sensibility is largely similar to that of the European Union members, thus making some other type of partnership between Europe and Turkey more likely.

But there is one last thought that is worth putting out there—about Cyprus, the only EU member that Turkey refuses to recognize. Whether Turkey should recognize Cyprus before or during the membership talks is immaterial; what is important is that Turkey’s recognition of Cyprus is not reciprocated with concessions from Europe—in other words, it is not part of a quid pro quo. Just as the world would not accept Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza strip as an excuse to cling to the West Bank, so Europe must refuse to elevate a common sense policy—recognizing Cyprus—into a concession that requires a reciprocal gesture from Europe.

(1) “EU must honour its promise to Turkey,” Financial Times, 5 September 2005
(2) Daniel Dombey, et al, “European public anxious over Ankara EU entry,” Financial Times, 7 September 2005; countries surveyed were: France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, and Slovakia.



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