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Turkey and EU January 30, 2011

Posted by Yilan in NATO, Turkey.
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Why can’t a member of the NATO and OECD be in European Union?

WHATEVER happened to Turkey’s European dream? It’s nearly six years since Ankara began accession negotiations with the EU. Yet the mirage of joining the European club remains just that — a mirage. No wonder the Turks are getting increasingly frustrated. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos over the weekend, Deputy Premier Ali Babacan complained that the EU was increasingly becoming an “inward-looking Christian club.”

So what’s hampering Turkey’s EU aspirations? Ankara began its membership negotiations with Brussels in 2005. And before that the Turks spent years going through numerous stages of reforms and tense transitions to make themselves acceptable and suitable to the privileged club that is the EU.

In its quest for the “holy grail of Europe” Turkey not only had to scrap numerous laws and traditions that Brussels might have frowned upon, it even amended its constitution. It reached out to all its estranged neighbors and former enemies. Indeed, the proud Turks who not long ago ruled large parts of the world, including many European lands, were forced to bend over backward to address the demands and concerns of the grouping for that prized ticket to Shangri la.

So where has it got Ankara? Nowhere near the goalpost yet.

While a lack of progress has been blamed on Turkey’s troubled ties with Cyprus, a EU member that is not recognized by Ankara, the real stumbling block remains the stiff opposition from big EU players like France and Germany.

Both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have voiced strong and unabashed opposition to Turkey’s EU project, saying it doesn’t belong in Europe. Ironically, both Germany and France are home to large Muslim and ethnic Turkish populations.

The opposition is not limited to the two leaders. Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing and architect of the EU Constitution has been a strident opponent of Turkey’s EU ambitions, arguing that 95 percent of Turkish population lives outside mainland Europe and warning that if Turkey comes aboard it will be “the end of Europe.”

These voices of chauvinism – perhaps even racism? — in mainstream, liberal Europe have only found a resonance in the growing Islamophobia in the continent in recent years. No wonder Turkey’s European odyssey is yet to take off.

Which is rather unfair. For if Turkey is good enough to be a member of the NATO, Council of Europe and OECD, what makes it less qualified for the EU? If this isn’t duplicity, what is? Besides, it’s not as if only Turkey desperately needs EU. With its fast aging, shrinking population, Europe needs Turkey and its large, vibrant and young work force more than it could bring itself to acknowledge. Turkey has the largest army in the NATO. More important, as the country that literally connects Europe and Asia and the West and the East, Turkey could play a pivotal role in bridging the chasm between the followers of Islam and Christianity, who make up for nearly half of the world population. With its economy growing at the fastest pace in Europe and its investments beyond its neighborhood expanding by leaps and bounds, Turkey is not the sick man of Europe it used to be. This prosperity has gone hand in hand with Ankara’s exalted stature on the world stage. By opening its doors to Turkey, the EU would be doing itself an immense favor.

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