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Some in Europe still speak up for Turkey June 20, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Senior European politicians who are trying to consider the “big picture” for Europe continue to speak up for Turkey’s place in the EU sun. Two such politicians, Spain’s Javier Solana and Britain’s Jack Straw, felt the need again, after Sunday’s elections, to voice their strong opinions on the topic.

Former Foreign Secretary Straw, quoted in The Times, said Turkey is now “the dominant actor” in its region and urged Germany and France to offer Ankara a strategic support similar to that given by the United Kingdom.

“The one looser from these elections is the EU. At a time when it desperately needs strong allies to help ensure a benign outcome to the Arab spring, it is myopic in the extreme for its leaders to appear to be turning away from the strongest, richest and most democratic state in the Middle East,” said Straw.

Javier Solana, the European Union’s former High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and a former Secretary General of NATO, for his part, argued that with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan elected to another term, the EU and Turkey should “reset” their negotiations for Ankara’s membership bid.

Writing for “Project Syndicate,” which brings together major thinkers such as Daniel Gros, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Jaswant Singh, Dominique Moisi and Joseph S. Nye – to name a few – Solana argued the following:

“The good that Turkey can bring to Europe was visible even before the ‘Arab Spring.’ Europe is, by definition, culturally diverse, so diversity is the EU’s destiny. And, if Europe is to become an active global player, rather than a museum, it needs the fresh perspective and energy of the people of Turkey.”

But given the increasingly introverted mood Europe find itself in these days it is unlikely that such views will find much support among the weary public, in Western Europe in particular.

Neither will such support sway Turks much, given that the EU is barely on their radars now. Some polls still show the majority of Turks endorsing the notion of membership. But this does not mean Turks believe this will happen anytime soon given the resistance from France and Germany.

It was also noticeable that the EU was not mentioned once by Mr. Erdoğan during his victory speech on elections night, although he touched on a host of issues. “So why doesn’t Ankara just drop its membership bid and give us all a breather,” I hear right wing demagogues in Europe say.

This is highly simplistic of course, since the economic and political ties that already exist between Turkey and the EU are much deeper than some may think, even at this moment of stalled membership talks; so much so that the next AKP government is planning to establish an EU ministry.

But a simplistic question still merits a simplistic answer. Why should Ankara provide European right wingers with satisfaction? After all, as Mr. Erdoğan has said, the decision to start membership was taken unanimously by the EU.

So if there are those who want to put an end to these talks then they should work to make the EU come up with a unanimous decision to do this. Put briefly, as long as those who oppose Turkey’s bid are unable to get a unanimous decision in Europe to stop Turkey’s membership talks, these will trundle on somehow, despite resistance by some countries and quarters in Europe.

None of this means Europe is not important for Turkey and will not be in the future. This is after all a two-way street. It is hard to disagree therefore with Andreas Schockenhoff, who is ironically a parliamentary leader of Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, that is cool to Turkey’s EU membership.

Quoted by the daily Rheinische Post, Schockenhoff was reported as saying, following Sunday’s elections, “Turkey has European common values, and we expect that will continue.”

These are interesting words at a time when many in Europe argue that Turkey does not share European values. Erdoğan should also note these words as he heads for his third term in office.

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