Christopher Lee

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Why Can’t The EU See That It Needs Turkey Before Turkey Realizes It Doesn’t Need The EU?

19th December 2012
A bunch of Euro-political academics this week got talking about Turkey. Sad. The conclusion was hard to avoid: Turkey’s ambition for EU membership is being sidelined. The group, sanely and without party political points to make, also concluded that a grim result would seem to be a Turkey moving slowly but surely towards all the styles and values that would make that membership impossible to consider in Brussels.

Very simply, its European enthusiasms and credentials having been dismissed y Brussels, Turkey will move into a role more defined to the East of the Bosphorus even to the extent of adopting religious and internal security roles associated with Middle Eastern dictatorships.

Given Turkey’s difficult and incompletely travelled road from virtual police state to one with an eased albeit unenviable record on human rights, then the EU shun may be anticipated.  But how does this fall in with the same EU leaders praising Turkey as a loyal member of NATO?  How does it fall in with the unmistakably valuable job Turkey is now doing as the neighboring NATO state during the Syrian conflict? How the EU leadership can continue to avoid Turkey’s application while knowing in their foreign, defense and trade ministries that Turkey is best tacitly treated as a European, is a major puzzle.

The rejection was a Sarkozy-Merkel orchestration; at least that’s how many Turks see it it. Rejected as second class people  some still say.  Little wonder that a sense of nationalism and religious right is clear.

Greek’s case for double and waiting standards may be easier to understand: how could they vote for Turkish membership while it continues what must be an open and shut case of illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus. Equally, the UK has an interest in resolving the split in Cyprus and makes no bones about the wrongs in Turkey’s continuing occupation.

Moreover there have been other applications in which absolutely no sense of loyalty or proven comradeship has ever been claimed. The access of some former Soviet client states have had dubious precedent over Turkey. When rules are bent and the nebulous codex of moral stability are ignored then the reasoning may often be found in trade figures – existing or hoped for. So what happened to Turkish credential in this area?

Turkey does some 36-40% of its overseas trade with the EU.  Sounds good? Not at all. Ten years ago when Tayyip Erdogan became leader, it was closer to 70%. This becomes more alarming in West European board rooms – including major UK companies such as Marks & Spencer – when we see Turkey’s 8% plus growing economy creating markets for EU firms and traders.

When companies as big as Ford move from Southampton to Kocaeli near Istanbul, then British, indeed European business should take not.  Maybe this is why there is a rump officialdom within Brussels that is quietly trying to persuade its political masters to look again at Turkey and to do so very quickly. And Ford’s move was not created on a whim.  Kocaeli is a Turkish free zone that offers good cross-financial deals to incomers as well asa good and relatively cheap labour force.  And such deals work both ways. Last year the area created almost 60,000 new jobs.  Wouldn’t the UK like that sort of report card?

At the base of so-called Euro-concern is the undisputed signs that eight decades of secularism in Turkey is being usurped by more fundamentalist inclinations.  That is not acceptable in EU governments, many of which have feared revolution and war from Islamic fundamentalists during the past decade and have had to explain the body bags that have returned from those war while offering no proof that the fundamentalists can be defeated never mind won over by peaceful means.

Turkey, by any other name, is involved in a continuing bloody war with Kurdish separatists (the PKK) and the reality of a possible cross border confrontation with Syria.  That would hardly be seen as reason not to reassess how far Turkey has reached towards the firm demands the EU has made for Turkey (or any other would-be candidate) to become a member.

What then is the problem? Could it be there is a fear that EU membership would mean a mass influx into member states of a large and underemployed number of Turks looking for jobs? That is certainly the campaign mounted by organizations like the British, Migration Watch. Certainly that is an example of properly researched data being used reasonably in a general picture of mass mvement of peple across the EU.

Or maybe there is a sense that the memory of the Ottoman Empire still conjures images best forgotten.

Sadly, and more likely, it’s just a matter of old animosities – Cyprus for example.  Or, maybe the desperate EU economies – Brussels cannot afford the benefits that go to a new member. Thus it would appear that for the moment the most torturous soft-power diplomacy fails to persuade member states to forget differences and to understand that Turkey in is better than Turkey out.

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