NEWS

Disparities pose major obstacles to Turkish accession

Where will Europe’s borders reach eventually and what is to happen with Turkey? Will Ankara be given the date it wants so badly for accession negotiations to begin in December? The real question, in Turkey’s case, is not the date but, as we decided in Helsinki, the conditions that candidate countries have to fulfill, such as respect for certain principles, chiefly regarding human rights. When these principles are not respected, we cannot negotiate. But even if they are, then another question arises: What best serves mutual interest? A «privileged partnership» or accession to the Union? Turkey’s accession will meet with major obstacles. Firstly, because it is the first non-European country that wants to join. There are others closer, such as Russia, Ukraine or Morocco. Moreover, one of the difficulties we met with in drafting the Constitution was the fear on the part of smaller countries of being overshadowed by larger ones. Therefore, taking demographics into account, if Turkey ever joins, with its 90 million people, it will be the most populous country in Europe. Given that, according to the Constitution, participation in the decision-making process depends on population – [with the] double majority [consisting of the majority of member states representing at least 65 percent of the EU population and at least 55 percent of the member states] – the biggest country in the system with the greatest power in the decision-making process will be a country outside Europe. So, there will be reactions. We are amazed that small countries bordering on France and Germany are not worried by the idea that one day the strongest group in the European Parliament might one day be Turkish. Besides all that, there is something else. Neither I nor anyone else knows what the Turks themselves, the people, think about accession. Their standard of living corresponds to 20 percent of the average in the enlarged Union. The living standards of the countries that joined recently corresponded to 40 percent. This means that Turkey’s adjustment will create a major upheaval. I also wonder if the rest of the Union will agree to allowing Turkey to benefit from the «four freedoms» – movement of peoples, goods, services and capital. So it would be a good idea to ask ourselves what the best kind of relationship would be between Turkey and the EU: perhaps a (specially adapted) formula for a country outside Europe, with the largest population and an economic performance far lower than the average. Moreover, we should not lie to the Turks, as we usually do. We make promises that we are not prepared to keep. The original proposal to Turkey was to join the Common Market. But then, in the 1990s, we began to formulate the political structure; political unification is a matter for Europeans. So what remains as a solution? Perhaps a kind of regional organization like the UN, in the Mediterranean. This brings us back to the question of integration, which will lead to a great debate. Countries that want to proceed with political unification will do so on their own. What is Cyprus’s future a few months after the referendum and 30 years after the Turkish invasion? It is not my place to answer. However, I completely understand the results of the referendum in Cyprus, the reaction of the Greek Cypriots. It was not possible for them to agree to abandoning part of the island. I believe the problem and its solution will depend on the overall relationship with Turkey.