NEWS

EU mulls a green light for Turkey, but on strict terms

Debate among European Union member states and between the EU and Ankara has now moved away from the issue of «when» Turkey’s accession talks will be held to «how» as the crucial summit of December 16 and 17 approaches. There is no longer any doubt that Turkey will indeed be given a date for the commencement of accession negotiations. The most likely one is the end of 2005 or early 2006, as Paris would like talks to begin after its referendum on the EU’s Constitution. Several countries have suggested, as a «reasonable» excuse for the delay (the original plan was for early 2005), that Turkey first submit to a process of evaluation regarding the compatibility of its legislation with the EU’s acquis communautaire, as a form of preparation for the formal talks. Naturally, Turkey, which claims to have passed that stage, categorically rejects the idea. In fact, Turkey accepts none of the other, clearly more oppressive conditions that are reportedly being considered and that basically take two forms: the Commission’s idea of suspending negotiations if Turkey does not fulfill the obligations already imposed regarding further democratization, and the possibility – albeit theoretical – of suspending accession even if talks are successfully concluded. Several member states have reportedly delegated Austria to work out a formula for this process, including a suggestion virtually urging European governments to ratify Turkey’s accession with a referendum when the time comes. This is the usual weapon used by those in Europe who want to say no to something but find it hard to do so. Although the Chirac government has not has yet officially said so, some circles in France are promoting the idea of a «special relationship» between the EU and Turkey in lieu of membership. Public opinion To a great extent, all the above-mentioned ideas and plans are intended not for Turkey’s ears but for European public consumption, as opinion in many EU states is diametrically opposed to the idea of Turkey in the EU. Nevertheless, it is clear that for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, anything of this nature would create a colossal political problem with unforeseen consequences. Some circles in Brussels do not rule out the likelihood, if it comes to that, of postponing the decision to begin accession talks until the next summit, giving both Ankara and European governments more time to re-examine their stance. Of course, the Turkish prime minister is not fighting his battle alone, since the main sponsors of Turkey’s candidacy, Britain and Germany, are doing their best to avert such an outcome, largely by ensuring that the text of the summit «conclusions» that refers to these issues is as brief as possible. On the other hand, there are those in France who regret the promises once made to Turkey. Then there is Greece which, for reasons of its own, wants the text to be as extensive and complete as possible. Furthermore, there is the problem of Turkey’s persistent refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, chiefly for domestic political reasons, and which has largely been accepted by EU member states. However, as everyone is aware, given the uncertainty surrounding the imminent summit, no one can realistically expect Turkey to proceed with any form of recognition of Cyprus before December 17. It is believed almost certain that Turkey’s negative stance up to now will change if Ankara is satisfied with what takes place at the EU summit. As for Cyprus’s other demands,like the withdrawal of Turkish occupation troops and fewer settlers from mainland Turkey, these are not even mentioned in Europe, where the answer remains that these were provided for in the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for a solution.