Turkey’s EU hopes

Archbishop Christodoulos’s self-restraint in the feud with the Phanar-based Patriarchate was acknowledged even by those who are not keen on the archbishop. However, Christodoulos’s expansive and often immoderate character again came to the fore yesterday. It was not the first time that he said that Turkey has no place in the EU. Until yesterday, he had invoked the cultural chasm between the two sides – a widely held view in Europe. Yesterday’s language, however, exposed himself and tainted the image of the Greek Church abroad. On December 1999, and partly due to pressure from Washington, the 15 member states awarded Turkey EU candidate status, although they knew it had a long way to go. Behind closed doors, most Europeans believe that Turkey is not just poor but, culturally speaking, a foreign body. Former French President Giscard d’Estaing’s remarks this year are indicative of these sentiments. For geopolitical and commercial reasons, Brussels wants Turkey hitched to the EU train, but not for full membership. A year ago in Copenhagen, the EU turned down Ankara’s request for a date to begin accession negotiations on the grounds that Turkey was far from meeting the requisite criteria. The EU knows that setting a date will effectively give Ankara a green light for future membership. The date issue will resurface in December 2004. The EU will then have to give a more binding answer as to whether Turkey is close to membership or not. However, it seems that it will avoid taking a clear stance, exploiting the even more inconsistent stance of the Turkish establishment, which fears that adopting EU standards will eventually undermine its own foundations. Ankara’s desire for an a la carte Europe is impossible. Cyprus is not the only outstanding problem, as Turkey’s democratic deficit still puts the brakes on its European aspirations.