OPINION

EU and Turkey

It is an open secret that the United States has for years been trying to tilt Turkey onto the track of EU membership. It should be reminded that during the 1999 Helsinki summit, US pressure helped award Turkey EU candidate status, though it did not fulfill the criteria. The EU saw this as a vague commitment but when it later came under pressure to give Ankara a date for entry talks, Brussels finally invoked Turkey’s failure to meet the requisite standards. Ankara’s demand will be reviewed in December and Washington is already acting as Turkey’s agent. It is indicative that support for Ankara’s bid was the main subject of yesterday’s talks between President George W. Bush and Premier Costas Karamanlis. The US stance is based on the view that Turkey’s EU entry will weaken the bloc by undermining its economic power and its drive toward political independence. Washington sees EU integration as a threat to its hegemony and it would be happy to see it reduced to a single market. It is no coincidence that Britain, a traditional enemy of a federal Europe, advocates Turkey’s accession. Greece supports the EU ambitions of its neighbor for this serves its national interest. Athens deems that should Turkey join the bloc, it will be forced to adapt to EU standards and abandon its expansionist policy. Our EU peers’ feelings are mixed. They want ties with Turkey for geopolitical and commercial reasons. But it is far from certain they want to see it become a full member. The cultural gap plays a far more significant role than commonly admitted, especially among the public. Most Europeans would prefer Turkey to remain a candidate country forever – but this is unlikely to happen. Unless we define the limits of EU expansion, the bloc will degenerate into a big and heterogeneous, and hence slack and sluggish, supernatural body that would be in danger of collapsing under its own weight.