OPINION

Turkish wedge in the EU

It was not the first time George W. Bush demanded that Turkey be given a December starting date for negotiations to join the European Union. It is not certain whether French President Jacques Chirac’s opposition to this interference in EU affairs reflected the mood in other member states. Even Germany has essentially accepted the fact that Turkey should be heading for accession. If a date is set, Turkey will become a full member, even if it takes years. Washington’s interest has a strategic basis. At the 1999 Helsinki summit, US pressure was vital in getting Turkey declared a candidate for accession, even though it did not fulfill the criteria, but at that time Europeans did not think they were committing themselves. Three years later, in the Copenhagen summit, they were again pressed to set a date, but refused, again because Turkey did not fulfill the criteria. This time the climate is in Turkey’s favor. Essentially, it all depends on whether France will persist with its refusal. The US has always taken a dim view of European integration as a potential threat to its own hegemony. It favors Turkey’s accession because it rightly believes it will undermine the EU’s unity and give it more ammunition to obstruct Europe’s political emancipation. Secondly, a large part of the cost of modernizing Turkish society will have to come from the EU budget. Athens supports Turkey’s claim for reasons of its own, believing Turkey will be forced to modify its political behavior and abandon its expansionism. The other member states want Turkey hitched to the European wagon for geopolitical and commercial reasons but are not sure if it should become a full member. Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s view that Turkey is a foreign body in Europe is shared by many who would never admit as much. Their inaction in fact works in favor of Turkey’s accession, with everything that entails.