Suspended step

The timing of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Paris – where the Turkish prime minister tried to come across as a good disciple of the acquis communautaire as he eyes a green light for Turkey’s EU bid – should not surprise us but should instead be seen as a sign of the cynicism pervading today’s realpolitik. The occupation of northern Cyprus has long ceased to be a sufficient reason for refuting Ankara’s bid – even more so following the referenda on the UN Cyprus peace plan that whitewashed Turkey’s diplomatic tactics. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s European endeavor is not without clouds. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said yesterday that «it is not tomorrow that Turkey will be entering the EU,» while President Jacques Chirac has spoken of «tough negotiations» that will last 10 to 15 years. France’s ruling party has come out against Turkish membership, warning that it will function as America’s Trojan horse aiming to dilute the EU’s political identity. Germany’s Christian Democrats and the Austrian government oppose Ankara’s bid mainly on economic, demographic and cultural grounds. Greece’s decision to lift the Turkey veto in 1999 was a wise one, depriving our EU peers of the luxury of using Athens as a fake alibi for their hostility to Turk membership. Further, we’d have nothing to gain from a rejection of Ankara’s bid in December. In fact a «no» verdict could strengthen the hand of the deep state and bolster its nationalist aspirations. Nor should we outdo Turkey’s desire to enter the bloc. The Chirac-Schroeder formula appears to mark a safe third way: a conditional talks date, and a long step-by-step process with the aim of taking on board a radically transformed and democratic Turkey. In short, a combination of Western rationalism and Levantine spirit – to everyone’s benefit.