Unbearable lightness

The European Commission will soon present Turkey’s progress report and, in light of assurances by the EU’s enlargement commissioner yesterday, the penal code issue has been resolved and Turkey is set to get the green light from the EU’s executive arm. The European Council will most likely set a number of conditions for the start of membership talks, but Ankara will clearly be on an accession course. This may take years, but the destination is given. In that sense, the crucial decision will be made in December, not later. And it will be made not because Europeans want Turkey in their family, but because they cannot say no. The cultural divide is little mentioned, but its influence on the European public is massive. Many among the political elite see Turkey as a foreign body. For geopolitical and commercial reasons, many want ties with Turkey but not full membership status. Their ambiguity over the past few recent years now makes it harder for them to close the door on Turkey. Inertia and US pressure have forced a frightening decision on them. Greece is backing Turkey’s bid because it serves its national interest. Britain’s zeal is also understandable. It is the stance of the other EU members that leaves question marks. Now that things are coming to a head, skeptical comments are becoming more common, but it is too late for the climate to change. The Turkish issue will influence Europe’s strategic dilemmas concerning the limits and depth of the Union, the question of the EU’s political emancipation and the ties with Washington. The US has never been too keen on Europe’s integration, seeing it as antagonistic to American interests. Turkey’s membership, the US hopes, will undermine the unification process by giving Washington an additional ally inside the bloc and bringing the European budget to its knees.

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