A long list of conditions

As far as Athens is concerned, the decision by the European Union to give Ankara a date for membership talks will be studied for its effect on Greek-Turkish disputes and the Cyprus issue. In that light, the European Council decision to give the go-ahead to talks with Turkey was satisfactory, even though it was no vindication of the Greek and Greek-Cypriot populations, because the minimum obligation foreseen by international law should have been that Ankara recognize the Republic of Cyprus before the opening of any membership negotiations. Nevertheless, one should try to examine the EU decision from another perspective, free of our national priorities and concerns. As seen through Turkish eyes, the EU gave Ankara a date for the start of accession talks in the near future (October 2005). But not everything will be clear sailing for our eastern neighbor. The summit’s conclusions described the pending negotiations as an «open-ended process» and suggested that they may not lead to full membership. If they fail, the document said, Europe will make sure that Turkey «is fully anchored in European structures through the strongest possible bond.» Furthermore, the conclusions said that the EU maintains the right to impose measures such as longer transition periods, special regulations, even «permanent safeguard» clauses in any accession accord. Member states are ready to have a major say on issues such as the free movement of citizens. The conditions tied to the summit’s conclusions defeated expectations that Turkey could, with the help of US support, sneak into the bloc and get away without fulfilling the basic terms and conditions that apply to all other candidate members. At the same time, the EU demands confirm the distance that still separates Turkey from the acquis communautaire, as these are not arbitrary conditions but conditions that Brussels had to impose, seeing that the convergence of Turkish society with the European average is going to be a difficult and painstaking process with no guaranteed success. If these were to be the conclusions drawn by a moderate Turk; to a European, the decision showed that despite outside pressures and internal disagreements, the EU refrained from regressing to positions that would have put its political future in jeopardy. The EU did not deny Ankara a date for talks like an integrated political community would have done, but it did not condone its values being undermined either. The door is open for Ankara to enter, but in order to step across the European threshold, the country will have to modernize itself and adapt to the values of Europe and principles of international law.