Bad habits

Political officials in Ankara are not blind to the fact that the belated interest of European Union governments in Cyprus is connected to their growing reluctance to see Turkey hop aboard the EU train. Ankara is at pains to ward off burgeoning criticism, mostly a result of public pressure, by using a number of arguments. First, Ankara is urging the EU to fall in line with the trend of globalization and come to terms with particularities – be they ethnic, cultural or religious – notwithstanding its own insensitive policies at home. Second, Turkey is advertising its economic potential for foreign investors, even though American and European capital is increasingly shifting toward the more attractive markets of China and India. Finally, Turkish officials say that opening the EU door to Turkey will polish the continent’s image in the eyes of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. But it’s highly unlikely that such symbolism can help dampen Islamic extremism. Barring some reservations, Ankara’s arguments are well-based and strike a chord with many European officials. However, Turkish officials are prone to losing their cool, as recently happened with Egemen Bagis, Ankara’s foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a recent letter to the International Herald Tribune, Bagis scoffed at «the recent chatter of ‘petit’ European politicians» and their irresponsible policy which «only confirms the transatlantic belief that Europe is too important to be left to the Europeans.» So much for those who think that Erdogan has ushered in a new era in Turkish politics.