Unwanted engagement

The failure by European Union officials yesterday to establish a joint negotiating position for Ankara’s membership talks is not attributable to pressure from Nicosia but to other factors. Despite France’s modest compromise in the joint Franco-British deal, Paris wants an emergency summit by the end of 2006 to evaluate whether Ankara has achieved full implementation of its obligations before it can start negotiating membership. Austria is demanding clarification that talks will not necessarily lead to full membership, envisaging rather a «privileged partnership» similar to Angela Merkel’s proposal. In corridor talk, European envoys argue that the main roadblock to Ankara’s EU ambitions is not Cyprus but the Kurdish issue. Despite recent democratization reforms, Turkey’s handling of ethnic minority issues leaves much to be desired. Charges against novelist Orhan Pamuk for his comments on Turkey’s killings of Armenians and Kurds echo European concerns. Olli Rehn, EU commissioner for enlargement, called the date of Pamuk’s trial, set to clash with an EU summit, a «provocation.» The hardening of EU states’ stand on Turkey is the result of many different political factors. It’s highly unlikely that it will be reversed, even though Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s complaints about EU states «shifting the goalposts» ahead of the entry talks are partly justified. The moment of truth is approaching for Turkey as well as Europe. The two sides would be better off breaking an unwanted engagement – for the sake of a special relationship – than canceling the wedding after the invitations have been sent out. If, on the other hand, the Europeans want full membership for Turkey, they must hammer out a road map of specific deadlines and conditions, including a settlement of the Cyprus problem.