An inherent contradiction

During an EU meeting last December to discuss conditions for Turkish membership, the Turkish premier threatened to leave the table and return to Ankara. Recep Tayyip Erdogan avoided special conditions on Cyprus but his success was due more to the general mood at the time than his threats. The constitutional debacles in France and the Netherlands have changed that. Austria may be the only country to publicly insist on a privileged relationship with Ankara, but its view is more popular than it appears. It’s just that other states want to meet their present commitment and save the obstacles for later. That means Turkey’s accession negotiations will be very different from those of other candidates. The process will be explicitly political and open-ended. We should not underestimate the EU’s institutional deadlock – without it, Cyprus would not have joined the bloc. But Turkey’s potential entry threatens the very process of European integration. The warning by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul that he will not travel to Luxembourg for the launch of EU talks if he is not satisfied with the negotiating framework bordered on the comical. Even Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, a champion of Turkish membership, had to note that it is Turkey seeking to join the EU, not the other way around. If Ankara feels the Europeans are asking too much, that’s because they have spoiled Turkey over the years. Brussels has repeatedly lowered the bar on requirements and Ankara has made its way without meeting many fundamental conditions. Turkey’s European ambitions contradict its rampant nationalism. The country dismisses even the most basic EU demands as heavy-handed foreign intervention. That is Turkey’s problem, and Ankara will never live under the EU roof without solving it.