A risky diversion

Just two weeks after the historic launch of European Union talks with Ankara, debate about Turkey’s progress toward EU membership has abated – not just in Greece but across the whole of Europe – as the spread of bird flu dominates public concern. The few references being made to neighboring Turkey tend to focus on the number of chickens being slaughtered there. The confusion and reservations felt in Europe regarding Turkey’s accession talks with the bloc were abruptly replaced by fears of sick chickens, which is a valid concern but one that also served as a convenient diversion from the problem at hand. And indeed, Turkey’s Europe-bound course is the most significant problem that the bloc is likely to face over the next few years as it is the only one that threatens its very existence. And the reservations and worries are not only being felt by European governments and media but also by large sections of the European public. This is perhaps why, just two weeks after the launch of Turkey’s talks with the EU, three questions remain unanswered about what actually happened in those last, frenetic hours before the historic announcement. The first question is: What exactly caused cautious Austria to change its stance? Second: What was the actual substance of Washington’s intervention? And third: How did the issue of Cyprus’s potential to join NATO become a pivotal aspect of Turkey’s negotiations.