Snubbing the people

Opinion polls have repeatedly shown that most of the European populace objects to Turkey’s EU membership. A recent survey published in the Milliyet newspaper showed that even less than a third of Turks think their country must join the bloc. In other words, the public (which supposedly has a say in their nation’s future) on both sides agrees that the case is closed on Ankara’s EU bid. The predominantly Muslim country does not wish to and cannot become part of Europe. Any talks should concern the nature of a special relationship between the two sides. But this plain conclusion, it seems, is not acceptable to the European political system and the Greek leadership. Six months ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels, political elites are worried about the fallout of postponing Ankara’s negotiations due to its failure to meet its obligations. Worse still, politicians think that they have a right to act in defiance of the will of the people who actually elect them within the context of our representative democracy. They supposedly know better than the masses. The prospect of Turkey’s EU accession, a development that would undermine the European project, is beginning to look more like a tightrope act by politicians who snub their very source of legitimacy – voters. Hordes of high-minded analysts in Greece, most of them post-communists, are ready to back Turkey’s membership and to slam skeptics as anachronistic or nationalists – as people that is, who are out of place and back in time. Some politicians have already argued that Turkey will fail to live up to European demands and call for leniency. And all at a time when public majorities in Europe and Turkey are against integration.