Turkey’s impasse

Turkey’s nomination as an EU candidate country about 30 months ago has brought to the surface the fundamental contradictions of the post-Kemal regime. On the one hand, it sides in favor of EU membership but, on the other, it fears that meeting EU requirements will prove self-destructive. The recent decisions taken by the National Security Council and the meeting between Turkey’s political leaders yesterday that was chaired by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer confirm Ankara’s intention of promoting reforms and thereby moving closer to EU membership. Turkey, however, has done very little at a practical level. Its actions are far removed from the pledges it has made. For this reason, the EU refuses to set a date for the beginning of accession negotiations, despite pressure from Ankara. Turkey must realize that it cannot go for a selective relationship with the EU. Turkey will only be accepted for EU membership if it refashions itself in line with Europe’s political culture. This means that it has to revise its expansionist policy toward Greece and consent to a viable and fair solution to the Cyprus dispute. However, at a time when Turkey’s political and military elite are paying lip service to Europeanization, they are sending dozens of fighter jets over the Aegean to violate Greece’s national air space and – through Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash – they insist on a two-state solution for Cyprus. This attitude, which is typical of the aforementioned contradictions of the post-Kemal regime, is driving Turkey’s EU prospects into a blind alley. The Europeans are not greatly concerned about Greece’s rightful claims. Nor are they permeated by a high level of community solidarity. However, they will not tolerate aggressive behavior, the like of which has long been overcome on the Continent. The way in which Turkey will choose to react to Cyprus’s impending accession – if the political problem has not been resolved in the meantime – will be a crucial test for its administration. The post-Kemal regime is flirting with the idea of causing tension, hoping that it will thereby give the Europeans (who do not wish to inherit the Cyprus dispute) a pretext for torpedoing the island’s accession. Ankara’s stance, as well as the threats leveled by Turkish officials, highlights its poor grasp of European Union procedures and the gap separating it from Europe’s political values.