OPINION

The EU and Turkey

Last month the European Commission snubbed Ankara’s demands for giving Turkey a date for EU membership talks. Despite the EU’s rejection, it is a known secret that US diplomats continue to exert strong pressure on the Union, hinging the announcement of a date for EU accession talks to Turkish acceptance of the UN plan on Cyprus’s reunification. A similar incident took place three years ago at the EU summit in Helsinki, when Turkey was granted EU candidate status only for reasons of political expediency. That decision, however, does not reverse the fact that a large majority of the European elite deem that, culturally speaking, Turkey is an alien body – even though this concern is rarely expressed in public. For geopolitical and commercial reasons, EU countries want to see Turkey hitched to the EU train but they are reluctant to consider Turkey as a full member. From an institutional perspective, candidacy is a transit stage to full membership but it is highly unlikely that the EU will ever admit Turkey. At present, the EU states bypass their inconsistent stance by invoking the logical argument that Turkey is far from fulfilling the requisite criteria for membership. Giscard d’Estaing, who chairs the convention that maps out the EU’s strategic vision, voiced what everyone had previously said behind closed doors. However, his categorical and crude manner forced Commission President Romano Prodi to distance himself. The Turkish candidacy, however, has brought back the crucial debate over Europe’s final frontier. Many wonder how the EU will turn down applications from the Caucasus, the Middle East or North Africa – and on what moral or political grounds. The more the EU refuses to put a limit to its expansion, the more it runs the risk of becoming a huge, heterogenous and, in effect, inflexible superstate. There are also concerns about a «variable geometry» system, whereby groups of countries on the European periphery will develop at differing speeds and establish variable links with the core of the EU. The problem is that all interested states are willing to go through lengthy transitional stages but then deem that they have the unnegotiable right to ultimately become full members. But even the notion of variable geometry presupposes a hard core of EU states. Former European Commission President Jacques Delors has said that the EU should give priority to deepening it ties and federalization, stressing that he did not believe in a Europe of 27, 30 or 32 members.