Italian daily: Turkey links Airbus order to country’s EU membership

Italian daily: Turkey links Airbus order to country’s EU membership quest

Il Sole 24 Ore, Milan
23 Jul 04

Text of editorial: “A closer Turkey”, published by Italian newspaper
Il Sole 24 Ore on 23 July

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan is a politician who is
capable of looking very far ahead. The Ankara prime minister, a
moderate Muslim leading a single-party government which has achieved a
number of successes in the economic sphere to date by giving a fresh
boost to growth and by slashing inflation, knows that his country’s
future is going to have to include membership of the European Union.

Erdogan also knows full well that in order to achieve that target, it
will be necessary to be patient and to wait a few decades. In the
short term, on the other hand, Ankara is looking at a far closer
deadline, namely 17 December when the Commission and the Council,
under the Netherlands duty presidency, will be deciding whether or not
to set in motion negotiations for Turkey’s membership of the European
Union. Beginning negotiations does not mean joining, but it would be
an important start and a diplomatic success for Ankara.

Erdogan has realized that to join Europe he is going to have to win
over France, which has so far been the main opponent of the Islamic
country’s entering into European negotiations. That is why, in the
course of a recent three-day visit to Paris, the Turkish prime
minister met all of the country’s highest authorities, from the Elysee
Palace [president’s official residence], to Matignon [prime minister’s
office], the speakers of both houses of parliament, the leaders of the
Socialist opposition and businesspeople. These contacts were intended
to illustrate the progress the country has made in terms of respect
for human rights and bringing itself into line with the criteria set
for joining the EU.

In the course of his French mission the Turkish prime minister won
President Jacques Chirac’s personal support, the friendship of Prime
Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and the approval of [French Socialist
Party leader] Francois Hollande’s Socialists (although they linked
their approval to recognition of the Armenian genocide), but he also
attracted the outspoken opposition of the UDF [Union for French
Democracy] and the UMP [governing Union for a Popular Movement,
President Chirac’s party], the two centre Right parties, and of
grassroots opinion. So in order to overcome these final barriers
Erdogan played the business card, signing a massive contract for the
purchase of 36 Airbus planes from the French-German consortium. It is
a ticket that cost him 2bn euros, but it might well be worth an option
on membership of Europe.