Nicosia: Let October 3 be a great day for Turkey

Cyprus Mail
Sept 30 2005

Let October 3 be a great day for Turkey

TURKEY should have been celebrating October 3 as one of the
milestones in its history – after decades in the waiting, at last the
start of full accession talks with the European Union.
No country that has ever started accession talks has failed to join
the EU. But the growing opposition to Ankara’s membership across the
continent suggests Turkey could well be the first to break the mould.

As Monday’s rendez-vous nears, the debate gets more strident by the
hour. Indeed, there is still no agreement on the negotiating
framework, without which talks cannot begin, with Austria holding out
for an explicit alternative to full membership to be written in.
Turkey has said it will walk away from talks if such a clause is
inserted.

The realisation that Turkey’s membership prospects are now for real
has suddenly reminded politicians across Europe of Turkey’s many
democratic shortcomings. People who’d barely heard about Cyprus are
now championing its cause; the European Parliament is suddenly
insisting that Turkey cannot join without acknowledging the Armenian
genocide; many point to the ill-treatment of religious minorities or
the charges laid against novelist Orhan Pamuk for comments on the
massacres of Armenians and Kurds.

They’re right of course. The `deep state’ is far from dead in Turkey,
for all the reforms of the past years, and the country still offers
its critics plenty of sticks with which to beat it. Turkey does
little to help itself with its blustering arrogance, and the
aggressive rhetoric it feels it has to offer its domestic audience to
offset the compromises it is making.

But is it helping anyone to raise all these issues at this stage and
start talks in such a negative climate? Turkey’s accession process is
a win-win for all. The kind of changes Ankara will have to undertake
will address precisely the kind of problems that so many are now
nagging about. This can only be a good thing, anchoring a potentially
unstable country in an institutional and economic framework that over
a decade will erode precisely those fears that many harbour about
Turkey.

If at the end of that process, the Austrian people – or whoever else
– are still implacably opposed to accession, then they will say no,
period. That’s when we can start thinking about special partnerships
and the like – and to have reached that stage, Turkey will in any
case have matured sufficiently not to slam the door and precipitate a
regional crisis.

So let Turkey enjoy its historic moment on Monday, and let’s have the
opportunity over the next decade, step by step, to try and bring the
country into the orbit of democratic values that the European Union
represents.

You may also like