We need Turkey

We need Turkey

A shared future is the way forward

Sunday October 2, 2005
The Observer

Tomorrow, as long as European Foreign Ministers can agree a common
negotiating position at an emergency meeting today, the EU will start talks
about admitting Turkey to the inner sanctum. Yet although every EU member
state bar Austria, whose objections prompted today’s meeting, officially
endorses Turkey’s candidature, no single country can muster a majority for
entry in opinion polls. The Continent’s electorates, including our own,
don’t regard Turkey as European.

This does not make it right to block Turkey’s application. As Lord Patten, a
former EU commissioner, warned yesterday, such xenophobia reveals a failure
of leadership which can only seriously damage the West’s relations with
Islam. There is a strong case for entry which governments must now start
making. Europe needs Turkey as a custodian of prosperity and democracy and
an exemplar and anchor for all the countries that surround it; it needs
Turkish labour and the Turkish guarantee of oil and gas from central Asia.
Above all, it needs to send a positive message to the 12 million or so
Muslims who already live within Europe.

During the past decade, Turkey has moved heaven and earth to meet the EU
accession criterions and now presents itself as a democratic state and
market economy governed under the rule of law. True, there remains a culture
war in Turkey between those who incline to secularism and those who incline
to fundamentalism. True, too, that one of Turkey’s leading novelists, Orhan
Pamuk, awaits trial in December for raising the subject of the murder of
Armenians during the First World War. Human-rights abuses are routinely
reported and free discussion remains precarious. Such issues should be on
the table for debate on Monday. But the way forward, for Turkey and Europe,
is to maintain the ambition of a shared future.



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