by MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
We started 2009 with high hopes in regards to relations between Turkey and the EU. AKP finally responded to appeals thus separating the position of the head negotiator from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and appointed Egemen Bağış. Then a huge staff was created for the Office of Secretary General for the European Union. It didn’t stay at that and the prime minister made his first formal visit to Brussels since our candidacy for a membership to the EU was announced in 2004.
We all were excited.
We thought negotiations between Turkey and the EU would accelerate. But Sarkozy and Merkel proposing and constantly repeating a “Privileged Partnership instead of full membership had its effect in discouraging Ankara.
Generally we might split Europe’s view of barriers and inclemency toward Turkey into two.
One is Turkey’s amplitude. Meaning, the possibility of paving the way for shrinkage of power of founding countries in the EU like France and Germany. The other factor is that Turkey is a Muslim country. And Europe is not ready yet to accept a Muslim country in the EU.
These are basic facts not pronounced openly.
Reasons announced publicly are the deadlock in the Cyprus issue, the possibility of the Turkish labor force increasing unemployment in the EU market and deficiencies in political and human rights criteria according to Copenhagen criteria.
Whatever the reason is, the result is bad.
2009 was a bad year in respect to relations between Turkey and the EU.
De facto negotiations have come to a dead end
The present scene creates bitterness and no hopes for 2010.
Negotiations started in 2005.
The number of topics to be discussed was 35.
In 2006 the EU Council froze eight topics because Turkey did not open its ports to its full-member Cypriot ships and did not conform to customs union stating that it will reconsider the situation in December of 2009.
Then France announced that it would block four topics that would directly have an impact on Turkey’s full membership. And on top of that, Cyprus announced a few weeks ago that it has blocked six more topics because Turkey did no open its ports. Thus the number of topics lifted from the negotiation table has amounted to 18. If we consider that 12 topics of minor importance have been discussed until now, only four (education-culture, justice, foreign politics, defense) remain to be opened, which we may call it a “halt of negotiations.”
We need not expect a change in attitude.
The European Union does not signal an acceptance of neither Turkey nor the Islam.
By the way, we should not entirely blame the EU for this conduct in relations.
EU’s attitude killed the excitement in the Turkish public but Turkey also contributed to this conduct.
The most important factor was that it paved the way for alienation with political and economic developments of the AKP government.
The economic and financial crisis eroded the country’s resources. The administration did not want to allocate resources from the public or private sector to reforms necessary for conforming to EU standards. In such a tight period and especially since there was no sign of a full membership in sight, it did not want to spend any money on the EU.
One other important factor was, contraire to its business men, Turkey was earning money in the Middle East, Russia and other regions other than Europe, leaving the EU out in the cold.
Thus due to these developments in the end, negotiations ran on the rocks.
Will we be able to save the ship in 2010?
Expecting relations to resume in 2010 is too optimistic
I don’t think the above scene will change this year.
If the unexpected happens, if we encounter situations we never ever assume possible today then it might change. Otherwise, I believe, the situation will clinch further and become permanent.
What a pity that what has happened after 2005 has spoiled the environment to such an extent that people’s prejudice, economic and financial crises in succession have been so effective which made it hard to get out of the situation.
It is difficult to change these conditions. To be more precise, it will take a long time. And that’s where my pessimism stirs.
EU misses the confederate Cyprus train
The link has reversed. EU does not notice but a new world is being established and Turkey is taking its place.
There is one other fact of which Europe is not aware. And that is that old balances do no longer exist. Old connections, old accounts no longer exist in the heads of those who lead Turkey.
What I’m trying to say is very simple.
Until now Western capitals and media established a connection between a solution in Cyprus and Turkey’s membership to the EU.
For years there was an equation established stating, “Do this and that so we will give you what you want in the EU.”
In 1995 it was agreed with Greek Cypriots to start full membership negotiations in exchange for accepting Turkey to the customs union.
And in 2004 in exchange for the acceptance of the Annan Plan, Turkey obtained a candidacy status and negotiations started.
Do you know when this connection failed?
It was when Turkey broke a huge taboo by accepting the Annan Plan whereas the Greek Cypriots denied and still received full membership. The Greek Cypriots were given the key to the door that leads to Turkey’s full membership. Europe played its cards boorishly.
Thus the EU-Cyprus connection broke.
The EU’s former evasiveness no longer exists.
In the Economist magazine dated Dec. 12, there was still a broad analysis trying to get a message across that implies, “Turkey gets stuck in respect to the EU. In order to get out it needs to take steps toward a solution. Ankara needs to take action.”
How delusive an attitude.
The magazine is probably not aware of the fact that balance and certain things in Turkey have changed. If European capital cities too think that way, I must say they are making a big mistake.
The EU no longer is a matter that causes Turkey to make important sacrifices.
Turkey quickly changes.
Europe is probably not aware that it is not only losing Turkey but also the possibility of creating a united Cyprus.
The European Union for Turkey is no longer a piece of carrot worth catching.
I’d like to draw attention to the fact that this connection has been reversed.
If Europe still targets or dreams about a united Cyprus and wants to prevent a split never to unite again, then it needs to change its attitude toward Turkey.
In order not to lose a united Cyprus, Europe needs to work up an appetite and prepare carrots to spurn the excitement for Turkey.
Now the world is changing and Turkey will find its place in this newly established world
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