Nine centuries after Pope Urban II sent the first Crusaders off to fight “the Turk,” 321 years after the Ottoman army besieged Vienna, Turkey and Europe are approaching a historic encounter. In December, leaders of European Union countries will vote on whether to begin negotiations that would lead to Turkey’s joining the EU. Every day it seems more likely that they will say yes.
Stephen Kinzer was the New York Times’ bureau chief in Istanbul from 1996 to 2004. He wrote quite a good book about Turkey, hitting the most important items, making the key arguments, but still telling the story vividly. Now he asks “Will Turkey Make It?” a question directed as much at Brussels as at Ankara.
In little more than a year as prime minister, Erdogan has proven himself more committed to democracy than any of the self-proclaimed “secular” leaders who misruled Turkey during the 1990s. He has secured passage of laws and constitutional amendments abolishing the death penalty and army-dominated security courts; he repealed curbs on free speech, and brought the military budget under civilian control for the first time in Turkish history. He authorized Kurdish-language broadcasting, swept aside thirty years of Turkish intransigence on the Cyprus issue, and eased Greek?Turkish tension so effectively that when he visited Athens in May, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis proclaimed that the two countries now enjoyed “a relation of cooperation based on mutual trust.”
Kinzer says yes, most probably, Turkey will make it.
This is an interesting take on the geopolitical angle:
Admitting Turkey would set the EU on an ambitious new path. It could greatly strengthen Europe’s strategic position, giving it added weight in competition with the United States and other powers that might emerge later in the century. With Turkey and the combat-ready Turkish army in its ranks, the EU would be able to speak with a combination of moral authority and military credibility that it has never before been able to claim