Brussels and the Bosporus

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passage of laws and constitutional amendments abolishing the death penalty and army-dominated security courts; he repealed curbs on free speech, and brought the military budget under civilian control for the first time in Turkish history.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

So read the whole thing.

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, Transition and accession by Doug Merrill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Doug Merrill

Freelance journalist based in Tbilisi, following stints in Atlanta, Budapest, Munich, Warsaw and Washington. Worked for a German think tank, discovered it was incompatible with repaying US student loans. Spent two years in financial markets. Bicycled from Vilnius to Tallinn. Climbed highest mountains in two Alpine countries (the easy ones, though). American center-left, with strong yellow dog tendencies. Arrived in the Caucasus two weeks before its latest war.

6 thoughts on “Brussels and the Bosporus

  1. “December’s vote will be as much about Europe as about Turkey. It is a chance for Europeans to confront their fear of outsiders, and to emerge from centuries of hostility and suspicion directed against the Muslim world.”

    I agree that the vote will be as much about Europe as about Turkey, but not because of a fear of outsiders. Tensions will not be introduced as something new, they already exist, but Turkey’s membership will force Europe to confront issues it is now avoiding, and that can only be a good thing. Multi-religion / multi-culturalism is the obvious thing to be addressed, but perhaps there is another almost as hard: another “big” country (bigger than any except Germany) with a population growing much faster than current members. Big country vs small country problems can only get worse if not tackled properly.

  2. The interesting thing about the issue of Turkey joining the EU is the way it scrambles political alliances. Chirac is against, Schr?der is for; the Dutch are against; the Greeks (or at least their government) are for. Bush is for, but many hard-line neocons, along with elements of the extreme left, are against. Etc.

    I went to Turkey a couple months ago, and one of the questions in the back of my mind was, “Should Turkey be admitted to the EU?” And after ten days, I’m sorry to say I still don’t know. For every sign that Turkey is a stable, secular, Western democracy, there is a corresponding sign that it still has a very long way to go.

    On the whole, I’m tempted to say “why not?” but as an American, I’m no more entitled to comment on the issue than, say, George W. Bush is.

  3. “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.”

    Of course, that would only be true if Turkey becomes a real Europan partner and not an American Trojan horse. In security and defence issues, I guess Turkey will take the same position as Britain. What other reason would there be for the American government to really want Turkey as an EU member?

  4. I don’t think its going to happen. The geopolitical angle is not all positive. Right now Turkey is a gradient descent into the middle east for europe–acting as a bufferzone. Sure the EU can attempt to grapple over the mid east with the US, but the reality is that the EU will border Iraq, Syria, and Iran–it sounds rather odd, no? I’m sure the thought of illegal immigrants coming into Turkey from all three of those countries and becoming EU citizens wil keep a few people up at night. This current gov has tied everything to EU accession and has taken a rather big gamble–something rather amusing for those who would not consider themselves “betting men”. Instead, we should have aimed for the economic benefits and made light of freedom of travel and work conditions–ie full blown membership.

  5. Bush is for, but many hard-line neocons, along with elements of the extreme left, are against. Etc.

    Wow, good!

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