Amidst all the fanfare about negotiations opening on Turkey’s membership, we shouldn’t lose sight of other things that are in the pipeline. EU enlargement commissioner G?nter Verhuegen has just given Bulgaria and Romania the green light for a January 2007 target date.
?For the year 2007 we feel that accession may be appropriate and these two countries will be ready by then,? Verhuegen said.
?Negotiations with Bulgaria are technically speaking closed. We wish to conclude negotiations with Romania by the end of the year, we are aware that this will be difficult.?
Now I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood here. I am perfectly happy with Bulgaria and Romania as EU members, under the right conditions, just as I am happy with Turkish membership. But I do think that Turkey’s point about the same standards being applied is a valid one. I personally – and based among other things on extensive converstaions with migrants from these countries – have plenty of reservations about just how ‘ready’ these societies are if we are using the yardstick currently (correctly) being applied to Turkey. Corruption and lawlessness would be among the issues that immediately spring to mind. So, if there is a time to ‘turn the screw’, it is now.
Mid-term I am still convinced that Turkey will have much more to offer economically. Both Rumania and Bulgaria already suffer from many of the major problems facing existing EU member states – low fertility, rapid ageing, serious problems in paying pensions moving forward – and they have the added problem of the meaningful functioning of their democratic processes. Turkey is already making important steps forward, it would be nice to feel re-assured that the other two were.
Addendum: North Sea Diaries has a spoof text of a speech Erdogan might have made to the Turkish parliament explaining how the EU meets Turkey’s criteria as a suitable place to be. As our diarist wryly puts it “he made it clear the EU would be allowed to join Turkey”. You can find a summary of the speech he actually made in Strasbourg here.