Luxembourg compromise.

Something is happening. Although not in Berlin, apparently. The SPD’s steering committe has not (yet officially) accepted what appeared to be an offer from Mr Schröder to pursue coalition strategies that would not include him. Since the SPD’s chairman, Franz Müntefering, explained later that the party’s goal were still a government led by Gerhard Scröder as Chancellor, Mr Schröder’s statement could also be interpreted as tactical move aimed at forcing Angela Merkel to do the same, hoping that the CDU’s more intense internal rivalry might cause her to have to live up to her proposal. Either way, much ado about nothing in Germany today – Meanwhile, in Luxembourg…

Following marathon negotiations, on late Monday afternoon the Austrian government finally withdrew its reservations to the negotiation framework for EU accession talks with Turkey in exchange for only marginal changes to the text. Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik also reiterated that Austria would hold a referendum on Turkish membership should that be the proposed result of the negotiations which will likely last for a decade at least.

While news agencies and their clients – here Spiegel Online (in German) – report that the Turkish cabinet under Prime Minister Erdogan had accepted the EU’s offer and that the Turkish foreign minister Gül were now heading to Brussels in order to attend the – postponed – ceremony marking the official opening of the accession talks, a spokesperson for the British EU presidency would not confirm this.

Interestingly, earlier today, the UN’s war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte – who was not overly excited about Croatia’s compliance with the UN tribunal, especially concerning the case of Croatian General Ante Gotovina, as late as last Friday, and who stated after a meeting with Croatia’s president Stjepan Mesic that “You cannot imagine how disappointed I am,” – on Monday appeared in Luxemburg to declare “I can say that, for a few weeks now, Croatia has been cooperating fully with us and is doing everything it can to locate and arrest Ante Gotovina”.

Ms Del Ponte’s verdict clears the way to continue Croatia’s accession talks with the EU, which have been interrupted since March, predominantly due to Zagreb’s unwillingness to extradite their fugitive General Gotovina. Negotiations could be resumed as early as November, according to a EU diplomatic source cited in a report by the Southeastern European Times.

Austria has long been championing Croatia’s membership cause within the EU – see Doug’s post below – and as the EUObserver suggests – “…the breakthrough on Croatia allowed Austria to retreat from its very hard demands on Turkey’s EU negotiation mandate.”

It will be interesting to follow the reports regarding the development of such a timely reversal in Ms Del Ponte’s judgement. It will be equally interesting to find out which price the Austrian government will have to pay in EU politics for its rather undiplomatic recent behavior when it takes over the EU’s rotating presidency from the UK in January 2006.

22 thoughts on “Luxembourg compromise.

  1. CDU’s more intense internal rivalry might cause her to have to live up to her proposal

    Mr. Schröder personally may want her head. The SPD certainly doesn’t. An unpopular chancellor is in the SPD’s interest.

    If the SPD budges it will do so at the last moment. Until then there will of course be a lot of selflessly sounding rhethoric. Unfortunately it is meaningless. We’ll learn the truth when president Köhler starts the process.

    Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik also reiterated that Austria would hold a referendum on Turkish membership should that be the proposed result of the negotiations which will likely last for a decade at least.

    Why waste all ammo now? There will be better times. She’s right stating that ten years are a long time.

  2. The answer to if Turkey should join the EU or not really lies with the way the EU function itself. Until the EU becomes fully democratic, we would continue to have problems.We have an EU that functions irrespective of the wishes & voices of it’s member states citizen, and yet we claim to live in democratic EU states. Polls after polls conducted on this issue have continously showed that majority of EU citizens oppose the entry of Turkish membership into the EU, yet the EU continues to press ahead against the wishes of it’s citizen. The rejected referandum in France & the Netherlands showed that the issue of Turkey’s membership was one of the main reason for rejection (amongst other reasons),Yet the EU continues to press ahead against the wishes of it’s citizen. This is an EU that does not understand NO and would try & try again till they get the YES answer they want – This is no democracy. The EU treats it’s citizen with upmost comtempt. The EU never asked any member states about expansion plans, what we have is this ruling elite that knows what is best for the millions of EU citizens and not accountable to no one. Austria is absolutely right when they reject the Turkish request based on concerns of her citizens. Afterall, they are only expressing the 80% of Austrians that do not accept Turkish entry request. Can the same be said about britain, even when polls suggests that the number of people against Turkey’s entry is more than the number in support. Jack Straw then claimed that majority of EU citizens supports Turkey’s entry. really? His statements comes as no surprise from a discredited goverment that has no shred of integrity left.Trust them to always spin the truth. EU citizens rightly rejects Turkey’s entry request because they no that if Turkey joins the EU,that would be the begining of the End of the EU. Turkey’s reforms are not permanent and everyone knows that once membership/entry is given,they would start to backtrack on reforms. Human rights is still questionable (see Amnesty Int’l report), women’s rights are still non-existent, the military is still too powerful over the govmt & the executive. Also Turkey wants to join the EU without recognzing Cyprus. How could a new member join the EU & refuses to recognize a fellow member-state – this is never acceptable. Jack Straw then argues that Turkey should join the EU for fear of clash in civilizations – really?, is that the new entry criteria for joining the EU – Fear? Joining are based on well-defined criteria that should not be relaxed. And lastly, why should the EU be ashamed to be known as a christain club? Islamic states like Saudi Arabia,Kuwait,Iran,Turkey are not afraid of been known as Islamic States. The USA is a christain country and are not ashamed to say so.

    As such, I do not think Turkey should join the EU.
    It’s not just the culture clash, but Turkey is just not qualified to join the EU. A lot of the reforms being carried out now by Turkey would be rescinded upon once membership is given. And to say that to allow a bridge between muslim nation & the west is not enough EU criteria for joining the EU.And besides, how can a member state join and don’t recognise another member state. Turkey would be used by the USA to veto key EU decisions,hence,why washington is eager,if not anxious for Turkey to join.

    But sadly, in all these,the views of EU citizens are not been taking into consideration. What kind of a democracy is the EU that overules her citizen by a small group of elite rulers on major issues like EU expansion.The day Turkey joins the EU would be the begining of the decline of the EU weakened by cultural clashes and internal disputes. Is it not ironic to EU citizens that our grand/great-grand fathers fought many wars to secure our freedom & democracy only to find out that this is been given away little-by-little.

    The EU citizens have spoken, it’s time the EU listens to them for the first time.

  3. it’s time the EU listens to them for the first time.

    you mean second time. Remember the referendum on the constitution? From the looks of it, you can have one on Turkish membership some 15 years later when its closer to reality. So whats the big deal? All this looks like is a “Never say never” clause.

  4. And lastly, why should the EU be ashamed to be known as a christain club? Islamic states like Saudi Arabia,Kuwait,Iran,Turkey are not afraid of been known as Islamic States.

    uh, Turkey kind of is. Remember, it flipped out when Colin Powell referred to it as a “role model Islamic state”.

  5. I’ll believe people like Brenden, if ever, only if they asked for a direct citizen election of either a real Parliament, like in UK, or of the EU executive. Until then I’ll keep thinking that’s unpurged Nazism, like in Austria.

    DSW

  6. I’ll believe people like Brenden, if ever, only if they asked for a direct citizen election of either a real Parliament, like in UK, or of the EU executive. Until then I’ll keep thinking that’s unpurged Nazism, like in Austria.

    Now that’s a bit unfair. Isn’t it possible to believe in a “real” Parliament and oppose Turkish membership? Blanket classifications leave me cold.

  7. So this worked out well, as far as I can tell, as these things normally do. Both Croatia and Turkey got in for accession talks. Both of them are on notice to improve their behavior before they have a real chance of joining. Croatia knows it has to improve its cooperation with the war crimes tribunal, and Turkey is on record for its human rights, religious freedom, and relations with other countries.

    Seems like a win-win to me. Hopefully, as these things have historically happened, both Croatia and Turkey will become more democratic and more respectful of human rights.

  8. Did Merkel and co say anything about the opening of Turkish accession talks and the non-inclusion of the privileged partnership option?

  9. The polls I’ve seen show +25% of EU population actively opposed to Turkish membership, +20% for it, and the rest indifferent or undecided. That is hardly overwhelming opposition.

    As for the actual issues, it is obvious that Turkey needs to have a full market economy, respect human rights and democracy, have an independent judiciary, stop state distortion of history, have good relations with EU states including Cyprus and so on like any other EU member to become one. They have ten years to work on it, and my guess is they will make it, although my crystal ball is hazy. If not, they will not and should not become members. All this is beside the point, the question now is do they get a shot at it, and I think they deserve one.

    And Brennan, the idea that once a member Turkey could somehow back-track on reforms, after having signed binding treaties to the opposite and the Euro courts watching over them is, well… ignorant to the point of insane.

  10. Well one thing was proved yesterday. De Gaulle was right when he opposed British membership in the European Union.

    Time for Britain to withdraw and let mainland Europe decide its own future without further outside interventions. They have been pushing a US inspired agenda that will be to the detriment of Europe.

  11. it is a sad end for EU, in 92 we dreamed about an Europe between Europeans, that is mean with people with who we can have an affinity and thus make things happen.

    yesterday, the dream was just stolen, we can not build anything, we can not have an european identity anymore.

    we will be better of to stop this mascarade, go out from EU and rebuild something between France and Germany.

  12. No fredouil, I’m personally quite happy with a wider EU that includes the former eastern european nations. I am currently working in eastern europe and I wouldn’t move back to the ‘west’ for anything.

    It is a vibrant, interesting corner of Europe and it needs our help. Why do we need to get ourselves mixed up in god knows what mess in Turkey when we have so much to sort out in our own back yard?

    This is the first time that Europe directly negotiates with a country that actively engages in the torture of its citizens, occupies another EU member country and threatens its neighbours.

    I would agree with Edward’s view that we must help Turkey but why should we do it to our detriment ?

    From what I have seen, all objections are simply brushed aside and all concerns are swept under the carpet. These negotiations are going to be a complete joke, just like the views of European citizens are a joke to the political elite in Brussels.

    Has anyone seriously considered the financial implications of this ? For one, eastern EUROPE will take a lot longer to catch up with the west while we are out throwing money at some corner of Asia we have no business being in in the first place.

  13. It is a vibrant, interesting corner of Europe and it needs our help. Why do we need to get ourselves mixed up in god knows what mess in Turkey when we have so much to sort out in our own back yard?

    Not slamming the door shut now means that the EU will be able to play a constructive and extremely intrusive role in Turkey’s development over at least the next ten years (and indefinitely, should Turkey become a member). Turkish accession will take at least that long, and even then a great many people, some of them in high office and not all of them fools, will say it happened too fast.

    As indeed they said about the accession of the ten newest members.

    It was not at all foreordained that central Europe would be vibrant and interesting, firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic structures, a decade and a half after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Imagine unreformed Meciar in Slovakia, little Lukashenkos in the Baltics, pan-Magyar agitation and Trianon revisionism in Budapest, a Poland tending toward the wacko end of Marian nationalism, and so on. None of these alternatives is terribly far from reality, and the steady work of the EU’s minions has helped orient the region toward the wider world, toward a common future, toward a Europe (you’ll pardon the Bushism I hope, since it’s from the father) whole and free.

    Enlarging the area of peace, law, stability and trade is Europe’s key task here in the early 21st century. It would be a shame if faintheartedness brought that to a stop at the edge of the Bosporus.

    (I do have thoughts on the limits of the EU, and they are here.)

  14. Well to call a spade a spade, this process was deadlocked until the US intervened and put real pressure on the austrians which is more or less what will happen with the actual ‘negotiations’.

    I dont know how much Turkey feels that it will have to change since now they know that no matter what the opposition ‘big brother’ will twist any arm to get its protege into this country club.

    I’m sorry if i’m not buying all this scaremongering about the clash of cililizations etc. , I didnt buy that WMD story either and this seems to be coming from the same source.

    As for the limits to the EU… interesting list Doug, however, now with Turkey on board I think you are forgeting Israel. A country with a largely European population so the arguments that were used against Turkey don’t apply here. And as you say:

    ‘Enlarging the area of peace, law, stability and trade is Europe’s key task here in the early 21st century’

    So how long before the US dumps that baby on our doorstep as well ?

  15. “Wide” Europe, that is, Europe as a big free trade area, may well find itself facing increasing irrelevance even as it expands. As the world approaches the point where free trade becomes the normal general relationship among states (à la WTO), one has to ask the question what is the point of any particular free trade association. Turkey might well ask the question, if free trade can be enjoyed through bilateral and international agreements, without the intrusive influence on its domestic politics that EU accession must have, why bother with accession?

    This applies doubly so if the EU maintains its protectionist tendencies towards certain industries (such as agriculture), and the choice facing a state bordering the EU regarding accession is whether to enjoy free trade with these neighbors, or with those.

  16. “Turkey might well ask …”?
    “the intrusive influence on its domestic politics that EU accession must have”?

    who is Turkey? what if the people living in Turkey do want such “intrusive influence”? As a Spaniard that makes me think to Spain situation in the past, Franquistas abominated the exigences of the EEC, but most of us, who had a clear knowledge of how was life in more democratical states, such exigences were pure Gospel.

    DSW

  17. Turkey might well ask the question, if free trade can be enjoyed through bilateral and international agreements, without the intrusive influence on its domestic politics that EU accession must have, why bother with accession?

    The short answer, I think, is that among the population, EU membership is shorthand for prosperity. And who doesn’t want to be richer? “European” is also shorthand for modern, which is an aspirational word as well. Those two promises legitimize quite a bit of changes to domestic law.

    the choice facing a state bordering the EU regarding accession is whether to enjoy free trade with these neighbors, or with those.

    Well, you’d want to trade with the neighbors that are rich. Right?

    now with Turkey on board…

    Well, with the door open and the long slog through the acquis underway … there is still a lot of work to be done before even thinking about incorporating other parts of the Roman Empire into the European Union.

    Turkish accession will be hard work – the population is twice as big as Poland’s and per capita GDP is two-thirds that of Poland. EU institutions are not ready. But they might be in 10 years. Let’s not forget that with delays, derogations and the slow pace of EU budget frameworks, the real timetable for Turkish integration is something like a quarter of a century. Even by EU standards, that’s enough time to accomplish quite a bit.

  18. Well even in a quarter of a century, I don’t consider the prospect of having the EU sharing a border with countries such as Syria, Iran or Iraq particularly thrilling, nor the fact that Turkey will be one day the country with the biggest voting power within the EU institutions, considering how proud and touchy it already is.

    Turkey is definitely a big player in the region and will be even more in the future and the EU needs to have strong ties, but I’m not convinced at all it has a place in EU, being too big, too poor and of a remotely European culture. I think the emphasis is really on the size, if Turkey was 10 times smaller I don’t think anyone would mind too much. But that the major country in the EU will one day be Turkey is worrying considering its place in the European family is at least questionable.

    Oh well, I guess George W Bush project for the “Greater Middle East” is worth throwing the EU in jeopardy…

  19. Hervé, Turkey in the EU has nothing uniquely Bushian to it. In fact Bushians abound more in the recent entries. Turkey has enough elements that difference them from their Asian neighbours and that approximate them to their Western neighbours. Turkey had a 100 million inhabitants? Lets fuse Spain and Italy! Oh, they don’t want that, how come? Isn’t power not the only thing that matters? Fact is in the EU small states are overrepresented respect to their population.

    DSW

  20. Still, it’s pretty obvious Britain and the US favour Turkey joining because they believe it will help turning the EU in a large free-market zone for good, with no political will whatsoever.

    As for the Bushians within the new EU members, I believe things are slowly evolving considering the mess in Iraq. I’m not sure most of them will be so keen to jump on the bandwagon next time…

  21. Turkey did not jump on the bandwagon when the USA asked to use their territory, not even with quite big monetary compensations.

    As to the EU as a simple free trade zone, I do think that it’s not what interests Turks. I believe that they have the same attitude people in Spain had when the were seeking memberhood. If I’m not wrong, Spanish opinion is amongst the most Europhiles in the EU.

    DSW

  22. Turkish accession will be hard work – the population is twice as big as Poland’s and per capita GDP is two-thirds that of Poland.

    How big will it be in 2025?

    But they might be in 10 years.

    How will the prospect of Turkish membership change the development of the EU’s institution. I don’t think we can simply assume that there will be a development to closer cooperation and more majority decisions.

    As to the EU as a simple free trade zone, I do think that it’s not what interests Turks.

    There already is a customs agreement.

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