[The observant among you may have noticed that two earlier post-ettes have suddenly disappeared. The even more observant will have noted that they are now over at our sister blog – A Few Euros More – where they should have gone in the first place. I’ve picked up some bug or other and am a little groggy today, I hope it doesn’t show up too much in my argument :).]
Now, yesterday I focused on some relatively trivial examples of inflexibility on the part of the Commission, decisions I argued that did not really serve the interests on the Union itself. Today I have two more to add to the list (one in this post and one in the next), but these have a rather greater import.
Firstly there is the question of formally opening negotiations with Turkey, negotiations over an accession which would take place ten years from now at the earliest. However in recent days it has become evident, to say the least, that not everyone is happy with the conditions as already laid down for the start of negotiations with Turkey.
First off the starting block was Angela Merkel, who repeated her demand that Turkey could be asked to settle for a ?privileged partnership? which would be short of full membership. Now M Merkel is an aspiring Chancellor who has not personally held responsibility for the negotiations to date, as such I think she is entitled to hold whatever opinions she chooses within the context of being coherent with the commitments entered into by her predecessor on behalf of the German state.
Rather different is the case of Jaques Chirac, who appears to have moved from being one of the few major French politicians willing to back Turkish membership, to saying last Friday that Turkey needed to recognise Cyprus, and that the continuing failure to do so ?poses political and legal problems and is not in the spirit expected of a candidate to the union?. Which is fair enough, but couldn’t he have mentioned this earlier?
Now I personally am in favour of Turkey EU membership, partly because they are a ‘young’ society, which I think will be a good balance in an ‘older’ EU. But this is not the only reason. I think having Turkey in the EU will send a message out to the rest of the world about what contemporary European values really are, and I welcome that message. I am aware that others do not, and I think this is a legitimate area of debate. The issue really comes to a head if – as I suspect – a large majority of EU voters polled at this very moment wouldn’t want Turkey as a member. Under these circumstances I think it would be foolhardy to proceed as if this reality wasn’t there. So I think at least a gentle break on the process might be necessary, otherwise we may all collectively face a growing anti-EU backlash at the hands of populist politicians. Politics, surely, is the art of the possible. In this context one could be kind to Chirac and say he was giving everyone a gentleman’s way out.