Reckless Predictions, Pt. 2

EU vote boosts Ukraine membership hopes

by George Parker in Brussels, Raphael Minder in Strasbourg and Tom Warner in Kiev

Financial Times, 13 January 2005

Ukraine’s long-term hopes of joining the European Union were boosted on Thursday when the European parliament voted overwhelmingly to open the door to possible membership. …

Although the parliament’s vote was non-binding, it was a surprisingly strong endorsement of Ukraine’s membership aspirations by the EU’s directly-elected assembly and the clearest sign yet to Kiev that the EU’s door is open.

Deputies voted by 467 votes to 19 in favour of resolution calling for Ukraine to be given “a clear European perspective, possibly leading to EU membership”.

Reckless predictions, looking better and better.

Agenda 2020.

New Europe?
Late Thursday night, the European Council approved, as widely expected, the Commission’s recommendation to open membership negotiations with Turkey, largely without imposing additional conditions to be met prior to the beginning of the talks on October 3, 2005. “The time to start negotiations with Turkey has come,” Commission President Jos? Manuel Barroso said. Council President, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, will discuss the EU proposals Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, over breakfast on Friday.
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A Carnival of Hope

Maybe, just maybe, this will work out right. Positive signs abound. No major violence, police units going over to the people’s side, order among the throngs, volunteers bringing food, boots, whatever the people in the demonstrations need. Crowds in Kiev still in the hundreds of thousands. Miners in thrall to the government few and far between. Rumor and tension, of course, but songs, too, festivities.

If it works out, these are the days that Ukrainians will look back on and say Yes we can. We did.

Even here in Munich, a Ukrainian I know — one from Kharkiv, in the east, and a Russian speaker — said today, “Since 1991, Ukraine has been asleep. But now. My people. Awake.”

And if it goes well, what next?
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Twice Bitten Thrice Shy?

It will probably still take some time until another EU referendum will be held in Norway, given the country’s history of rejecting membership in 1972 as well as in 1994. But a new opinion poll suggests that Norwegian membership-proponents have all reason to smile these days. The “yes”-camp is growing as previously undecided voters seem to join in larger numbers – possibly, as Nick and others already suggested, as a consequence of President Bush’s reelection (via EUbusiness/AFP)

Norwegian supporters of European Union membership now outnumber opponents by a wide margin, 10 years after voters said “no” to joining the bloc in a referendum, a poll published in daily Aftenposten on Monday showed.

According to the survey, conducted by the Opinion institute of 1,000 people between November 8-10, 48 percent of Norwegians are in favour of joining the EU, 38 percent are opposed and 13 percent remain undecided.

Turkish Accession Back On The Slow Track?

Despite the recent revival of optimism about the forthcoming Turkey negotiations following the apparent resolution of the ‘adultery ban’ issue, it is clear to everyone that significant hurdles still remain to be overcome. Among these may now need to be added a referendum on Turkish membership in France.

Turkey will not join the European Union for at least 15 years and could only do so once France had held a referendum on the issue, French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said on Sunday.

?The membership of Turkey, in the best of cases, will not happen for 15 years,? he told LCI television. ?A decision as important as the membership of Turkey in Europe could only be taken after there had been a referendum in France.?…….

He was sceptical about the idea ?not because it is a Muslim country but because Turkey alone represents the membership of the 10 countries (mainly) from eastern Europe?, he said, referring to the countries that joined the bloc this year.

Sarkozy made his comments after French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin voiced misgivings on Thursday about Turkey joining the bloc, asking if Europe really wanted ?the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism?.

Raffarin said Turkey had made progress in adjusting its laws and institutions to EU standards under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, but queried the overwhelmingly Muslim but secular state?s ability to stay the course.
Source: Financial Times

Clearly everyone involved in the debate is aware of the problem of Turkey staying ‘on course’. Clearly also it is difficult for any democrat to object to the principle of ‘citizen consultation’ about important issues, still it is important to note the growing recourse to the referendum as the means of making such consultation (this process will probably reach a climax with next year’s votes on the proposed EU constitution). This would seem to be an additional hurdle for Turkey, given that such a procedure was not followed in the case of the recent round of accession.
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Negotiations For Turkey’s Entry About To Begin?

Not if people like single market commissioner Frits Bolkestein gets his way they aren’t. According to the FT the European Commission is expected to say on October 6 that Turkey has reformed enough for membership negotiations to begin. If this happens EU leaders will then decide in December whether to endorse those conclusions and when to start the talks with Ankara. Mr Bolkestein seems to have problems with this:

A senior European commissioner has warned against the “Islamisation” of Europe, casting doubt on Turkey’s drive to join the European Union at a crucial time for its campaign for membership.

Frits Bolkestein, the outgoing single market commissioner, made the comments as his colleague G?nter Verheugen, the enlargement commissioner, visited Turkey ahead of a key Commission report next month on the country’s preparations for joining the EU.

In his comments, circulated by the Commission yesterday, Mr Bolkestein said Europe would be “Islamised” because of demographic and migration changes. He added that if this occured, “the liberation of Vienna [from the Turks] in 1683 would have been in vain”.
Source: Financial Times

Mr Bolkestein’s problem would therefore not appear to be connected with the legitimate question as to whether Turkey is, or is not, complying with EU criteria on human rights, treatment of minorities etc, but with something which sounds remarkably like an objection in principle. In this sense it is noteworthy as it is clearly a somewhat crude expression of a much broader popular sentiment which Europe’s responsible political leaders need to do much more to combat. My interpretation of the above statement is not altered by the clarification from a spokesperson that the commissioner does “not oppose the accession of Turkey to the EU”, which I take to be spin in the face of what must otherwise be considered in Commission terms a diplomatic gaffe, since if he is not opposed to membership then what the hell is he talking about?

And, oh yes, don’t miss the point about demographic trends. I hazard to suggest that this is going to be the topic of the decade, both economically and politically.