Turkey Fails To Delight

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but there seems to have been a deafening silence on outcomes following last weeks ‘informal’ EU foreign ministers gathering in Newport. The only thing I have been able to find was a piece from Radio Free Europe which informed me that ‘No News Is Good News‘. Possibly, but this doesn’t explain the reasons for the blackout.

Meantime all the headlines are stolen today by the results of a survey of EU opinion on the accession question conducted for the German Marshall Fund.

The survey – based on one thousand interviews conducted across the following nine EU countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and the UK – show public support for Turkey membership declining sharply. According to the survey more Europeans think that Turkey’s membership of the EU is a “bad thing” (29%) than a “good thing” (22%). Two fifths (42%) think it is “neither a good nor bad thing”. This contrasts with 2004 findings , when 30% of the interviewees thought it was a good thing and only 20% considered it a bad thing.

As to the reasoning behind the opinions, as the FT notes, this seems one more time to be unclear:

In all, 59 per cent reject the argument that Turkey does not belong in the EU because it is a mainly Muslim country, 62 per cent disagree with the argument that it is too populous, 62 per cent that it is too poor.

Note these percentages relate to people rejecting the indicated arguments, which leaves you asking yourself what it is exactly they are all objecting to.

One odd knock on effect of all this is indicated by the FT in another article, where it quotes Ron Asmus, executive director of the GMF’s Transatlantic Centre in Brussels, as saying:

The Bush administration has got to be disappointed by these numbers,”

This would presumeably be because he finds himself in the uncomfortable position of backing the European ‘political elite’ against EU voters. Of course, the anti-US , anti-globalisation camp will just love the irony in this.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

16 thoughts on “Turkey Fails To Delight

  1. Perhaps people have a problem with the Union admitting a country that perpetrates wide-spread human rights abuses, yet denies that these even exist, even when they lead to the periodic Kurdish insurrection.

  2. “Perhaps people have a problem with the Union admitting a country that perpetrates wide-spread human rights abuses”

    Yes, but I guess both sides of the debate are concerned about that side of things. The EU is monitoring this, and has recorded progress in this area. In addition the debate is really about how to help Turkey improve its human rights performance. One of the strong arguments in favour of Turkey joining is that this should strengthen the reformers hand. I don’t know how people who oppose Turkey entry suggest that keeping them out will help, I’d be interested to hear on this.

    On the Kurdish question, as this article suggests, if Turkey is pushed further away then this could strengthen the arm of the restive generals, and so in fact the Kurds might find themselves worse off if that is the principal concern.

    Of course I think the Turkey frustration bit is all part of the game, I think the negotiations will start on or around the 3 October, and I think Turkey will be eager and willing.

  3. One of the strong arguments in favour of Turkey joining is that this should strengthen the reformers hand. I don’t know how people who oppose Turkey entry suggest that keeping them out will help, I’d be interested to hear on this.

    On the Kurdish question, as this article suggests, if Turkey is pushed further away then this could strengthen the arm of the restive generals, and so in fact the Kurds might find themselves worse off if that is the principal concern.

    A peculiarity of Turkish politics is that its ‘liberal’ movement, from which one would hope to see progress in the field of human rights, is (i) also a strongly nationalistic movement, so good news for them is bad news for the Kurdish minority and for normal relations with Cyprus and Armenia, and (ii) a movement backed by threat of military intervention, that doesn’t mind stepping on the populace’s political rights to implement its policies.

    While I agree that many good things for Turkey might come out of its closer integration with Europe, I also think there are parallels between supporting the Turkish secular government against its Islamist rivals, and the policy the U.S. pursued in the 1980’s of supporting the Ba’athist movement against its Islamist rivals. The question is, where does supporting a movement that confessedly does appeal to a minority of the electorate become giving carte blanche to authoritarianism?

  4. “The question is, where does supporting a movement that confessedly does appeal to a minority of the electorate become giving carte blanche to authoritarianism?”

    I suppose my answer to this, which I do think is a good question, would be to say that it depends at which stage in the development process the society is. I think trying to do this with Turkey say 30 years ago would have been a fools errand. I happen to think that Turkey has now taken off economically, and is well on the way to becoming a modern society. I am much more optimistic about this happening in Turkey, than I am – say – in Russia. So that’s why I think the effort is worthwhile: this is the right intervention, at the right time. It couldn’t be done in say, Pakistan, and you may well be right in suggesting that mid-term our policy in favour of supporting authoritarianism there may be deeply problematic.

    Of course, you don’t want me to start going on about demographics again to try and justify this :).

  5. @ Marcin

    This has got nothing whatever to do with the post here, but I did enjoy reading your blog description of walking thru Portswood on a Saturday afternoon.

  6. Of course, you don’t want me to start going on about demographics again to try and justify this :).

    Let me guess: you observe that Turkey’s fertility rate has just in the past few years declined to replacement level, and from this, you conclude that its boom generation is presently in childhood and adolescence.

    Since this generation will dominate the Turkish political scene for most of their lives, if they can be brought on board the liberal platform today, then democracy and liberalism will no longer be opposed tomorrow, since even if they give birth to a generation of angry young reactionaries, they will still be more numerous than their offspring.

    Sounds plausible, anyway. 🙂

  7. you conclude that its boom generation is presently in childhood and adolescence.”

    Yes, you got it. It’s about to become a young adult society. That’s the theory, now let’s see if it works.

    And remember all this is about how this will have evolved 10 ten years from now.

  8. I fail to see why Turkish membership has to be an all-or-nothing proposition. What about giving Turkey some form of special association with the EU that is short of full membership, in recognition of the differences between it and the rest of the EU?

  9. “I fail to see why Turkish membership has to be an all-or-nothing proposition.”

    Well Peter, you are right, it doesn’t *have* to be, but as things stand it is, since this is what they have been offered: full membership, and the negotiations have been committed to on this basis. So there is the not unimportant question of the *word* of the EU here.

    Angela Merkel is questioning this outcome, as, it appears is Austria. I personally am posting about this survey since even though I do think Turkey should *eventually* become a full member – maybe the partnership people are talking about would be really interesting in the case of India – I don’t think that this should be pushed regardless of what EU citizens actually think.

    We can’t criticise the EU for being ‘unresponsive’ and ‘wooden’ and then forget this just because we like the outcome.

    I don’t think Turkey *membership* should be pushed so hard it undermines the long term evolution of the political union. Having said that I think if our political leaders were campaigning on the right issues, people might understand better why having a young and populous Turkey might be a good thing.

    As I don’t stop repeating 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.

    I think it is veeeery important to keep in mind that we are talking about ten years from now, and we need to think globally (what will the world be like in 2014) and we need to think strategically (the EUs relations with the developing world, which we will want as markets and sources of investment for our savings, given our ageing gradient). So while I don’t agree with Schröder on many things, I do agree with him that Merkel is making a huge strategic error in terms of Europe’s future interests.

  10. Two pieces of news today add to the complexity of the situation.

    This one in the EU observer seems to say that the ambassadors are deadlocked about how to react to the common Cyprus declaration. This explains the silence.

    And this one in the FT indicates the extent of the presure inside Turkey. Also I suspect events over the border in Iraq may also be increasing activity among the Kurds, who may feel a ‘now or never’ situation is approaching.

    “In spite of attempts by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, to reach out to the separatist Kurds, a rise in demonstrations and violent incidents involving nationalists and Kurdish separatist sympathisers has led to hundreds of arrests in recent weeks.”

    “Now you can see why this government cannot make any more concessions on Cyprus,” a diplomat said, referring to intense pressure on the Turkish government from some of its counterparts in the EU to recognise the government of Cyprus, an EU member, before the accession process begins, or as soon as possible after that.

    Many who have reservations about Turkey membership point, as does Marcin, to the situation in the Kurdish part of Turkey. Again, I am unclear what is being proposed. Should the EU be favouring the establishment of an independent Kurdistan (to include parts of Turkey, parts of Iraq and parts of Syria)? If so what would be the relationship of this new state with the EU? Would Turkey be a more or a less acceptable member of the EU if Kurdistan were a separate state? These are large questions, and really they need addressing.

    If we look at Kosovo for guidance, the EU has consistently opposed the creation of a separate state, and it is only the US which has indicated that this might be a possible outcome.

    I think here it is important to remember that the EU is a union of *states*, and these tend to be very nervous about any issues which involve re-drawing nation state frontier boundaries: Scotland, N Ireland, Flanders, Corsica, Basque Country, Catalonia, Gibraltar etc etc.

    Personally I favour the EU’s evolution into a union of regions, shedding the nation states at some point, then we would really be something more akin to the US of A.

  11. The problem with Turkey is that almost no one in Turkey accepts European notions of human rights and cultural freedoms. The secularists are (in general) authoritarian, pro-military, and virulently anti-Kurdish, and have no problems with ethnic cleansing and historical genocide. This comes up again and again, most notably recently with the court case against Orhan Pamuk. This is a clear free speech case, and the Turkish government continues to fail these kind of things. Recognition of Cyprus is another one. It’s crazy to expect Turkey to accede to the Union without recognizing the government of one of the member states. The secularists, in general, are hyper-nationalists, and don’t believe in respect for minorities or human rights.

    The religous parties are actually more ethnically inclusive and less hyper-nationalist, but they don’t believe in equal rights for women or many individualistic human rights. So they are a problem too.

    At some point this problem has to be faced. I’m in favor of accession talks starting, but I can’t see Turkey entering the EU unless the political situation fundamentally changes, and the hyper-nationalist tone of Turkish political discourse changes.

    I feel like people who are in favor of Turkish accession are blithely ignoring these issues in many cases. There’s no way Turkey can get in unless they generally accept European human rights standards. At this time, they fundamentally don’t, and they want the freedom to occupy other countries and massacre their own citizens with impunity. Unless this mindset changes over the course of accession negotiations, they won’t get in.

  12. Frankly I think this type of thing from Jack Straw doesn’t help. If you have to put up with this every day in the UK you have my sympathy:

    “Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned of “terrible” repercussions for co-existence with the Muslim world if the European Union fails to follow through on the process for admitting Turkey to the union. “We cannot afford to get this wrong,” Straw said Thursday in a speech in which he argued for Turkey to begin long-awaited accession talks on October 3 despite Ankara’s refusal to recognise the government of Cyprus. “By welcoming Turkey we will demonstrate that Western and Islamic cultures can thrive together as partners in the modern world. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate,” he said.”

    This sounds more like a threat than an argument. All of this needs de-dramatising.

  13. While I would be interested in knowing more about who’s thinking of a Europe of regions, I’d like to first address the question of Turkish human rights. I think that it is not so much a question of helping the Turks become a better state as a matter of the uniformity of standards throughout the union.

    Citizens of the Union have a right to expect that their basic human rights will be respected in any country of the union that they travel to, permanently or temporarily; that basic judicial standards will be upheld in realtion to their property, information, and investments abroad; and finally that commercial transactions take place within a legal framework and that their legally purchased goods will not be interfered with by the authorities.

    There can be no true common market between the current EU states and a state that does not respect basic norms, which extend beyond the purely commercial – even if private transactions are secure, one cannot deal with a society where one’s associates may disappear, and where one is not free to say what one wishes.

    Beyond the commercial considerations, if your idea of the European Union is as a single area sharing common values and laws, we cannot have areas where the most basic freedoms are not available. This would be like allowing areas of a country to fall under the control of criminal gangs, which we can confidently say has not been good for Northern Ireland.

  14. I feel like people who are in favor of Turkish accession are blithely ignoring these issues in many cases.

    I have to 100% agree with this point. One reads endlesly about how the EU will help the secularists. It is the secularists who created wide human and civil rights problems, the mass killings of the Kurds, and before that the laws sayign speakign Kurdish was illegal, the invasion and hard line on Cyprus, and even the prosecution of Pamuk.

    If the issues were only economic or cultural I would say that the idea of EU entry being theraputic for Turkey could be in the the debate. But the idea of EU entry before Ankara stops its human rights abuses and its threats against its neighbors is an non starter.

  15. “we cannot have areas where the most basic freedoms are not available.”

    “But the idea of EU entry before Ankara stops its human rights abuses and its threats against its neighbors is an non starter.”

    David, Marcin….

    But aren’t we all agreed about this, I mean is anybody proposing that Turkey be admitted *before* human rights abuses end?

    I thought the debate was between those who favoured entry after Turkey has transformed itself (and this is why accession is not being considered before 2014) and those who, even if Turkey meets the human rights conditions still doesn’t want it as a member. This was the understanding I had.

    Of course there could be another sub-debate between those who demand that Turkey comply on human rights: focusing basically over whether more time is needed to achieve those objectives. But again, the current target date is an *at the earliest* one.

    “I think that it is not so much a question of helping the Turks become a better state as a matter of the uniformity of standards throughout the union.”

    What I don’t see is that these two objectives need necessarily be in conflict. I think there is no question, human rights should be applied uniformly.

    “While I would be interested in knowing more about who’s thinking of a Europe of regions,”

    Well I think this current is strong in all those regions which have a strong identity of their own which they don’t feel is reflected in the identity of the nation state which in theory represents them. I think this is an interesting topic in itself, and maybe for another occassion.

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