Turkish Accession Talks And The French Vote

People in Turkey are getting nervous. If French voters reject the Consitution Treaty later this month, it will be for a whole string of reasons, none of which necessarily are related to any of the others. Some will vote against the treaty because it is perceived as removing sovereignty too much, others because they feel it leaves too much room for national sovereignty (the ‘social dumping’ debate). But possibly ‘no’ voters hold one view in common: they don’t like the idea of Turkey joining the EU.

Now many of the consequences of a ‘no’ vote – if ‘no’ vote there be – are unforseeable. But one distinct possibility would be that among the items contained in the ‘plan B’ rescue package would be a proposal to review the state of play with the Turkey accession process. This possibility is exercising the mind of Morgan Stanley’s Serhan Cevic no end. Mine to. Full declaration: I support Turkey’s *eventual* membership of the EU.

Cevic’s argument is straight forward enough:

The constitution?s fate has no direct relevance to Turkey?s accession talks. No EU institution has a right to alter the December 17 decision to start membership talks with Turkey on October 3, as long as Turkey fulfils the remaining two requirements ? the ratification of the new penal code and the extension of the association agreement to cover new EU members ? and, of course, the EU does not collapse. The European Commission has already made it clear that Turkey?s accession talks are not conditional to the ratification of the European constitution. Furthermore, even if the EU decides to abandon the constitutional treaty, there would be sufficient time to amend existing treaties to keep the accession process on track.

Many the strongest of his arguments here is that the whole credibility of the EU as an institutional structure would be put into question by any tampering with the Turkey accession process in the light of gridlock over the constitution. Remember that since the enlargement to 25 the two most important initiatives agreed to have been: the constitution treaty and opening negotiations with Turkey.

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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".

17 thoughts on “Turkish Accession Talks And The French Vote

  1. Totally true that the “constitution?s fate has no direct relevance to Turkey?s accession talks”.

    But I wonder if the opinion of the people/voters inside the EU doesn?t count for anything?
    I mean AFAIK a majority in several EU countries is opposed or worried about Turkey joining the EU.
    There is already a feeling that the EU officials are totally removed from the “normal” accountability of national elections.
    (Personally I?m undecided/slightly worried about the topic.)

    You can only push people so far.
    Or better said, at some point the usual political talk won?t work anymore.
    Like (for example in Germany):
    – Enlarging the EU is a matter of peace or war.
    – Enlargement is good for the economy.
    – Anyone having objections is a populist and therefore not worthy of a hearing.
    – And anyway the population shouldn?t have a say in these important matters. 🙂

    You can?t enlarge the EU further and further (with the accompanying obligations) without discussions and convincing your voters first.
    And, I?m sorry to say that this doesn?t happen in many EU member states. Certainly not in my country, Germany.

    Just look at the budget “talks”.
    Who pays and who gets how much money?
    Spain wants to retain its funds, Great Britain wants to retain its rebate and Germany and other countries don?t want to pay more than 1% of its GDP. Just as an example.

    Who?s gonna pay for a Turkey inside the EU?
    What about the right of residence and work anywhere in the EU?
    When we already have problems with low-wage workers from Eastern Europe?

    These points should be discussed with the voters before deciding anything.

  2. Just an addition.

    Mountains still to climb


    “Yet, as one EU diplomat in Ankara says, the biggest obstacle to Turkish membership is not the EU: it is Turkey. In part, this is a question of understanding. The Turks see EU accession as a matter of genuine negotiation: if they make concessions, they expect concessions in return (eg, on northern Cyprus, see article). In reality, the talks are just about assuming the obligations of the EU’s acquis communautaire. These include not just boring single-market measures but such broader concerns as human rights, the treatment of minorities and religious and democratic freedoms.

    Mr Erdogan insists that none of these is any longer a problem for Turkey. His reforms over the past year included scrapping state security courts, cementing civilian control of the army, allowing Kurdish-language teaching and broadcasting, and shaking up the police and judiciary. Yet negative incidents happen too often: Christian churches are harassed, the Greek Orthodox seminary near Istanbul remains closed, a new military crackdown has begun against Kurdish PKK terrorists (and civilians) in the south-east. The prime minister talks of ?provocations?, a word he uses to describe a women’s protest in early March that was broken up violently by police in front of the television cameras.”

    “Turkey has clearly improved in its observance of human rights and its treatment of Kurds and other minorities, but it still has a lot more to do to match European standards. This makes a recent speech by General Hilmi Ozkok, the army’s chief of staff, interesting and, in some respects, troubling. The general observed that Turkey had a security interest in northern Cyprus, that allegations of genocide against Armenians in 1915 had no basis and that the Americans were not doing enough to stamp out PKK terrorists in northern Iraq. He also stressed that secularism was the driving force of Turkey’s democracy, and that the Turkish state must remain an indivisible whole.”

  3. Is there not some way for Turkey to have a special status vis-a-vis the EU? I understand that Turkey would benefit, in many ways, from joining the EU, and there is of course the Ataturkian inheritance, which inspires Turks to feel that joining the EU is the culmination of their national revival (if it can be called that); nevertheless, I find it hard to understand how positive joining the EU would be for Turkey since there is so clearly so much anti-Muslim and nativist (for lack of a better word) sentiment, apparently on the rise, in EU states.

    If Turkey joins the EU, will it forever be looked down upon? The conditions under which a state join have a way of lingering — look at the north/south and blue/red divides in the US, and how old some of their cultural roots are…

    If France votes ‘yes,’ it still may not be the best decision for Turks to join the EU, and it may also reflect on the EU, in that it doesn’t respect the aspirations of its member peoples vis-a-vis a potential member country…

    Just some thoughts.

  4. “But I wonder if the opinion of the people/voters inside the EU doesn?t count for anything?”

    I accept the validity of this point, although perhaps not in the way you wish to use it.

    I accept that it is undoubtedly true that large numbers of EU voters (and maybe even a majority of them) are not happy with Turkey’s accession.

    I think it would be a pity if feelings about this topic lead to a rejection of the constitution.

    “You can only push people so far”.

    I also agree with this. The constitution is a compromise – as Giscard keeps indicating – if one party had all it wanted then someone would be agrieved. So a document like this is going to be far from perfect.

    The same with Turkey. I think Turkey should be in, for reasons I will go on to explain, but I don’t feel that this should be pushed so hard that it tears us apart.

    “Enlargement is good for the economy”.

    This is undoudtedly true on sound economic theory grounds. If the current enlargement to the East isn’t being seen as clearly advantageous in Germany, then this reflects other problems which need to be addressed inside Germany.

    You do eg export mmore than you import. Germany’s problem is insuffiecient domestic demand, and following this lack of domestic investment. This is partly demographically driven.

    A series of video-lectures which deal with this topic (in German only unfortunately) can be found here:

    http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page?_pageid=36,34794&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

    “Just look at the budget “talks”. Who pays and who gets how much money?”

    Actually I am sympathetic to this view. I live in Spain, and see no good reason why Spain should continue to receive money whilst Germany is to be penalised for excessive fiscal deficits etc.

    “Who?s gonna pay for a Turkey inside the EU?
    What about the right of residence and work anywhere in the EU?
    When we already have problems with low-wage workers from Eastern Europe?”

    This is the part of your comment I least agree with.

    I don’t think anyone is going to ‘pay’ for Turkey. Structural funds are a two way street (agricultural issues are something else, but then this whole bag of worms needs substantial revision Turkey apart: IMHO). The incorporation of Turkey will imply a major market for German investors and equipment manufacturers. Turkey’s cost advantages will enable European consumers to purchase cheap manufactured products etc. This is the same issue as the US is having with China at present. And I suppose to be consistent you should oppose Chinese membership of the WTO if you feel this way. Personally I think this is a road we definitely shouldn’t be going down.

    Residence and work rights? I have no problem with this. I am pro immigration for economic and cultural reasons, and if you look down my posts you will find plenty on this. I am in fact opposed to the restrictions currently placed on the freedom of movement of citzens from the new Eastern members. We need a free and flexible labour market.

    Also you are ducking the big question. Germany is getting old, Turkey is young. Ten years from now you will need this input of young people to help fill the needs of your job market (if you don’t take it as a ‘done deal’ that German can do nothing to reverse ten years of stganation, and that you will still need a dynamic labour market in the future).

    Lastly, you seem to be thinking about *now*. We are talking really about 2014. By this time Turkey will be nothing like as poor as it is now. For the last three years Turkey has enjoyed one of the fastest growing economies in the european ambit. It is a global ‘growth champion’. My feeling is that come the time Turkey won’t enter froma position of weakness, but from a position of strength.

  5. “Yet, as one EU diplomat in Ankara says, the biggest obstacle to Turkish membership is not the EU: it is Turkey.”

    Of course, this is the whole point. Turkey needs to reform, and the accession process is the instrument which can help produce this reform. Look at Spain at the end of the 80’s and look at Spain by 1992 (the year of the Olympics). Look at what the generals were saying and doing in Spain (or Greece for that matter) at the respective times.

    Obviously Turkish politicians can say and think what they want. That is their right. But the conditions are clear, and my feeling is that they will be complied with.

    On the Kurdish question, we still have to see how events in Northern Iraq will impact on this.

    “If Turkey joins the EU, will it forever be looked down upon?”

    This is what I doubt. It tends to suggest that the world stands still, and this I also doubt. I think Turkey, after Ireland, can become the new European ‘tiger’.

    “I find it hard to understand how positive joining the EU would be for Turkey since there is so clearly so much anti-Muslim and nativist (for lack of a better word) sentiment, apparently on the rise, in EU states.”

    Yes, and it is precisely because of this that I think we should be gently roping Turkey into Europe. Appart from anything else a growing number of citizens of EU member states are actually muslim. Creating a genuinely pluralist EU is one of the challenges which face us. We may not suceed, but we should at least try: if not OBL will have won, won’t he?

  6. The issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU is one that has been for some years, and continues to be, much discussed in a forum at FT.com.

    I believe, given that the offer is now on the table, that ultimately the decsion is one for the Turkish people to take, and not one that should be decided by a referendum on the issue as Chirac has promised.

    Following the EU reform blueprint towards “market statehood” is an excellent path to take as the Central European nations demonstrate; Turkey would do well to continue to follow it. However, at the end of the day whether it is best to have a special relationship with the EU, or fully join the club is a moot point. At present the EU club appears to be riven with dissent, bigotry, double standards,horse trading, and populist rhetoric – it hasn’t always been as bad as it it is now by any stretch of the imagination. This is hardly a good advertisement to prospective members, and not surprisingly does little to persuade the pretty sizeable percentage of Turks who are against EU membership to change their opinion.

  7. “This is hardly a good advertisement to prospective members, and not surprisingly does little to persuade the pretty sizeable percentage of Turks who are against EU membership to change their opinion.”

    Well yes, Peter, but somehow I don’t think that it is this ‘spectacle’ that is fuelling the ‘no’ view in Turkey: vested interests and resistance to cultural change might be much more important.

    And you are surely not saying that current Turkish political life is any better.

    “At present the EU club appears to be riven with dissent, bigotry, double standards,horse trading, and populist rhetoric”

    OK, but where’s the yardstick here? Can you point me to something better, an example we might follow, and learn from?

    Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, so why should building the EU be any different.

    “Following the EU reform blueprint towards “market statehood” is an excellent path to take as the Central European nations demonstrate;”

    Isn’t this just the point: forget the rhetoric and the stupidity, the Central Europe (I see you follow Kundera in this 🙂 ) nations have found an excellent path. They are better off, we are better off, now lets do the same for Turkey.

  8. “Just look at the budget “talks”. Who pays and who gets how much money?”

    Actually maybe some help is on the way here:

    “The proposed compromise includes: Cutting about ?50bn off the commission’s plans to raise EU competitiveness. Cutting about ?40bn from the regional aid budget, with the pain shared between new EU members in eastern Europe and “old” member states. Capping Britain’s budget rebate. Limiting the big net contributions of Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, possibly by putting a ceiling on payments based on VAT revenues.”

    http://news.ft.com/cms/s/caf93f5e-c7cd-11d9-9765-00000e2511c8.html

  9. The thing with Turkish accession is that I feel some rather significant issues are being swept under the rug.

    Problems in Turkey:

    (1) Turkey wants to retain the right to invade and possibly occupy its neighbors on fairly slim grounds: see Cyprus, Iraq, and even threats in that direction toward Syria. This doesn’t even mention the stranglehold Turkey has on Armenia, because they can never forgive the Armenians for the Armenian genocide. This kind of foreign policy posture is not something the EU can tolerate or handle, and it will have to change. But even now, the Turkish military regularly threatens to invade Iraq if in that country Kurds get effective control of Kirkuk. Think about this – it would be equivalent to France threatening to invade Spain if Basques parties got complete control of Navarre. We’re not even mentioning the continuing Turkish occupation of another EU state.

    (2) Turkey wants to retain blatantly discriminatory practices toward religious and ethnic minorities that are incompatible with European law and custom. See the treatment of the Kurds and Armenians, and the state control of religious structures of the Orthodox.

    (3) Turkey wants to maintain a blatantly ahistorical proto-fasicst cult of personality of Ataturk that is not compatible with European law and custom. This is also related to points (1) and (2).

    (4) Turks are inculcated from birth to believe in an international conspiracy to break up the country that feeds paramoia and militarism.

    Of course, the EU also has problems here.

    (1) The EU is profoundly undemocratic, in that the population of its constituent countries finds it difficult to influence policy. There are too many levels of abstraction.

    (2) A significant number of Europeans do not want to see a large Muslim country join the European Union.

    (3) There’s a lot of wooly-headed talk about the EU “needing” Turkey, which leads people to attempt to override or pressure other people in unhelpful ways.

    Of course, it would be a great boon for Turkish citizens to be living in a country that followed the rule of law, respected human rights, and was part of a European customs union.

    But there’s a long way to go yet, and people shouldn’t kid themselves. After all, Spain and Greece still haven’t completely shaken off the years of the dictatorships.

  10. The EU institutions will I am sure, Edward, do their best to ease and assist Turkey in its bid for membership; although the Turks will likely have far more onerous restictions put upon them than the Central European states did last year.

    That said even the best efforts can be thrown to the wind by a referendum, as may prove the case with the Constitution. ….. Chirac has promised the French people a referendum on Turkey and I’m sure that “Sarko”, if he wins the Presidency, will not backtrack on that promise; it isn’t just in Turkey that “vested interests and resistance to cultural change” are a problem.

  11. “Chirac has promised the French people a referendum on Turkey”

    This of course really would be the biscuit: a French ‘no’ to the Constitution and then a ‘no’ to Turkey. So what will happen to those little pieces of paper being used as currency in France, the ‘euros’.

    “the population of its constituent countries finds it difficult to influence policy. There are too many levels of abstraction”.

    I mean I’m sure Hector is right here. This was also the substance of the original comments.

    But we have what we have, we live in a second best world, and what will be the consequences of throwing caution to the wind, creating institutional gridlock and destroying confidence (vis a vis Turkey) that we are able to follow through on decisions.

    Or don’t we already have enough problems with the growth and stability pact?

  12. Edward,

    Just short snippets about the topics followed by comments.

    “But I wonder if the opinion of the people/voters inside the EU doesn?t count for anything?”

    I accept the validity of this point, although perhaps not in the way you wish to use it.

    Let?s talk about Germany here.
    My main problem is that the German government doesn?t try to discuss the topics and convince the voters of the supposed advantages.

    That?s why I said:
    “You can only push people so far”.

    It?s not a point especially about Turkey or about the new EU constitution. It?s a point about national politicians not trying to actually convince their voters but trying to treat them as unruly children.

    See this “Der Spiegel” article (in English) for this tactic:

    http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/spiegel/0,1518,355485,00.html

    “Enlargement is good for the economy”.

    This is undoudtedly true on sound economic theory grounds. If the current enlargement to the East isn’t being seen as clearly advantageous in Germany, then this reflects other problems which need to be addressed inside Germany.

    Oh we do see the advantages!
    But right now the people and the media see published disadvantages too.
    Germany (for now) only has a minimal wage for construction workers.
    (ALthough the German government wants to change that.)
    So we?re seeing problems with workers from EU Eastern Europe.

    For example Polish butchers in German slaughterhouses:
    http://www.abendblatt.de/daten/2005/03/05/406810.html
    (in German)
    I admit only a “small” problem but with enough headlines in the tabloid press…:)

    The problem is that the government is only reacting to some of these problems. They didn?t think about it beforehand. That leads to mistrust to any further government actions concerning the EU.

    “Just look at the budget “talks”. Who pays and who gets how much money?”

    Actually I am sympathetic to this view. I live in Spain, and see no good reason why Spain should continue to receive money whilst Germany is to be penalised for excessive fiscal deficits etc.

    IIRC correctly a few weeks ago British papers published articles about a new economic paper saying that Great Britain would become the biggest economy in the EU sometime in the next decades.
    Reading that I wanted to ask them why they still needed their rebate then?
    Newspapers today report that Great Britain is totally opposed to any discussion about their rebate.

    NO single country will come forward and say that they don?t need the EU money.
    Neither Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, France or anyone else.

    We don?t have a “EU culture” endorsing the “common good” of the EU. We do have a culture where any country is trying to get as much money out of the EU as they can.
    So we do have a money problem.

    “Who?s gonna pay for a Turkey inside the EU?
    What about the right of residence and work anywhere in the EU?
    When we already have problems with low-wage workers from Eastern Europe?”

    This is the part of your comment I least agree with.

    I don’t think anyone is going to ‘pay’ for Turkey. Structural funds are a two way street (agricultural issues are something else, but then this whole bag of worms needs substantial revision Turkey apart: IMHO).

    Well, let?s look at the structural funds then.
    Some time ago one commenter over at DKos asked about EU structural funds money for Ireland.
    It was a two digit billion dollar number.
    (And some media reports suggest that Ireland isn?t quite happy at becoming a net payer instead on a net receiver of money.)

    Now Turkey is a bit larger than Ireland.
    With a larger population.
    How much money will be needed for their infrastructure?

    Not to mention the whole of Eastern Europe.
    It?s a huge task!
    And as I see it, the EU either
    – needs a lot more money to meet expectations or
    – has to explain to the new members why they will get less help and money.

    Also you are ducking the big question. Germany is getting old, Turkey is young. Ten years from now you will need this input of young people to help fill the needs of your job market (if you don’t take it as a ‘done deal’ that German can do nothing to reverse ten years of stganation, and that you will still need a dynamic labour market in the future).

    Actually no!
    I try to be open about it but I admit that I?m worried about it.
    The problem is integration.
    And it?s a problem in Germany right now.
    It?s not happening…
    At least not on a large scale.

    We?ve got city quarters where you don?t need any German to shop and buy anything.
    We?ve got schools where 70-90% of the pupils don?t speak German outside of the school.
    (Meaning that these kids have real problems just to finish school and get a job.)
    We?ve got Turkish newspapers and TV channels so they don?t need to watch any German news.
    We?ve had a German school principal (in Berlin IIRC) overhearing some (Turkish) kids saying that the honour killing of a daughter was all right because “she dressed like a German”.

    And that?s with 2-3 million Turkish people in Germany now. We might have a chance to integrate them given time and effort (and education!).
    With right of movement and residency 10-15 years from now, I?m not so sure.

    Lastly, you seem to be thinking about *now*. We are talking really about 2014. By this time Turkey will be nothing like as poor as it is now. For the last three years Turkey has enjoyed one of the fastest growing economies in the european ambit. It is a global ‘growth champion’. My feeling is that come the time Turkey won’t enter froma position of weakness, but from a position of strength.

    That may be. I for one would welcome it.
    But I?m sceptical.
    The population is still growing and the economic growth is limited to some regions IIRC.

  13. Haroon,

    That seems to be another problem.
    And I might be totally wrong here, I?m certainly not an expert!

    AFAIK EU rules would actually call for a relaxation of the fiercely Ataturk secular rules.
    (Of course the secular Western European states don?t have that religious problem so they might underestimate the power of a religious movement.)

    Likewise the rule that minorities should be protected.

    Turkish history is different.
    He also stressed that secularism was the driving force of Turkey’s democracy, and that the Turkish state must remain an indivisible whole.”

  14. Detlef, just to say thanks for your lengthy and fairly reasoned response :).

    I understand your concerns, even if I don’t look at these things in quite the same way you do.

    OTOH if someone like yourself, who thinks about these things, and is open to argument, has reached these conclusions, then we can imagine that there are many, many more people in Germany who will have given this much less thought, and reached much stronger conclusions. Which leads me to once more agree that “you can only push people so far”, and that we all need to be well aware of this.

    If you accelerate processes too rapidly, you run the risk that the vehicle falls apart.

    Certain things will become a little clearer in this regard after 29 May I suspect.

    But if European voters are going to decide to become less than enthusiastic about the EU as a process, I am still left with the issue of what is going to happen about the euro.

  15. “We?ve got city quarters where you don?t need any Catalan to shop and buy anything.
    We?ve got schools where 70-90% of the pupils don?t speak Catalan outside of the school.
    (Meaning that these kids have real problems just to finish school and get a job.)
    We?ve got Spanish newspapers and TV channels so they don?t need to watch any Catalan news.”

    Oh, sorry I changed the national id’s around a bit.

    The point is that is pretty much the situation here in Catalunya where I live.

    The point I am making I suppose is that you can’t dis-invent the internet and sattelite TV.

    We live in a globalised world. You may not like this, thousands and millions may not like it, but it is a reality. And this reality is changing what we mean by community, what we mean by society.

    I could make another change:

    “We?ve got city quarters where you don?t need any Spanish to shop and buy anything.
    We?ve got schools where 70-90% of the pupils don?t speak Spanish outside of the school.
    We?ve got German newspapers and TV channels so they don?t need to watch any Spanish news.”

    And where would I be talking about: Mallorca.

    The local press and tv stations are full of these kind of complaints.

    Well, my reality principle tells me we need to start to learn to accept that this can happen.

    On the question of adolescence, my experience here in Barcelona has taught me that this is really the worst age for this kind of intollerance. And that you can’t draw conclusions from the values people hold during adolesence, as to what their civic values will be later.

    Perhaps the greatest defect of the ‘European Project’ is that we don’t share a common language: it might even be one which proves fatal.

    Clearly if we had one common language, immigrants arriving from all over the globe would tend to learn that language. This is why, despite the demographics, I doubt the US will ever become Spanish speaking.

    I say it might prove fatal since, at the end of the day I tend to agree with Herder: the language we use is an enormous filter which organises the way we see things to a much greater extent than we normally recognise.

  16. “I’m taking bets here”

    Under normal conditions Janne, I’d say you were making a pretty safe bet. Ukraine could be in way before 2014. But these are not normal conditions: if France votes no I’d say all bets are off. We will have to see how far things go, but at this stage I wouldn’t even consider Bulgaria and Romania secure if the ‘local defeat’ turned into a rout.

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