Friday, December 17, 2004

Turkey Ante Portas

After the European Parliament voted 407 to 262 in favour two days earlier, the European Council (kind of an assembly of European national governments, which holds decisive power in the EU) seems to have felt the pressure - the opposition led by Austria and Denmark (and, I suspect, informally by current EC chair The Netherlands) caved in, and the EC agreed to start negotiations on Turkish EU membership from 3 October next year.

Key was a typically European pseudo-solution on the issue of the recognition of (Greek) Cyprus - an agreement that both parties can interpret their way. Turkey will reaffirm its trade agreement with the enlarged EU, which involves (Greek) Cyprus.

BTW, a small note on the EP vote: at the insistence of the Conservatives, the vote was made secret - as Green MEP leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit (photo above) wrote:

"Attempts by the Conservatives and Christian Democrats to increase the number of no-votes by introducing a secret vote, have proven futile. We Greens, who have always favoured the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey, are pleased by the Parliament's resoluteness. We were not susceptible to the lunacy of the EPP group and their confusion of freedom of expression with secrecy. This vote should therefore be a lesson in democracy for those who fear transparency and attempt to manipulate political outcomes though backroom deals."

On other issues, there's a new EU poll out (pdf). I may write more about the number of surprising details in it later, here only a note of disimissal on the only on-topic part: the question about further EU enlargement, which finds 62% of Austrians and lesser majorities of Germany, Luxemburg, Finland and France against. I think the question asked is too simplistic to be useful - for, for example, polls in Germany asking about Turkey joining the EU on the medium or long term (which is the timescale even pro-EU Turks realistically expect) persistently find the support of a wide majority.

UPDATE: In The Guardian I find this excerpt from a Turkish paper:

Zaman's Ismail Kucukkaya says Turkey can join without compromising its identity, and it shouldn't let the EU exclude it on cultural or religious grounds. "Why does Turkey want this EU membership? We're not looking for our identity, as some people, even most Europeans, seem to think. We’re knocking on the doors of the EU only to catch up to European standards, improve our quality of life and become modern and civilized. We want to join the EU in order to raise our educational level, ensure equal opportunities and cultivate a better citizenry. We already have an identity."


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