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France’s elections, Turkey’s choice

Tuesday 13 March 2007, by Beril Dedeoğlu

Source : Today’s zaman

As the president has important powers in the French political system, the winner of the presidential elections this May is important not only for France but also for many other countries.

The rightist UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, who says that “Together Everything is Possible,” seems to receive the support of the conservative sectors of the electorate. He wants to restore France’s former power and importance. But having said that, he seems to be supportive of a federal Europe. He affirms that as in De Gaulle’s time, France and Germany should be the EU’s pivots, and he thinks that the UK is an obstacle on the path to full European integration. Sarkozy would be right if the world were the same as in De Gaulle’s time. Today the UK is a member of the EU — and a powerful one — even if it doesn’t please France. Sarkozy also affirms that France would be stronger if it joined fully in the dynamics of globalization. He defends globalization and a federal Europe at the same time. Beside this, he promises to take harsh measures to tackle the immigration issue, even though it’s not understandable how he reconciles this with globalization.

Turkey as the “other”

Sarkozy’s other important rhetorical point is rejecting Turkey’s membership in the EU. He perceives Turkey as the immigrant, foreigner, the Muslim “other.” In his understanding, Turkey is not a European country, and the UK and US push to have it become a full member of the EU is done to block European integration efforts. But he doesn’t understand that the EU needs to have a member like Turkey in order to become a regional or global political actor. He is, in fact, cherishing nationalist trends in France by opposing European enlargement through Turkey and by talking about the dangers of uncontrolled immigration. History shows that nationalism has always benefited from mistrust towards friends and allies. To say that Turkey is not a European country because it doesn’t recognize the “Armenian genocide” represents the beginning of a dangerous process for France and for the EU as a whole because the EU is the lesson learned from European history, not the rewriting of it.

The other prominent candidate, Ségolène Royal from the Socialist Party, seems to be more prudent, and she insists on focusing on the social problems of France. She tries to use global subjects and conditions in order to resolve these problems but she appears to be very vague. She’s not afraid of Europe’s enlargement; she thinks the EU is at the service of world peace and she underlines human rights issues. Some criticize Royal for not being as informed and capable as Sarkozy, but the history of French democracy is the story of rejecting management by the capable.

If Sarkozy wins, the EU will determine the relationship between Turkey and the EU. France’s interlocutor with Turkey will be the other EU countries, and the debate about the EU’s future will be held over Turkey, without discussing the substance of the membership issue. This will help Turkey to postpone its homework for some time. But if Royal wins, Turkey will determine the Turkey-EU relationship. The transformation of this country and its success in doing its homework will be of primary importance. In brief, Turkey will have to start doing its homework immediately.

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