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Turkey - EU : underwater negotiations

Wednesday 14 March 2007, by Güldener Sonumut

Source : TNA, 03/07/2007

Turkish-European Union relations are a very passionate topic both in Turkey and in the EU countries. In the EU most politicians are very pleased to express their views about Turkish-EU relations and the accession negotiations. Why ? Because most of them have no idea about other important topics such as how to fight unemployment, how to maintain the social security system or at least a certain social wellness for the EU citizens.

Talking about Turkey is a much more easier topic. Simply because you’re either for or against Turkey’s EU membership. There are many problems in Turkey, and by pointing to these problem you can always claim that you’re against. On the other hand those in favor of Turkey’s membership lack any arguments besides the strategic reason to put forward as a credible reason. But this passionate debate in still interesting the European public. Many member states have bilateral problems with Turkey. From France to Germany, from Greece to Greek Cyprus, from Hungary to Austria, many member state have a problem with Turkey. This could be in the problem of Turkey’s public image such as in Hungary, Germany or France. Or for some member states, this could be a more structural and factual problem such as Greek Cyprus, Greece or Austria.

There has been no recent election campaign in Europe where Turkey was not an issue. In France, Germany and even Italy, Turkey’s membership was a campaign issue.

The quality of politicians

But this is due to the quality of the politicians who are unable to find solutions to the real problems of their citizen such as globalization, the fight against unemployment, and social welfare, and they play on the fears of their people. And on the topics of fears, the classical subject is Turkey’s EU membership, the fight against illegal immigration and security issues.

That is why Turkish-EU relations are on standby mode. Can anyone in the EU explain why the 25 (or now 27) have opened just one negotiation chapter with Turkey in the last 16 months ?

Within the EU, the only faithful institution toward decisions on Turkey is the European Commission. Olli Rehn and his team are not only committed to the EU heads of states and government decisions regarding Turkey and the accession negotiations, but also towards the implementation of these decisions.

Since EU heads of state and government have decided to partially suspend our accession negotiation talks, one cannot hear about Turkish-EU relations anymore within the European public, but you can in France, where French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy is as usual trying to woo votes by raising the issue of Turkey’s EU accession.

By keeping Turkish-EU accession talks on a purely administrative and technical track, the EU as well as Turkey is achieving an important work. When the accession talks are kept at a technical level, there is no public debate within Europe about Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU and there is no controversy.

A technical track

At the same time, it also gives an impetus to the reform process in Turkey. While the Turkish chief negotiator is shuttling between Ankara and Brussels, bureaucrats in Turkey are doing the technical work in order to prepare legislative reforms.

Far from the Turkish and European publics, these “underwater” accession talks look more efficient, result-oriented and far from being damaged by a cheap populism.

When these talks come to the surface, there will be a brand new Turkey respecting the rule of law and the state of law, a democratic country respecting the rights of minorities. And the European public should at that time be more open-minded that is the least we can expect. European Commissioner in charge of Communication Margot Wallstrom will be in Turkey through Friday. Making communications a success story of the EU is her task. And that is also the aim of her visit to Turkey.

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