On the night of October 3, 2005, the EU accepted to start negotiations with Turkey about inclusion in the European Union, which did not flow easily as the opponents to Turkey’s adherence mustered up around the Cyprus issue to hinder the beginning of talks with Ankara. Austria also changed its mind and rather than an adherence it demanded a simple association as the goal of all negotiations. For Vienna, it was essentially a matter of pressing in order to restart talks with Croatia, which were blocked due to Zagreb’s uncooperativeness with the International Court about former Yugoslavia. Finally, the European states yielded to Austrian demands and Vienna accepted to begin negotiations.
During the course of these diplomatic discussions, the European mass media, hostile to the Turkish adherence, presented Ankara’s protests as a barely acceptable request or a pressure on the European Union. Generally speaking, the European press took advantage of every transmission to cast prejudice over Turkey and the Muslim world. Such an image about Turkey has mobilized the supporters of the Turkish adherence to improve it.
In Le Figaro, former French Social-Democrat Prime Minister Michel Rocard advocated the Turkish adherence or at least the opening of negotiations. Mr. Rocard said nothing had been decided on Turkey and at the same time he trusted in Ankara’s ability to face difficulties and respond to EU expectations. Mr. Rocard’s arguments are not all new. He emphasized the need to establish democracy in the Muslim world and have a pro-West Turkey according to a paternalistic vision of the development of democracy and the Atlantist geo-strategic purposes - two arguments in vogue in the Turkish issue. However, the former Social-Democrat Prime Minister let out an essential yet rarely mentioned argument: If the Turkish adherence is important, it is mainly to ensure EU access to one of the world’s largest oil reserves. Not many have dared to clearly broach the subject in the debate about the Turkish adherence or the broadening of EU in general.
An eternal supporter of Turkey’s adherence in the French media, the director of Cahiers d’études sur la Méditerranée orientale et le monde turco-iranien, professor Semih Vaner, went over his arguments again in Libération in favor of his country’s adherence: Turkey has made a lot to fit the European “model” and is giving an opportunity to bridge the gap between both civilizations. Professor Vaner challenges once more the argument about the recognition of Cyprus and considers the problem as one to be first settled by Cypriots themselves. He thinks that there is no such Turkish problem but Europe’s inability to accept a Muslim country. Turkey’s adherence is supported by Washington. However, this hasn’t stopped the French right Atlantist circles from expressing their reluctance.
So in Libération, the representative for Paris and President of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly Pierre Lellouche asked to put off, or even cancel the opening of negotiations. However, right from the start Mr. Lellouche stood up for Turkey’s adherence though he thinks that Ankara’s behavior regarding Cyprus, and also Armenia, makes the beginning of negotiations unacceptable. Although the non-recognition of an EU member country is in fact a problem to be solved before analyzing Turkey’s adherence (even if it is a problem not depending solely on Ankara), it remains unclear why Turkey’s relations with Armenia would depend on EU. In the Muslim-inspired Turkish daily Zaman Daily, Turkish academician Sahin Alpay answered this last allegation. Mr. Alpay thinks that Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is necessary and that this is only possible through education since, according to him, Turks are very poorly informed about the genocide issue. However, he rejects this as an argument to justify xenophobia against Turks in Europe and on the boundaries of Turkey.
On the other hand, Washington mass support for Ankara’s joining the EU does not mean unanimity. In this regard, the “hawks” coordinator Franck J. Gaffney Jr. said in the Washington Times that Brussels should reject the integration of Turkey. Mr. Gaffney virulently criticized the AKP – the party in power in Turkey – and accused it of transforming that state into an “Islamist-fascist” regime. Let’s recall that Mr. Gaffney had already taken it out on Ankara before the Iraq war and never accepted that the Turkish Parliament had refused to help the Coalition in its colonial enterprise. He had then considered that Turkey would show democracy by only supporting Washington. Aware of Turkey’s drifting apart from the U.S. and Israel, Mr. Gaffney started a slandering campaign whose allegations remind us of the attacks against Vladimir Putin. Following the October 3 decision to begin negotiations, those opposing Turkey’s adherence laid down their arms temporarily. Blair government’s supporters are, on the contrary, pleased with what they present as a success for the British Presidency of the EU.
British Minister for European Affairs Douglas Alexander expressed in Le Figaro his satisfaction for the result of the October 3 Summit. Addressing a conservative French public opinion opposed en masse to Turkey’s entrance in the European Union, he said that the Turkish adherence would allow a “dialogue between civilizations” and the implementation of a regional development plan for neighboring countries. The Guardian and Le Monde, picked up British Atlantist Timothy Garton Ash’s happiness for those negotiations encouraging a Europe wished by both London and Washington. In his opinion, the talks with Ankara will legitimate the prompt adherences of new Eastern and Southern Europe countries, the Balkan countries and former Soviet Bloc countries, including Ukraine. Building up a great Europe of 37 members will make some sort of European Commonwealth emerge, and the U.S.-U.K. vision of Europe succeed while stopping Russia (let’s not forget that Timothy Garton Ash is signatory of the call of the 115 Atlantists vs. Vladimir Putin). Turkey and the Turkish Diaspora have of course quite a different vision, basically accentuated by the discomfort caused by some European leaders’ xenophobic statements
In the Frankfurter Rundshau, German writer and philosopher of Turkish origin Hilal Sezgin defended the posture of her country by criticizing the main argument of those opposing Turkey’s adherence, that is, the entirely exogenous nature of the Turkish identity in Europe. For her, in contrast, there is not such thing as a “unique European Culture” alien to Turkey. The cultural elements which Europeans feel proud of mostly came from Asia by way of the Muslim world or Turkey. Europe’s real autonomy in the technical domain dates back to only two centuries. This historical evocation is interesting but by thus attacking the main argument of the antagonists of Turkey’s adherence, she validates the theory through which the political Europe should have depended on a common past cultural identity and not on a common political system, based on a political pact.
According to the Zaman Daily, for nationalist and Muslim editorialist Ali Unal, the problem of Europe is not Turkey’s entrance in the EU but the fear of a Turkey that can become consolidated and be influential in Europe. According to him, EU wishes to profit from the energy and vitality of the Turkish society, and minimize in turn what it would give to Turkey, hence the continuous obstacles aiming at forcing Turkey to make concessions. Mr. Unal suggests the Turks that they should instead grow stronger and impose their conditions, without renouncing their state model or their society.