Learning to get over the EU

In its annual report on Turkey’s membership bid, the EU has encourage Ankara to keep pushing forward with reforms and democratisation. In Turkish daily Sabah, however, columnist Erdal Safak writes that Turkey’s future is as much Asian as it is European.

Published on 19 October 2009 at 15:31

The EU’s annual progress report on Turkey’s application to join the European Union is considered a sort of “report card” in which the European Commission rates Turkey’s performance over the past few years. For the very first time I read it without any enthusiasm at all. It’s true that I was in Kazakhstan at the time, far away from Turkey and even further away from Brussels. Yet my lack of enthusiasm, compared to previous years, wasn’t solely linked to geography.

Certainly, the environment I was in and the dynamism surrounding me did influence my perception, because indeed no one in Kazakhstan seemed remotely interested in the 2009 report. To put it bluntly no one gave a damn about it. No sooner did I dare to state its importance, than I was immediately told: “Forget Europe and look towards Asia instead!”. Those who were more polite, or diplomatic, told me: “Of course it would be a shame to give up in the middle of such a long road towards Europe. However, jot down in a corner of your mind, that one day you’ll realize that it’s above all here that you can achieve your real objectives.”

Kazakhstan, the new Norway

It’s certainly obvious that the future of Turkey as well as that of Europe will in great part play out in Central Asia. Even the “little Napoleon” of Europe – French president Nicolas Sarkozy who cannot bear the slightest bit of criticism – adopted the most modest profile one could imagine when he went to Astana at the beginning of October. This because Kazakhstan’s basement is overflowing with oil, natural gas as well as uranium, and not so long from now, this region will be a new Norway, Canada or Australia– coveted by one and all. The vastness of this country (which is four times the size of Turkey yet inhabited by less than 30 million people) also offers a myriad of possibilities. Little wonder, then, that Turkey has already reserved parcels of this land.

In light of this, one can’t help but smile at the comments sparked by this progress report, essentially telling us that “its tone is far more measured than in previous years” and that “the expectations and demands of the European Union in respect to Turkey are much more reasonable”. Of course, we’re not going to pretend that we don’t care because we already have our “Eurasia”. The European Union remains “our path”, but not our “only path”. Having said that, thank you all the same for the report.

Enlargement

Cyprus, Turkey’s stumbling block

In its annual progress report on Turkey’s eventual accession to the EU published 14 October, the European Commission is insisting on a rapid resolution to the question of Cyprus, writes Robert Ellis in the Guardian. “With the fall of the Berlin Wall and a settlement in Northern Ireland,” he notes, “Cyprus is the longest-lasting European conflict to be resolved.” Since the 1975 Turkish invasion, UN attempts to reunify the island partitioned north and south between Turkish and Greek communities “have proved to be a political graveyard for four secretaries-general and countless envoys”. With the Greek part of the island already an EU member, it is still unclear whether Turkish Cypriots’ leader Mehmet Ali Talat can come to terms with his Greek counterpart Demetris Christofias “although there is general agreement by the two leaders on the parameters for negotiation – a federation consisting of two constituent states with a single sovereignty”. Nevertheless obstacles remain, notably “Turkey’s insistence on maintaining a military presence on the island and Turkey’s policy of colonisation with mainland Turks. Indeed, the indigenous Turkish Cypriot population that remain – an estimated 89,000 out of a total 260,000 in the Turkish Cypriot area – complain of cultural oppression by Turkey.”

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