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DREAMS OF EUROPE

Today's Zaman - September 13, 2007 by Andrew Finkel Bronislaw Geremek, the former Polish foreign minister, spoke eloquently about Turkey’s place in Europe at a dinner the other night. Among the guests were the fellow members of his independent commission on Turkey. This is the group sponsored in part by the Open Society Institute which in 2004 produced a thoughtful and influential endorsement of the need to include Turkey in the EU enlargement process. Mr. Geremek was a leading actor in the Solidarity movement and spoke as a member of the generation that was for decades cut off from the institutions of Western Europe and as well as one of the principal architects of Poland’s circuitous and at times humiliating quest for EU membership. “Europe was the dream of my life,” he said. I sensed in Mr. Geremek and among the other “wise men” at the table -- one-time EU Enlargement Commissioner Hans van den Broek, the former Spanish Foreign Minister Marcelino Oreja Aguirre, the ex-Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and one wise woman, former Italian EU Minister Emma Bonino -- a compassion for Turkey which is knocking at the door at a historically awkward moment. Turkey -- if only because of its relative size -- was always going to be a difficult candidate to accommodate, let alone now when members are bickering that that the club is too large already. The lack of enthusiasm for Turkish membership, particularly among founder states France and Germany, will have consequences which Europe must take onboard. For years, Turkey’s efforts to gain admittance had been conducted under a highly moral paradigm. It had to prove its worthiness as a country committed to protecting the rights and prosperity of its people, establish its eligibility for a place at the negotiating table and then go through the process of adopting EU rules. Now there is a sense that Europe too has to change. If it is to accept Turkey, it has to confront its own fear of Islam and ask itself why it has not done more to combat institutional discrimination. Before, the onus was always on Turkey to do the right thing. Now there is the sense that it is Europe that might behave badly, insist Turkey fulfill its obligations and then slam the door in its face. So it is not exactly surprising that for many Turks, Europe is no longer the dream of their life. This paper has given much space to a survey conducted by the German Marshall Fund that enthusiasm in Turkey for the European project is slipping away. Only 40 percent of those polled supported membership. It is evidence of a growing lack of confidence that the EU bid will succeed, rather than a desire for alternative alliances. The same survey showed that Turks were similarly disillusioned with other nations of the world. It is a sulkiness brought on by a need to rationalize rejection by doing the rejecting first. Hans van den Broek appealed to Turkey to understand that the EU was an imperfect animal, its mixed messages the inevitable result of policy made by a caucus of 27. The problem is that foreign policy is what Brussels does least well. The most successful foreign initiative, arguably its only really successful instrument, has been enlargement. What other tool does it have to deal with Turkey? Turkey’s friends in Europe have the comfort that membership does not come up for ratification tomorrow or even next week, and that EU institutions will evolve in time to meet the challenge of incorporating Turkey. But they know the danger is that Turkey itself will lose hope.During the election campaign Turkey had the luxury of wrestling with its own inner demons. Now they have to wrestle Europe’s demons as well.So Turkey still faces a challenge, not just to adopt the acquis, but to assert European credentials in the face of Europe itself. Turkey is governed by, according to the politician’s clock, young men -- most in their mid fifties, but a foreign minister who is just 40. As day follows night they too will become elder statesmen. Will they then encourage their dinner guests with stories of their struggle to steer Turkey to full membership? Will they confess that the only reason they succeeded was because Europe was the dream of their lives?





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