SEMİH İDİZ > Cameron provides Turks with food for thought

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There is much food for thought for Turks in what Prime Minister David Cameron said on Jan. 23 in his long-awaited speech on the EU. There is also a glaring contradiction for Europeans annoyed by his call for a referendum on whether Britain should stay in or leave the EU.

Countries that are hostile to Turkey’s EU membership have been arguing that it is the democratic right of their people to decide finally whether this should happen or not. Ironically, however, the same countries are angry that the British people should be given a chance to exercise their democratic right to decide if they will remain in the Union or not.

Developments in Europe show that the day EU members can have their cake and eat it, too, is over; and not just in the metaphorical sense. This is the point at which the following remarks by Cameron ring true to Turkish ears:

“The first purpose of the European Union – to secure peace – has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside NATO, who made that happen. But today the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is different: not to win peace, but to secure prosperity.”

As an aside here, Cameron’s reference to NATO provides a reminder for those opposed to Turkish EU membership that it was Turkey’s frontline position in this alliance during the Cold War that also contributed to peace and stability in Europe.

To return to the topic at hand, however, it must be underlined – as I have argued on many occasions – that the principal locomotive for progress in terms of democracy and human rights in this country is no longer the EU, as it was once when Turks had a clear desire for membership.

That desire has been seriously dampened, primarily due to the prevalent Turkish belief, based on what has been seen and heard, that the EU’s doors will never open for Turkey. Today, progress in democracy or human rights – or the lack thereof – is driven by the country’s own inner realities, and domestic pressures provide the principle dynamic here.

The sorry state in the area of freedom of expression, for example, proves that the EU, whose “progress reports” are now trashed by members of the ruling party rather than being taken seriously as they should, has little influence left over Turkey.

That aside, however, the importance of the “economic carrot” that the EU perspective once provided has also diminished for the average Turk, who looks on what is happening in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain, and asks some simple questions.

The inevitable one that springs to mind first is how the EU, which was always touted as the “instrument of prosperity,” alongside the peace and political stability it provided, has turned into a place where people are rapidly getting poorer.

It is true, of course, that Turkey still depends significantly on Europe for trade and investments as EU diplomats are keen to underline. This, however, is not something that is given by the EU to Turkey as a privilege. An economically strong Turkey will always attract investments from Europe, and in return invest in Europe, as it is doing today.

Meanwhile two-way trade will continue regardless of whether Turkey becomes an EU member or not, and is more likely to drop, as it is doing today, due to factors pertaining to Europe, and not Turkey.

Given this overall picture, it is not hard to see that until the EU resolves its current inner contradictions and institutional problems, and charts its new future – as it will have to because, regardless of Britain’s special situation, most Europeans have no alternative – Turkey’s EU perspective will remain dormant.

It will only become clear if Turkey has a place in the EU or not once Europe decides realistically what its future is to be. Either way, the answer to this question is not as crucial for Turks as it might have once been.


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Chris Green

1/27/2013 11:10:13 AM

Ilker beyefendim: I can see your point and this is generously made, but could you imagine FRANCE accepting a dominant Britain in the management of the EU? In 1963, De Gaul vetoed Britain's entry into what was then the Common Market and we only got in in 1973 because Heath signed away our agriculture industry and more especially our fishing rights and to this day, this really rankles! The main beneficiaries of the EU are France, Spain and the economic basket case, 'southern states'!

Agnes Smith

1/26/2013 4:54:31 PM

I agree Vargen. There is no point in an economical arrogance over peace, human rights, equality and justice. Get these right and the rest follows on. The PM must take a look at what is not going right in the Arab world although the spring gave them a fresh chance, more riots, more discontent. But maybe he really does not want liberation and a happier society - but just more polarization to keep his competitors out.

ilker avni

1/26/2013 5:53:56 AM

@ Chris Green I agree with you that the Common market has prevented wars in Europe for fifty years,but dont forget that Germany was partitioned for fifty years allso, A united Germany was only allowed providing Germany stayed in the EU.Its Britain who should be the leader of Europe not Germany,Its Britain who helped |Germany recover from the second world war. Britain only joined to spoil Germanys dominace in Europe,they set up the euro zone to compete with America.


1/25/2013 1:36:46 PM

ilker, I have no issues with your point that the USA doesn't like the Euro's effect on the Dollar's dominance. My issue is with your assertion that the USA tries to bring down the EU with Britain's cooperation. That's not true. USA sees the EU as not just a competitor, but a valuable trading partner and political ally. As Chris says, USA tries to influence the EU via its closest ally, UK, but that's normal in international relationships and it doesn't mean US is trying "spoil" the EU.

Vargen Vargen

1/24/2013 11:27:40 PM

Given the last years development I think Turkey needs Eu more than ever. The columnist thinks that EU is only about economy and money? EU for Turkey would mean that we might improve democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, gender equality etc etc. All these things have deteriorated over the last 5 years and we see now how for example the education system has become considerably more geared towards religon and conservative values etc. The only thing which can save Turkey is EU at this stage.

world citizen

1/24/2013 11:24:43 PM

As usual it is far too early to predict anything because its a political and populist move from Cameron and remains to be seen. I sincerily hope for all our EUphobes here that future will prove them right: the big bad EU falling apart + Turkey being a major power and a beacon of freedom... I am afraid though that the reality might be more complicated and subtle than that. See you in 10 years!

Ozgur Erhan

1/24/2013 10:14:06 PM

The EU --- a Union to disguise Germany's rule in Europe. In partnership with France. All the other countries (may be not Czech Republic) just turned to caniche. If a referendum produces a result against Brussels, the country has to hold it again. Exceept nowadays they try not to hold it. The same EU accepted Turkey as a future member but broke all its treaty agreements from 1983 to 1999, did not help Turkish development, thinks Greek Cyprus with 700,000 people is more important than Turkey.

ilker avni

1/24/2013 7:00:56 PM

The EU has become united states of Germany,its Germany who controlls the economic budget,its Germany who says who can come in or out.Britain may have won the war but a united Germany is the economic powerhouse in the Union.Britain will never giveaway her soverngity to Germany.If asked to live under a German led EU, Britains would vote NO.Britain

Chris Green

1/24/2013 6:52:43 PM

Furthermore, Ilker and to back up Baris, the USA are most insistent that the UK remain within the centre of the EU presumably so they can continue to have strong, if indirect influence thereof. To reiterate my earlier point, complete with typos, Heath's dream was largely accomplished but it is the Federal bit we baulk at. Furthermore, this dream was not only detrimental to our traditional non-European markets but also our Farming and Fisheries industries and in this respect, we were conned!

ilker avni

1/24/2013 6:47:51 PM

The article by Mr Idiz proves my point what i have been saying for years,Turkeys membership to the EU is a pipe dream that has been going on since the formation of the common market fifty years ago.The reason is plain clear Turkey is uncompatable with Western or EU rules and laws.Turkey should except the special privledge offer,Turkey would get the one thing she needs and thats trade,the EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU.The EU needs energy oil and gas that goes through Turkey.
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