MURAT YETKİN > Turkey ‘with or without’ EU

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If anyone wants to explain the relationship between the European Union and Turkey with a song, they could use U2’s “With or Without You” considering its half a century of painful history. But yesterday, Feb. 5, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan told a group of journalists on his way from Prague to Budapest that to be a member of EU is not a "sine qua non" for Turkey, it is not a must.

He also said Turkey was fed up with being delayed by the EU and this stalling should come to an end.
Erdoğan has been escalating his tone regarding the EU since the beginning of 2013. The last half of 2012 was not very comfortable for Turkey because of the Greek Cypriot term presidency. Turkey had announced in advance that Ankara would halt political dialogue with the Commission, since it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus as representing the Turkish Cypriots in their own republic on the north part of the island, recognized only by Turkey.

Erdoğan’s fury goes back to 2004. Then he took political risks, convinced Turkish Cypriots to change the paradigm into "Don’t be the first one to say no" and also approved a U.N. plan for the reunification of the island, which they did. But days later, when Greek Cypriots who actually said "no" to the already-settled-through-diplomacy-reunification plan were let in the EU as full members to represent the whole of the island. The fury deepened when EU promises to Turkish Cypriots, if they’d say "yes" were not kept and moreover Greek Cypriots, as a member with veto power now put hold on many chapters in membership negotiations.

Now with a new French presidency, which contrary to the former one is promising Turkey to raise the block by at least one chapter, likely on finance, a sector where Turkey is in a better shape then many EU countries. But when Turkey asks for easing of visa restrictions, which are provided for many non-candidate countries, Ankara is asked to sign a hollow readmission agreement that gives no guarantee for the Turkish government. It is again only promises. This makes Turkey more uncomfortable. It is no surprise that those who think Turkey should keep on going for EU membership is now around 30 percent, according to recent polls, whereas support used to be around the 70 percent range in 2004.

If not because Turkey is a Muslim populated country Erdoğan asks, they why? Is it because Turkey is too crowded, too dynamic, or simply is it because of Cyprus. Yet, he says that Turkey will, for sometime, keep doing its homework. It seems that neither Turkey nor the EU wants to be the first to declare divorce. Perhaps because both sides know that it would be a strategically wrong move. Erdoğan’s Shanghai and ASEAN rhetoric gives a message of unhappiness, rather than a strategic shift of preferences.

It is also clear that Turkey-EU relations cannot go on like this any longer; another chapter this year, a pointless agreement the next. Turkey-EU relations need a radical change, a reset with new and more practical, less humiliating terms of reference.


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Notice on comments

mr who

2/10/2013 3:01:59 AM

Turks are better to be an associate member of the EU the reason they will never in a million years meet the European criterion on all issues .Turks are l guess Turks the planet has all different peoples races and cultures {European bureaucracy phone, building standards, education, water, gas electricity rail, forestry, environment, green revolution, design and so on} now that’s what all Turks what not a Liverpool.

dogan kemal ileri

2/7/2013 11:31:37 AM

Vargen Vargen I knew how the uk was before EU membership and how she is as a consequence of EU membership and I and at least 80% of the British can categorically conclude membership has indeed been a very negative thing for the UK. I do not wish the same fate to befall Turkiye. We can make Turkiye much better without being enslaved to a rigid and inflexible system the EU will imose.By the way I am in Turkiye 50% of the time and next year after retiring will be in Turkiye full time.


2/7/2013 1:55:44 AM

@ dogan kemal ileri You are absolutely right. The question of pursuing membership or not should be put to a referendum now, not in a hundred years when talks are finally concluded. People have a right to have any idea where their country is heading, and fundamental questions cannot be postponed indefinitely.


2/6/2013 9:59:10 PM

Mr. Yetkin, since you undertook the initiative of mentioning the ill-fated Annan plan and its overwhelming rejection by the Greek Cypriots, it would only be fair and or honorable that you should take the risk of mentioning to your readership the reason(s) why in your opinion was rejected. Failling this, it would subsequently be fair to characterize your writing as selective, partial, biased and possibly misleading. Regards

mara mcglothin

2/6/2013 9:12:16 PM

VARGEN You can't explain to DOGAN on others on this page that whether Turkey joins or not is not the issue. The issue is bringing Turkey's democratic process on par with EU members. I don't trust RTE or others for that matter to continue down the democratic path. And as we all know...Democracy is like a train... DOGAN Again it isn't about the majority BUT the protection of the minority.

Tekion Particle

2/6/2013 6:27:14 PM

If the veto system is abolished it would be a truly democratic system and the individual members like France and Germany would be powerless to impose their will and the small and insignificant members like Cyprus could no longer be used to hide behind. The founders of the EU would be forced to accept the rule of democracy at Union level. The veto system is not democratic but it has been vigorously defended by countries that brag about democracy. It is all about control.

Faruk Timuroglu

2/6/2013 6:27:12 PM

MP RTE is right to express Turkish Peoples’ frustration with EU’s discriminatory even dishonest handling Turkey’s membership issue. However, the frustration uttered by the one whose sincerity about democracy is in question, would not be taken seriously, especially at a time, which, he prepares to destroy the last “sine qua non” bits of democracy.

Tekion Particle

2/6/2013 6:17:26 PM

The French & German stance against Turkish membership has more deeply rooted reasons than Turkey being predominantly Muslim. French and the Germans are the current rulers of the EU, that fragile balance would be tilted if Turkey joins. Turkey would be the most populous country in the next decade hence having the most seats in EU parliament and is most like to cooperate with UK than France or Germany and Turkey would favour the rule of parliamentary majority instead of Veto system. Continued.


2/6/2013 5:14:26 PM

EU memebrship itself has very few benefits but many restrictions for a country like Turkey. What is key is the process. Once all the criteria is met, there are no more benefits left. For Turkey EU was and is a civilization project, not an economic one. Many Europeans do not get it, and Erdogan and his ilk certainly do not understand the need for it. Otherwise, Turkey is already part of European history, culture, economy, demographics, geography and politics.

Joe B

2/6/2013 12:48:34 PM

Turkey should not threaten to leave, but threaten to STAY. Insist on your right to EU membership for the sake of the Turkish people who deserve the good European values. One can understand that Erdogan felt betrayed by EU after 2004, but signing the Ankara protocol and visa liberalisation agreement are details in the bigger picture and compromising is NEVER a sign of weakness. Leave bad behaviour to the Greeks and the French. If EU still rejects, cancel any wrong agreements.
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