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A second ‘non-dialogue policy with the EU?’
Prof. Dr. Hüseyin BAĞCI – 20 November 2000, Turkish Daily News
Turkey is heading with great political speed for another “non-dialogue” with the European Union. In particular, Turkish public opinion is very angry about the decision of the European Parliament to accept the decision that Turkey should recognize the so-called Armenian Bill and that Cyprus has become another political criteria for EU-membership. Also, some modifications of Turkey’s borders and Kurdish television and radio broadcasting were other issues which created heavy debates among political leaders. Therefore, the good atmosphere which was achieved in Helsinki has been spoiled. Was such a situation expected before the intergovernmental conference? No doubt those who are against Turkish membership of the EU and those who are against EU-membership in Turkey made their points and they made obvious, at least for the moment, what they wanted: the continuation of the non-dialogue.
The main differences between Turkey and the EU will remain the Cyprus, Armenian and Kurdish issues. But why at the last minute make the European Parliament put those two critical issues into the Morillion Report and create such anger? Even Morillion did not accept this change and resigned. Is this not then a fait accompli towards Turkey? Also, the Cyprus question suddenly becomes another political criteria. What is the real purpose behind this? Do they think that Turkey can accept such moves? It seems neither diplomatically, nor politically correct behavior by the European Parliament. Then, the discussions last week centered again on how the EU is not reliable: these have one aim, to destroy Turkey, and get Turkey away from the EU. Even one of the most important criticisms came by the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, Kamran Inan, when he said, concerning Cyprus, “They [the EU] want to get Cyprus into the EU because one part of the island belongs to their religion and culture,” indicating Southern Cyprus.
For Turkey, in the words of Ambassador Volkan Vural, Cyprus is a matter of political dialogue and Turkey will further support U.N. Secretary General Cofi Annan in his search for dialogue, but certainly neither Annan nor the EU is a referee in this issue. Cyprus is irrelevant for Turkey’s national program which will be submitted to the EU. Therefore, the Greek government put it in the “political criteria,” and in the letter to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit by Finland’s Prime Minister before the Helsinki summit. Accordingly it did not contain anything. Now, all this happens and the Turkish government is upset. Then, like Cyprus, they did not expect the so-called Armenian genocide to be accepted by the European Parliament. It gave a signal to all other national parliaments in Europe, as indicated by the French and Italian parliaments’ decisions. It is expected that the Scandinavian parliaments will follow suit. Another important development happened on Friday when Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lind visited Turkey for four hours and told her counterpart Ismail Cem that Kurdish education must be started and that just making a few television and radio broadcasts will not be enough. As is known, Sweden will take the EU term presidency in January 2001 and no doubt Sweden will create more headaches for Turkey.
It is not so important whether Turkey will accept those “unofficial political criteria” by the EU or not. The real question remains whether Turkey will keep its enthusiasm for EU membership. Recent developments show that Turkey is losing its hope for a new dynamic and also its European vision. The modernization process in Turkey will be interrupted again if there is another “second non-dialogue policy,” and this time it will be longer. Then, no political party can support closer EU relations if the EU continues to act in such a way that the Turkish nation is degraded and demoralized. A new, in the words of Cem Duna, “Luxembourg syndrome” is emerging. This time with far more negative consequences for each side. For those who are do not want to see Turkey in the EU it is a great success; but for those who look forward to union membership it must bring great disappointment and resignation.
What will happen then? No doubt, it will not be the end of the world. Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said that Turkey can renounce EU membership and that Turkey would not be seen to accept anything the EU requires of it. Maybe he is now the only political leader who does not have it easy. Two political leaders in the coalition, Prime Minister Ecevit and Deputy Prime Minister Bahceli, stated long ago that, as concerns the Cyprus and Ocalan issues, Turkey has done as much as it can. Now, as a result, Turkish nationalism will experience another rise and anti-EU forces will win another battle, if not the war. The EU is also making it difficult for Mesut Yilmaz, who seems determined to get into the EU. But Foreign Minister Cem is now under very strong pressure because all his diplomatic moves seem like trees without fruit. Now, the Aegean question has raised another political criterion. This means that his sincere policy towards Greece became another disappointment for Cem, but a success for Papandreou.
Far from being a highway for Turkey the EU road map seems rather like a city street full of barriers. The sincerity of the EU and EU institutions is called into question again and membership seems unreachable. It is a pity that the good atmosphere has lasted only one year. The tension between the EU and Turkey has just started and a political solution is not there. Certainly, it will be a cold winter for both sides despite the fact that in Ankara it is as sunny as ever.