(RIEAS Junior Analyst)
On 11th of December 2006 the 25 Foreign Ministers of the EU, stalled the accession negotiations of Turkey and provided a lengthier timetable for the proposed entrance of the latter to the European Union.
A more analytic review of the yearly report of the European Commission on Turkey, presents a more down to earth approach to the accession negotiations that point out towards a long time prospect of any actual developments. Accordingly Turkey should have achieved by late 2007 the following:
1.Implement a fully-fledged parliamentary oversight in its Armed Forces, as well as, in the sector of strategic planning and state security.
2.To compensate capital and fortunes that belonged to ethnic minorities and has been confiscated over the past few decades by the Turkish states. It is important to note that the bulk of it refers to Greek and Armenian properties.
3.To take measures towards the progression of its Kurdish minority, according to the recommendations of the UN service on “Internally displaced people”. Moreover it should clear areas filled with mines against personnel and disband the “Village guard system” where by armed paramilitary forces often clash with Kurdish citizens.
4.Finally it should fully conform to the protocol for customs union that amongst other calls for the freedom of entrance into Turkish airports and ports of Cypriot planes and vessels respectively.
Nowadays Europe is experiencing a very awkward situation in relation to the Turkish entrance path. The political and social climate is steadily moving against any further enlargement prospects. The referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005 and the current electoral campaign of Nicola Sarkozy illustrate resentment by strong societal forces against the prospect of Turkey becoming an EU member.
The so-called Franco-German axis finds it difficult to accept that should Turkey becomes a full member of the EU it will become the largest country in population according to demographic projections in just a decade from now and so it will dictate a larger number of votes than any other member states. In essence the political centre of Europe will gravitate further to the East and the long time French and German establishment will receive a heavy blow.
Furthermore, the possibility of Turkish entrance will further empower the Anglo-Saxon factor in the EU as it has been represented by the UK and on a transatlantic level by the USA. The assumption by many Europeans is that the Americans and the British clearly support Turkey in order to construct an enlarged Europe that will be composed by a variety of antithetical forces, therefore it will not be able to form a military of security structure. On overall the Union will soon become just a free trade zone and it will never antagonize USA and at the same it will reveal Britain from its historical angst since “Luis IV” and that is the creation of a mighty continental political unit.
Turkey now, is experiencing a pre-election period this year, where the Kemalist forces portrayed by the Army and the Islamists of the Prime Minister Erdogan; will compete on who is going to control the Presidency of the Republic, one of the keystones of the Turkish secular state. The Seculars or ‘Generals” as the press often recalls on the Armed Forces and their allies is fearful enough of Erdogan’s ambitions and the rising Islamic sentiment of the populous. On the other hand the Turkish society seems to be divided in a tripartite system.
The secularists (Army, state enterprises, diplomats, academics, large capital figures), the Islamists (Small-medium sized business, unprivileged people from the East of the country, farmers) and the nationalists (North of the country, industry workers, sects of academics and businessmen). What will be the outcome of the above is hard to guess, especially after the assassination of the Turkish-Armenian journalist in Istanbul last month, presumably by a nationalist. It will take immense political skills for the Turkish political class to be able to either merge of balance the three different factors. It is interesting to note at this point the three different foreign policy approaches that the aforementioned have.
The secular ones are steadfast for the entrance in the EU and in the Western camp in general. The Islamists are fascinated by stronger ties with the Sunni powers of the Middle East and the world in general. The nationalists are keen in establishing the Turkish influence in Central Asia, Caucasus and the Balkans. The latter explains why the first and the third of those Turkish forces have often cooperated in order to pursue a multileveled spread of the Turkish influence across Eurasia.
The European Union by drafting its progress report has given a heavy task to the Turkish leadership in order for it to join the European club. The report on pages 21-22 illustrates the important issue of the Kurdish minority and the country and the problems that have been associated with it. “There are many factors that provide difficulties for the return of the internally displaced Kurdish descent citizens. The existence of a large number of personnel mines -900,000 units-. Also according to official data there are 57,601 local paramilitary forces in the Kurdish regions, often accused of harsh behavior against the citizens and a series of human rights violation.
The European Commission has up to late November 2007 to file its next report and take into consideration the progress -if any- made by Ankara’s side. For the time being Turkey is simply not able to proceed to spectacular reformations in its domestic societal and political scene due to the frictions being developed and the rising anti European mood that recent survey’s as the one of Marshall Fund have revealed.
The Turkish Kemalist establishment has remained in place since late Kemal Ataturk created the modern Turkish state in the mid 1920’s. There are vested interests within the country that will loose their influence in a variety of sectors, especially the one of state security, should the EU proposals are implemented.
A possible series of events to follow within 2007 can be summoned as follows. Member states such as Greece, Cyprus, France-Especially if Sarkozy becomes a President-, will propose the stall of accession negotiations because Turkey still does not recognize a fellow member state –Cyprus- and vetoes its entrance in international bodies like the Partnership for Peace program, the OECD, and the “Wassenaar Agreement Group”. In relation to the long-lasting Greek –Turkish rivalry, the former will most certainly press for the termination of the “Casus belli” declaration of Turkey against it.
It was voted in the Turkish Parliament back in 1994 and related to any potential action by Greece to establish a 12 mile territorial zone in the Aegean, despite the fact that both counties have agreed for it in the 1982 negotiations for the international law of sea. The Commission’s report on page 24 states that “Turkey should abide in the rules of friendly neighborhood relations with all existing member states and refrain from any action or statement that will derail the peaceful resolution of any borderline differences”. Since there are regular violations of the Greek airspace and territorial waters by the Turkish military, one should expect Greece to bring this subject in the European agenda and use it effectively as a tool against Turkey’s entrance on autumn 2007 when the new report will be drafted.
In general the path towards Turkish entrance to the EU has barely started. The recent enlargement rush that expanded the EU from 15 members to a Pan European conglomerate of 27 states has significantly weakened the capacity of Brussels to integrate yet new ones especially the size and spread of Turkey. Moreover the internal Turkish disputes and its electoral year will most certainly not give the opportunity to the country to balance its European aspirations and its everyday practicalities.
In a nutshell Turkey’s remains in limbo for the time being and any further concrete analysis would not be able to be made before the end of this year when the new report will appear in par with the ongoing political culminations in the Continent. The French, Greek elections this year along with a possible overturn of the British Prime Minister will play their role on how Europe really views Turkey’s place in the Union and whether if that is possible to be achieved within the coming years.
The full name of the European report is “European Commission DG for Enlargement, Progress Report, Brussels on 8/11/2006” It became a European Union Council decision on 11/12/2006 after turbulent negotiations between the member states.