07 October 2006

1089) For those who do not understand

Angela Merkel, Jacques Chirac, Olli Rehn, José Manuel Barroso and Camiel Eurlings all indicate with their latest remarks in this or that manner that Turkish membership in the European Union is not being (probably has never been) considered.

The controversial report of the European Parliament (EP) Foreign Affairs Commission has been “corrected” by the EP General Assembly. The Armenian genocide allegation remains unchanged; . . . it is just that in the final text Turkish recognition of it is no longer cited as a precondition for EU membership. In its final version the report does refer to the alleged “Pontian and Assyrian genocides” cited in the initial draft, but it makes those references without actually using the word “genocide.” All in all, the report seems to be written not towards making Turkey a member but with the purpose of discouraging Turkey from going ahead with the accession process.

Meanwhile, Chirac's visit to Armenia has resulted, as expected, in his voicing the “Armenian genocide” allegations -- repeatedly. Chirac is the vanguard among French politicians when it comes acknowledging the crimes committed by his country in the past and publicly apologizing for them. Therefore he may deem it a moral obligation for himself to “recognize” the “Armenian genocide” as well. On the other hand, the Armenian community in France is enjoying an increased weight prior to a tough presidential election. So, this is more about politics than moral obligations.

France knows that Turkey will never accept the Armenian genocide claim. And it exploits the genocide issue so as to block Turkey's path to EU membership. Their new draft law envisages heavy fines and prison sentences for those “negating the Armenian genocide.” Even if we endured all kinds of humiliation and reached the stage of signing the accession treaty, that treaty would be subjected to a referendum in France; and to obtain a positive result from the referendum we would be required to “acknowledge the genocide.”

The EU calls it “the need to face up to the past.” That is the principle on which the European project has been based in the aftermath of the Holocaust. We did not play any role in that disaster. However, obviously if we are to be admitted into the ranks of the genocide perpetrators, we too will have to find ourselves a proper case of genocide, declare our regrets for “having committed it” and pledge not to do any such thing ever again.

Until she became chancellor, Merkel had advocated a “privileged partnership” status for Turkey as opposed to full membership. Now she seems not to be opposing Turkish full membership. She must have adopted that role as a result of the “re-casting of the roles” with France. This way she will prevent a disruption of her relations with the sizable Turkish community in Germany. Meanwhile she sees the Cyprus problem as an issue that can suitably be used in order to block our path to EU membership.

The commission traditionally sides with the member countries. The current commission backs our membership bid. However, the EU member states lack the common political will needed for that. And this makes the commission's job extremely difficult. We have reached a certain point where neither the new government of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) nor this or any future government of Turkey can possibly back down. This impasse cannot be overcome with the kind of proposal the Finns have offered. There is only one way out: The EU has to acknowledge the erroneous nature of its Cyprus policy and make the Greek Cypriots toe the line. Since this is not being done, the commission is focusing on the reforms; however, the lack of political will has undermined the Turkish government's eagerness to make further reforms.

When referring to reform they are talking about the rights of minorities and Christians, and Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Almost all of those that have been in trouble due to that article are “intellectual” Turks who have “acknowledged” the “Armenian genocide.” Therefore, the calls for abolition of Article 301 are aimed at bringing about widescale public discussions in Turkey on the “Armenian genocide” issue. In other words, these calls are justified in principle, but the purpose seems hardly justified. Indeed, it was pointed out to Rehn that the EU demands from Turkey conflicted with the situation in France (regarding the genocide law in the offing) and the Netherlands (where Turks who reject the Armenian genocide allegations are not allowed to run for parliament seats). He had a hard time trying to respond to questions in this vein.

Barroso's latest statement shows that the commission does not fully back our membership, either. Barroso first talked about suspending EU enlargement until institutional reforms are made, that is, until the EU Constitution problem is resolved. Then he pointed out that Turkey could be a member in 15, 20 or 25 years. What kind of impression have we given them that they seem to think that we would wait all those years?

Viewed together, these signs show clearly that basically the EU does not want to make Turkey a member but that it is unwilling to openly say so since that would entail a political price. Obviously, it aims to exasperate Turkey by waging a “guerrilla war” on secondary issues.

If Turkey's prestige is to be maintained, even at a minimal level, we must immediately get out of this masochistic mood we seem to have plunged into. Otherwise we will come to hate the West, the EU and Christianity. And our naive liberals and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will have to pay for that situation.

October 7, 2006
Gündüz Aktan
© 2005 Dogan Daily News Inc

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