Turkey and Europe, The Betrothed: that marriage is not to be performed!

, by Matteo Minchio, Translated by Manuela La Gamma

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Turkey and Europe, The Betrothed: that marriage is not to be performed!

The Ambassador Boris Biancheri has been through a lot over the course of his long career and he is perfectly right when he defines Europe and Turkey “the eternal sweethearts”. Brussels and Ankara have been chasing each other relentlessly for more than forty years, but have always found a Don Rodrigo willing to block their marriage. Four years ago, when the association agreement had finally turned into accession negotiations, Nicola Sarkozy stated: “Had Turkey been European, we would have known!”

Apparently, these provocative words were meant to ride a widespread uneasiness and to put President Chirac on the spot, since he was in favour of Turkey’s accession to EU.

By now, this topic seems to have turned into a matter of principle, likely to become a new veto, calling to mind the one put by De Gaulle. From the status of negotiations standpoint, the French dissent is not the sole problem.

As showed by the report drawn up in October by the DG Enlargement, of the thirty-three chapters just one has been closed (Research), while others have been left pending and the rest have not been opened yet. When it comes to human rights, there are lights and shadows. In particular, a very sensitive topic is the freedom of the press, since in the past there have been several trials against journalists and writers for issues related to the freedom of expression, based upon Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code (e.g. Orhan Pamuk). Luckily, nowadays this instrument is less used, but the legal system is still repressive and authoritarian.

However, a new phenomenon has been standing out – at least in Turkey – i.e., the clash between government and press. The supporters of Dogan, strongly against the government, have unleashed a media campaign in the name of Turkish secular tradition, together with a personal attack against Erdogan for issues referring to some foreign funds. An enraged Prime Minister has proposed to boycott the group and has unleashed against them tax collectors, who have enforced a huge sanction for tax evasion regarded as insoluble. This deed has deeply concerned the Commission, which has promptly underlined it in the report.

Turkey is making more efforts on another level, especially as regards what Davugotlu defines the normalisation of neighbourhood relations. This behaviour as been viewed by its opponents as neo-Ottoman and opposite to the Kemalist principles. If truth be told, it is a proper foreign policy which finds against that backdrop a wide leeway. Among the most significant successes, there is the normalisation of the relations with Armenia, by means of exploiting the always useful “soccer diplomacy”.

It is noteworthy the fact that the Armenian genocide issue is not any more just a political taboo, but has become a historical problem. This issue had become over the time quite embarrassing, considered the strong pressures put by the Armenian diaspora in countries such as France or USA.

It is true that the nonchalance showed by Ankara in bearing these relations can provoke misunderstandings, e.g. the oration given by Erdogan at Davos against Israel about Gaza, or his questionable relations with Ahmadinejad. However, Brussels has fostered such a line of conduct by AKP, even if this field does not directly pertain to negotiations, but is useful to the resolution of ongoing border conflicts and of situations unrespectful of the Copenhagen criteria.

Sarkozy maintains that Ankara cannot yet open the “institutional” chapters of the negotiation, since there is the perspective of a privileged partnership, expression viewed as an insult by Davugotlu.

Is there a way out? In days of yore, near Ankara there was a city called Gordium, whose myth had been forever linked to the knot that Alexander managed to untie with a sharp sword cut.

Undoubtedly, the Cypriot issue is not less complicated, since the current vicious circle cannot be solved without a political effort.

The association agreement has been blocked due to the sanctions required by Cyprus for the embargo enforced by Ankara towards Greek-Cypriot ships. The above mentioned embargo, coming from the failed recognition of Cyprus following the facts of 1974, invalidates the association agreement between Turkey and Europe and provides for a free trade area. To put it starkly, only an agreement on the Cypriot reunification – but Cyprus seems still unwilling to do so – could push Ankara to recognise Cyprus, thus unblocking the negotiation.

As far as Italy is concerned, there is a consensus of all political parties, as showed by Ferrari and reminded by Stefano Torelli. Our Country is not the only one to support this stance; on the contrary, Italy has been openly joined by Spain or, more discretely, by Great Britain, with the support of the Swedish presidency.

For the time being, let’s enjoy President Napolitano, wearing the tunic of Friar Cristoforo and foretelling to his colleague Abdullah Gul that A day will come!”…a day when also Ankara will be a European city, even if, to tell the truth, this perspective is uncertain.

Image: Blue Mosque, source: youngrobv www.flickr.com

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