“Die Türke vor Brüssel”

Die Türke vor Brüssel, the Turks before Brussels, is the title of tonight’s “theme night” at Arte, the Franco-German television channel. The programme’s French, more neutral, title is: La Turquie et l’Europe, and it is of course about Turkey’s aspiration to become an EU member state. I would certainly recommend watching the repeat emission on December 8 at 15:15 (CET).

The, for me, most remarkable element was that those whose fate is often used as an argument by opponents of Turkey’s EU entry, actually seem to be among its most fervent proponents. The Armenian and Kurdish questions should not be used as arguments against Turkish accession, said the Armenian and Kurdish representatives I saw tonight. Even a Greek conservative MEP argued similarly as far as Turkish-Greek divisions were concerned. Obviously, their reasoning is that the continuation of the accession process makes Turkey less likely to cause trouble, and more likely to continue modernising.

Note that this does not imply that Turkey needs the EU legal and political framework as such in order to become stable and modern. The point (mine at least) is more about the effective management of expectations and political, economic, and social processes. The reform process in Turkey is driven by the goal and expectation of eventual EU membership and of what that requires. Previous EU enlargements have shown that it is not enough if a candidate state just transposes the EU acquis and additional requirements into domestic law. Implementation takes much more than that, including, in many cases, a change of mentality of ordinary people, policemen, civil servants, and producers. For the reforms to work, EU accession must be more than an elite project, but needs the active support of a substantial part of the population. It must be a truly nation-wide project.

But if public opinion inside Turkey is so important for the reform process to succeed, that means there is a role for politicians outside Turkey as well. If they make the impression of not being serious about Turkish EU accession, they undermine the reform process itself by taking away the common goal that drives it. What I am saying is that now the EU has said A by promising the country membership in 1963 and by confirming its candidacy in 1999, not just Turkish politicians, but the entire Turkish population expects to hear B as well. European politicians who want a different outcome for Turkey than full EU membership should think twice if they do not want to endanger the reform process.

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