While neither the European Union nor Turkey lived up to its end of the EU-accession-process bargain last year, in my view Europe deserves more of the blame for the processes’ steady downward trajectory.
Despite understandable skepticism among officials in Ankara given the slow pace of the negotiations, Turkish leaders have reiterated time and again that their ultimate objective is for Turkey to join the European Union.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for some of Europe’s leaders. Angela Merkel suggested an ill-defined ‘privileged partnership‘ as a possible alternative to accession while Nicolas Sarkozy said in 2008 that Turkey is “not part of Europe.”
Fortunately, as I noted in an earlier post, there are signs that French and German attitudes are softening as their respective leaderships digest the consequences of alienating a country as strategically significant as Turkey.
The latest good news is that since assuming the European Union presidency this month, Spain has vigorously promoted Turkey’s accession prospects. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos reiterated that support today.
According to Reuters:
[Moratinos said today that] to admit candidate Turkey could be successfully completed if it met the so-called Copenhagen criteria – covering such areas as democracy, human rights and the rule of law – which is required for membership.
“It would bring Europe more advantages than drawbacks. There may be difference of opinions between EU member states (over Turkish membership), but all have agreed to wait and watch the negotiations,” Moratinos told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Spain, which holds the EU presidency until the end of June, hopes to open accession talks with Ankara in four new policy areas and see progress in a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus which is blocking Ankara’s bid.
“Turkey is a part of the European family of peoples. It is better to have Turkey inside the EU than to leave it standing outside,” Moratinos said.
He added that the EU considers Turkey a partner of high strategic importance, specifically mentioning its diplomatic network in the Middle East and central Asia.
While it remains to be seen what Spain can do over the remaining five months of its presidency to provide momentum for the negotiations, setting the discourse on a more constructive path is a necessary precursor to rebuilding popular support on both sides of the Dardanelles.
— Ben Katcher