Saturday, October 01, 2005

Turkey Bristles over EU Proposal

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the EU that it will only accept full membership into the Union, totally rejecting a proposal floated by Austria that would grant Turkey an associate membership. (ABC: Turkish Leader Demands Full EU Membership). For centuries, Turkey has been the bridge between Middle Eastern and Western society, but has long sought to define itself as a European nation. In recent polls, 57.4% of the people in Turkey support joining the EU.

Whether or not Turkey is accepted into the EU may well have significant influence on their relationship with the US. Turkey has always been a NATO ally and strong supporter of US policy, however the two nations were at odds at the start of the Iraq War over Turkey's last-minute refusal to allow US troops access to their border. Relationships between the two nations were slightly soured by that problem.

If Turkey does in fact join the EU, that will foster closer ties between the Muslim nation and the European powers that are becoming increasingly antagonistic towards the US. I have little doubt that our relationship with Turkey will suffer if they succeed in joining the EU. If, on the other hand, Turkey is denied full entry, that may well foster a much closer relationship with the US - something that would benefit both nations.

Turkish - European relations will clearly be impacted if Turkey is denied entry or if the EU attempts to impose additional conditions. Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc stated that Turkey would continue to progress on its own terms if Europe decided not to deal with them. Read into that what you will, but personally, I would not be looking for any favorable relations between the two if Turkey is excluded.

Given the choice, I would prefer to see Turkey establish a closer relationship with the US. That would mean excluding Turkey from the EU, however I believe it would be better for both the US and Turkey in the long run. Should they actually join, however, expect to see US and Turkish relations enter a long cooling period. Their status as a staunch US ally may well be in jeopardy, given their desire to enter closer relations with the EU. That would be unfortunate for both nations.


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