September 28, 2004
IS TURKEY READY TO JOIN 'THE CLUB'?
** The European Union is
facing a "fateful decision" on its future relations with Turkey.
remain" but boosters tout "undeniable" advantages of Turkey's
** Skeptics cite human
rights, Islamic identity as proof Turkey and EU remain "far apart."
** Turkish media say
Erdogan mishandled adultery issue, pushing EU project "to the brink."
Europe 'must say yes'-- Analysts
in the UK, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and Spain favored holding EU accession talks
with Turkey. Arguing that "the
broad thrust of Turkish politics is heading in the right direction,"
Britain's conservative Times held that "the case for embracing
Turkey...is clear." Other UK
analysts termed the debate "critically important" and the
"arguments in favor, strategic."
Italy's center-right Il Giornale asserted "it is in
everyone's interest to have Turkey inside Europe," adding that the coming
EU decision on offering talks would provide "a major opportunity" for
anyone "interested in a dialogue" with Islam.
Talks are 'no guarantee'-- Supporters agreed with
more neutral observers, however, that despite "huge progress" in
political and economic reform, Turkey "still has a long road to
walk." An "essential
question," Belgium's financial L'Echo said, is "the EU's
capacity to integrate a country of 72 million people" with a much smaller
GDP per capita than Europe. Britain's
independent Financial Times identified the "real challenge" as
cultural--is Europe "prepared to accept such a large Islamic country"
into the EU and can Turkey "accommodate European values"? The Turkish government's
"volte-face" on criminalizing adultery, observed a left-of-center
French paper, "proves...that the EU has had an influence" on Ankara's
'Promises are useless'-- Accession opponents
contended Turkey "is not ready for the club." Sentiment was particularly widespread in
German and Austrian papers that "serious problems" remained and that
continued "torture and mistreatment" as well as the military's
influence show "a democratic state based on the rule of law is not yet in
sight" in Turkey. Modern Europe
"is a community based on values" and only those "who share its
principles and rules" can join, argued Germany's Financial Times
Deutschland. PM Erdogan's reversal
on the adultery law, an Austrian writer averred, came "under great
pressure" and the issue illustrates "how far apart the EU and Turkey
still are." The Czech Republic's
mainstream MF Dnes summed up European fears of Turkey this way: "It is too big. It is too Muslim. It is too poor."
Turkey 'cannot afford mistakes'--
outlets declared the EU "should not close its doors to Turkey," but
admitted the adultery controversy had led to a "very stressful" time;
PM Erdogan had "stumbled over the issue." Turkey "cannot afford any more crises on
the road to the EU," they warned.
Urging Ankara to "take the initiative," mass-appeal Milliyet
claimed this could be the "last chance" for both the EU and
Turkey. Islamist Vakit chastised
the government for its "submissive acceptance" of Brussels'
conditions, but other papers stated that "gradual integration" with
the EU would boost Turkey's "democratization."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the
Internet. This report summarizes and
interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Government. This analysis
was based on 44 reports from 15 countries September 15 - 27, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most
BRITAIN: "Seize The
An editorial in the conservative Times read (9/24): "In the course of the accession talks,
assuming they begin on schedule, substantial obstacles will naturally
arise. Women's rights in Turkey must be
reinforced. Demands for cultural
autonomy for Turkey's Kurds must, as far as possible, be met, and millions must
be lifted out of poverty, not least to soothe the fears of a deluge of cheap
labor depriving the Continent's blue-collar workers of jobs.... The broad thrust of Turkish politics is
already heading in the right direction and to reject its presence would be seen
in Ankara, quite understandably, as a return to past enmity. More than ever, the case for embracing
Turkey, not shunning her, is clear."
"Turkey And Europe"
The independent Financial Times declared (9/24): "The question of whether Turkey is ready
to open negotiations to become a full member of the European Union is not only
critically important but politically very sensitive.... The arguments in favor are strategic: binding
Turkey to the EU would give the lie to any 'clash of civilizations', and bring
a young and vigorous economy into 'old Europe'.
If Turkish membership of the EU is to become a reality, it is essential
to get those arguments across to ordinary voters. It would be dangerously counter-productive
for such a decision to be seen as just another project of the elite."
"Why Europe Must Say Yes To Turkey"
An editorial in the independent weekly Economist read
(9/18): "It is impossible to
demonstrate a priori that Islam is compatible with liberal
democracy. But Turkey is as good a test
case as any with which to prove the point.
Indeed, it is precisely in order to encourage Turks (and other Muslims)
to buy into liberal democracy that Turkey must be given the benefit of the doubt,
and offered EU membership talks. If the
Turks move backwards, whether on human rights or on religious fundamentalism,
they can always be shown the door again."
"The Case For Letting Turkey In"
Quentin Peel commented in the independent Financial Times
(9/16): "The timing could hardly have
been worse. The proposal by the Turkish
government to bring back prison sentences for adultery...looked like a
disastrous own goal.... When the Turkish
government backed down on Tuesday...it was a demonstration of how critical the
campaign for EU membership has become in Ankara.... After 41 years in the waiting room, Turkey's
pro-EU campaigners believe they are in sight of their goal.... But can the EU members pluck up the courage
to give Turkey the green light?... The
real challenges are cultural. Is Europe
prepared to accept such a large Islamic country into its midst? Can Turkey accommodate European values? If the world is going to resist the present
drive of fanatics and extremists to divide it into some disastrous clash of
civilizations, we must hope that the answer to both questions is Yes."
France's right-of-center Le Figaro said
(9/24): "In trying to please
everyone, PM Erdogan has ended up by having everyone against him.... So now we don't know who he is, and what he
wants for his country. Has he come to
Brussels to do battle with Europe...or does he now want to calm things
"EU Still Has Influence"
Left-of-center Le Monde contended
(9/16): "The Turkish government's
decision to drop its plan to criminalize adultery from a package of legal
reforms proves...if proof were still needed, that the EU has had an influence
on the process of reform in Turkey....
Ankara has done a complete volte-face...by deciding not to add an
amendment to the draft Penal Code providing for prison terms for this
'crime'.... This change of heart...once
more illustrates the growing power of civil society, especially of feminist
organizations who sounded the alarm to prevent such an article becoming
law.... However...the government has not
officially announced it is abandoning its plan, but has instead discreetly
Martin Halusa commented in right-of-center Die Welt of
Berlin (9/27): "So far, Turkey's
commitments and promises only exist on paper.
Although the country has clearly changed--it abandoned the death
penalty, advanced freedom of speech and pushed back the military--Verheugen's
statement that there are no indications of 'systematic torture' sounds almost
cynical, because human rights organizations are continuously reporting on
tortures and crimes committed by the administration. They might not be systematic or state-organized,
but they are more than individual cases.
Promises are useless unless they become law and are enforced even in the
farthest reaches of the country. Turkey
does not comply with the Copenhagen criteria as long as this is not the
case. The EU is not a wobbly association
for the greater good of all of us, but a community with strict laws, all of
which Turkey must accept."
"Standing On Both Sides"
Gerd Hoehler agrued in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau
(9/27): "It would be too
superficial to disregard the crises as a theater play in which Erdogan emerges
as a hero at the end. The controversy
shows that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is two-faced in his relations with
Europe and the Muslim world. Erdogan wants
to stand on both sides in the current fight between an old and new Turkey. He wants to serve everybody for tactical
reasons or because he cannot make up his mind.... By trotting on this thin line, Erdogan will
neither convince the EU nor his own people.
He must make up his mind where he stands."
Wolfgang Guenther Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (9/24): "It is easy
to believe that the entire conflict was fake and tactically motivated. By planning to criminalize adultery, Prime
Minister Erdogan wanted to offer something to his conservative Islamic
electorate that he did not support himself.
He had to do it because two previous Islamic projects had failed. Brussels is now praising him for his
concession, but also Commissioner Verheugen, who truly is in favor of Ankara's
accession, was able to imply by his justified objection to the adultery law
that nothing had been decided. The truth
is that Ankara will be soon told a date for accession talks. Things will pick up pace then, since elites
have already agreed on the matter. It is
about Eurasian markets."
Christoph Schwennicke opined in center-left Sueddeutsche
Zeitung of Munich (9/24):
"Europeans are now rubbing their eyes, because Erdogan had rejected
any outside interference just a few days ago, saying it was up to Turkey alone
to decide whether to criminalize adultery.
The quarrel with Europe escalated because Erdogan did not understand
that we had caught him in flagrante feeding national resentments against
Europe. He proved what all Turkey
skeptics seem to know: The large country
on the Bosporus is not ready for the club.
Erdogan's maneuver damaged the trust in Turkey's groundbreaking
reforms. EU governments will struggle
now more than ever before to make a decision about Turkey's future and that of
Europe. Thanks to Erdogan we have a new
Eric Bonse wrote in business-oriented Handelsblatt of
Duesseldorf (9/24): "The speed of events should not conceal
the fact that a number of serious problems are unsolved. The penal code must yet be enforced, torture
and mistreatment continue, and the military is still playing a major role in
Turkey--a democratic state based on the rule of law is not yet in sight. Even Verheugen believes that it will take ten
years until Turkey is ripe for the EU.
The future industrial commissioner does not want to raise more
obstacles, but it remains to be seen whether Turkey meets all entry
requirements. Not just Agriculture
Commissioner Fischler doubts that. Above
all, the sudden agreement did not solve a single problem of a potential
accession. Neither Turkey nor the EU are
prepared for an eternal marriage."
"The Adultery Lesson"
Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg
editorialized (9/24): "Europeans
and Turks should learn the lesson of the recent conflict. It would be fatal if we pretended that
everything would happen automatically now.
Despite decades of commitments and the talk of a strategic bridge to the
Islam world, modern Europe is a community based on values, which only those can
join who share its principles and rules.
The quarrel over the adultery law has reminded everybody of that at the
right time. Europeans must act with the
same vigor if similar issues come up during the negotiation talks. This should also include freezing
talks.... Turkey must know right from
the start that it cannot return to an Islamic policy after the country joined
the EU. On the other hand, Europeans are
well advised to keep the demands at high levels."
Christoph Rabe commented in business daily Handelsblatt of
Duesseldorf (9/21): "The risk of
Turkey collapsing in front of the European gate as a result of political
clumsiness seems to have been averted, at least for the time being. Nothing else has change Turkey more since
reformers came into office than the prospect of EU accession talks. For 41 years Turkey has been waiting for
it. Above all, the young
conservative-Islamic party AKP revamped Turkey in the last two years, leading
the country out of corruption and political chaos and launching deep-seated
reforms. Many observers see the change
of Turkey as a revolution. Erdogan has
given Turkey a new image by a spate of new laws overhauling politics, the
economy and the society. It is now a
country embarking upon overdue reforms and advancing towards European
values. Facts count and not the
commotion over the marriage law....
Turkey would certainly be a burden for the EU, and not just a financial
one. But it will also strengthen the
community, because Turkey is a rapidly growing market, which is what the rest
of the Europe needs. In addition, it
would force the EU to change institutionally.
It could prove its capability to change into a cross-culture community
and show that democracy and Islam can exists in harmony. That is a prerequisite for Europe if it wants
to bear new geopolitical responsibilities in trouble spots, such as the Middle
East and the Caucasus.... If the EU were
to snub Turkey despite all the country's achievements, it would put its own
credibility and future power at stake.
Turkey would not make a fresh start for Europe, but look for alternative
alliances--to the EU's disadvantage. The
Commission and EU leaders must keep calm.
It would help nobody if Brussels became nervous."
"Cancel The Offer"
Jochen Koenig argued in business daily Handelsblatt of
Duesseldorf (9/21): "Politicians must bold and correct their
agreement from 1999, when they chose Turkey as a EU candidate after a debate
that lasted just three minutes.... The
nature of the European Union is defined by its name. Turkey is not situated in Europe but in
Asia--apart from the region surrounding Istanbul. Not just the country's geography contradicts
Turkey's desire for EU membership. The
EU is more than a multicultural community with common values and a more than a
free trade area. With its constitution
it wants to strengthen the political side of the Union, which has already
gained political power in the world. But
Turkey does not suit the political union; Ankara itself does not want it, as we
can see in the debate over the penal code."
ITALY: "Turkey Passes
The First EU Exam"
Romano Dapas observed in Rome-based center-left Il Messaggero
(9/24): “In Germany, the
Christian-Democrats of the CDU have spoken out against Turkey’s ascension and
presented a letter written by Angela Merkel to EU governments that proposes a
‘privileged partnership’ with Turkey but that will prevent Europe from
expanding beyond its own borders. A
Gallup poll conducted in Austria revealed that three out of four Austrians,
meaning 76 percent of the population, is against beginning negotiations for
Turkey’s membership. Mindful of Vienna’s
long siege by Turkish armies, 68 out of 100 Austrians are of the opinion that
‘Turkey won’t be mature enough to enter the EU in ten or twenty years.”
"Turkey Is Europe’s Dilemma"
Franco Venturini wrote in centrist, top-circulation Corriere
della Sera (9/22): “Europe can’t and
won’t say no to Turkey. Most certainly
the EU Commission and Council will review every detail regarding Turkey’s
willingness to negotiate its membership.
Europe’s green light is tied to Ankara’s completion of its reform
program. Many will try to drag out
negotiations as long as possible. But a
refusal is out of the question because Turkey can count on the most convincing
of allies--Islamic terrorism.”
"The Meaning Of Welcoming Turkey"
Ferdinando Salleo, former Italian Ambassador to Washington, wrote
in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (9/21): “We should closely consider the consequences
[of Turkey’s ascension] on the Union....
In light of current institutional conditions, I fear that Turkey’s
ascension, even if final in 2013, would immediately invert the political and
institutional axis toward free trade to the damage of an integrationist
evolution.... A definitive refusal would
have serious consequences in the short to long term.... Europe’s isolation in the Near and Middle
East would be accentuated and Cyprus would remain a national issue. Long-term consequences would be even
worse.... Expectations of Turkish
society are high and could trigger a complicated process that could erase
secularization and drive a democratic country toward the progressive
assimilation of its tumultuous and unstable authoritarian neighbors, toward a
very dangerous type of Islamic nationalism.”
"Opportunity Over Turkey"
Renato Brunetta wrote in pro-government center-right Il
Giornale (9/14): "Islam: anyone who wants dialogue has a major
opportunity. On 6 October the European
Commission is due to decide on whether to give a positive verdict on the
commencement of negotiations over Turkey's membership of the EU.... These are two fundamental moments for the
future of Europe.... Politically and
economically, it is in everyone's interests to have a Turkey inside
Europe. Albeit not in a short timeframe,
and with due guarantees and checks....
Turkey has voted through more democratic reforms in the last two years than
throughout the previous decade, and it is no coincidence that the people who
are opposed to its joining the Union are the more reactionary Turkish
parties: nationalists, Islamists,
traditional Kemalists, and a large section of the military establishment. Thanks to this process of reforms, Ankara
today offers a reference model for democracy, and for the concept of a State
subject to the rule of law, for all Islamic countries. Definitively anchoring Turkey to Europe
means, on the one hand, speeding up the completion of democratic reforms, and
on the other hand avoiding a possible drift toward fundamentalism. A refusal, or a postponement of the
commencement of membership negotiations would, instead, give the impression of
a Europe that is a closed 'Christian Club'....
In short, the advantages for Turkey and for the EU are undeniable.... It is necessary to begin the membership talks
as soon as possible. Time, and gradual
integration (economic, democratic, and cultural integration), will do the rest,
dispelling prejudices, apprehensions, forms of egoism, and real problems."
"Turkey And Iran, EU Faces Test"
Leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore
noted (9/14): "Today 'dialogue,'
not only with moderate Islam but also with that Islam which is merely amenable
to isolating the terrorists, is indispensable.
But this dialogue demands clarity.
At the current time, Europe has two important opportunities to obtain
this clarity: discussions on Turkey's
membership of the EU...and discussions on the stance to be adopted...on the
nuclear bomb which, according to several international observers, Tehran could
build in the next few months....
Regarding Turkey, objections that are too unbalanced have been raised
('there are too many of them,' 'they are Asiatics,' 'their membership cancels
out the Christian victory in the siege of Vienna').... The decisions regarding Turkey and Iran
represent two fundamental episodes for understanding what stance Europe will
take over the next few years. Turkey's
membership of the EU cannot be treated superficially: there can be no discounts over rights, and
careful attention should be paid to the geopolitical effects of Ankara's
membership. But the integration in
Europe of a Muslim and modern country is fundamental for getting not only our
Old Continent, but also the entire world, back on track."
Boris Volkhonskiy asserted in business-oriented Kommersant
(9/24): "Despite optimistic
statements by officials, far from all contradictions have been removed. The 'hot' issue of human rights between
Brussels and Ankara is just a smoke screen hiding the true reasons some
member-states resist the admission of a country that has potential to secure a
place among the EU leaders."
Editor Eva Linsinger contended in independent Der
Standard (9/24): "Why this
show? What is the reason for Turkey's
Prime Minister Erdogan to risk the crisis with the EU because of the adultery
article in the law? There are several
possible answers to this question. There
are domestic considerations: the
insistence on the punishment for adultery was a concession to the pro-Islamists
and the conservative voters. There are
principal considerations: Erdogan
underestimated the degree of outrage in Brussels and only gave in under great
pressure--this would serve to demonstrate how far apart the EU and Turkey still
are. The cynical considerations: Erdogan has pulled off this show--including
dramatic reconciliation--quite deliberately to divert attention from the
economic doubts about a Turkish EU membership.
All three possibilities make one thing clear: even if the 'OK' for membership negotiations
is now final, the negotiations themselves are going to be difficult, long, and
laborious. And the tug-of-war about the
criminal law will not have been the last conflict between Ankara and
"Turkey Should Show It's Sorry"
Walter Friedl maintained in mass-circulation Kurier
(9/23): "When Turkey's Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes his eagerly-awaited appearance in Brussels
today, his room for maneuver is very much restricted. After the turbulence of the last few days,
everyone in Europe from Lisbon to Helsinki and from London to Heraklion are
expecting one thing only from him--to take back his plan to put adultery once
more under punishment.... In the current
heated debate, Erdogan has no choice: he
has to backpedal on the adultery issue and pass it off as a blunder, even if
this is hard for him to sell at home.
However, this is an experience that every EU head of government has had
to go through. And after all, Erdogan
wants to be part of this group at some point in the future, doesn't he?”
"The Turks Before Vienna"
Editor Christian Rainer commented in independent political weekly Profil
(9/20): "The European identity is
in reality an economic identity. To
those who argue that Europe also has a political identity beyond the economic
factor one can only respond by stating:
with regard to its identity 'beyond' economics, which lies essentially
in the area of foreign policy, Turkey is more thoroughly integrated into the EU
through its NATO membership than is, for instance, Austria. Europe defines itself through economic
regulations.... What a Turkish
membership means for the EU can be summed up as what any bank or insurance
agency would call 'cluster risk' where one customer can destabilize the entire
enterprise through its sheer size in relation to the company. In the case of Turkey, this risk consists of
many uncertainties. Just to name some
examples: low economic production that
has to be boosted by EU payments; hidden unemployment among a huge young
population which might truly result in migration this time; an unstable
currency. The weight that Turkey would
carry in Europe--in addition to its NATO membership--would make Brussels liable
to blackmail from the politicians in Ankara."
Impossible To Say 'No'"
Foreign affairs writer Kris Van Haver commented in independent
financial daily De Tijd (9/25):
"What happened in the past makes it virtually impossible to say
'No' to Turkey. The European leaders
cannot do anything else than follow the European Commission. A deviation from that line would not be
coherent and would be viewed as politically incorrect by Ankara. At the same time those leaders are confronted
with public opinions that are opposed to Turkish membership. That opposition is outspoken in Germany and
Austria, but also tangible in all the member states. In this debate extreme right-wing parties
fully exploit the cultural and religious gaps with Turkey. It will be a task for most European
governments to 'sell' the talks with Turkey to their populations in an
acceptable manner, especially because the debate over Turkey threatens to
dominate the approval of the European Constitution. European circles fear that in the countries
where referenda on that Constitution will be held in the spring a bill will be
presented for the membership talks with Turkey.
That 'sale' may happen in the form of a white lie: it is true that the negations with Turkey
will start, but they will last long. Of
course, those talks will take time, but the dynamics of the membership talks
must not be underestimated either. Who
thought 10 years ago that Romania would become an EU member in 2007? Yet, that scenario is the most likely
"Turkey And EU's Capacity"
Olivier Gosset observed in financial L'Echo (9/25): "One would be wrong to limit the Turkish
question to adultery problems. If one
considers that Ankara's European vocation is legitimate, the only question that
should be asked for the time being is whether Turkey has made enough progress
in the democratic field to deserve the opening of negotiations on its EU
membership. But this essential question
should not prevent another question from being asked, i.e. that of the EU's
capacity to integrate a country of 72 million people who have a much lower
purchasing power, than the European average.
Such a prospect appears unrealistic without a deep reform of EU's
policies. The EU's financial resources
would not be able to cope with the inclusion of Turkey in the CAP and in the
regional aids systems. There would also
be institutional problems: with its
current demography, Turkey will probably become the EU's largest member in 15
years, increasing the risks of getting to an institutional deadlock. In addition, there is also the question of
social dumping and of emigration, two sensitive questions for European public
opinions. Should Turkey's candidacy for
EU membership therefore be rejected? Not
at all. There is no reason that Turkey,
which has achieved more reforms since it became a candidate for EU membership
two years ago than during the previous 10 years, fail where former Socialist
republics from Eastern and Central Europe succeeded."
"Turkey And The EU"
Agnes Gorissen wrote in left-of-center Le
Soir (9/24): "Let us be
serious: the assurances that Erdogan
gave on adultery and torture were necessary but not sufficient. How about the respect of the rights of
minorities, such as the Kurds? Progress
has been made, on the cultural field, for instance. But there are still problems in the Southeast
of the country. Questions also remain
about the penal code that is being revised.
Let us just give one example: it
will no longer be policemen but only prosecutors who will be allowed to request
virginity tests. Is this better? Isn't the very existence of these medieval
tests in contradiction with European values?
Lastly, how democratic is a country where the army has so much
power? Europe must be demanding. Because, as the future EU Commission President
Barroso pointed out on Tuesday, 'it is Turkey that must adapt itself to
Europe's rules, and not the other way around.'"
Piet Piryns wondered in liberal weekly Knack
(9/23): "The key question is: where do Europe's borders lie? Is Turkey a European country? As long as it is about participation in the
European song contest or the (European soccer) Champions League we tend to
answer 'yes.' However, when it is about Turkey's
access to the EU, problems arise.
'Cultural differences' between Turkey and Europe then become the
issue. Of course, there are such
differences. In all their diversity the
25 current member states have one thing in common: their Christian tradition.... With Turkey they would bring in 'backward'
Islam--like a Trojan horse. That is the
reasoning. However, one can see it
differently. Since Ataturk, Turkey has
become a modern secular state. In a
country where the large majority is Islamic that is far from evident. Negotiations with Ankara about EU
membership--which will last at least ten years--will strengthen the position of
the democratic and liberal forces in Turkey.
Without EU pressure Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan would probably not
have swallowed his conviction that adulterers belong behind bars. The reality is that if Europe refuses to
cross the Bosporus it will run the danger of having an Islamic state in its
Mainstream MF Dnes asked (9/24): "We wonder whether the EU really wants
to expand to include Turkey.... The
closer the decision, the more divided is Europe.... Why does Europe fear Turkey? It is too big. It is too Muslim. It is too poor. It is too far away and on a different
"Multi-Speed EU Has Room For Turkey"
Independent business daily Børsen commented (9/27): “Today, the EU is operating at several
different speeds. This has been the case
for the last 30 years. Turkish inclusion
in the EU would represent a continuation of this tradition and underscore the
fact that the European Union is an open and democratic institution and not a
closed Christian organization.”
IRELAND: "The Turkish
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (9/21): “The European Union faces a fateful decision
this year on its future relations with Turkey.
Its political leaders must decide in December whether to open
negotiations without delay on Turkish membership of the EU, a commitment agreed
in 1999. The issue itself goes back to
1963. Opening talks is no guarantee that
they would conclude successfully or soon, but the negotiations would lead
undoubtedly to acceptance of Turkey's right in principle to join the EU. That is why there is once again growing
resistance to the prospect from those who believe Turkey does not share
cultural or civilizational values with Europe, cannot be absorbed by the
existing political structures of the EU, is incapable of adapting politically
to membership and would undermine it economically. Behind such concerns there is an unstated
conviction that Turkey's Islamic culture is incompatible with Europe's
religious or secular values.... The
reforms proposed in the Turkish penal code are sweeping.... The reforms radically alter Turkey's legal
and political culture. The central
constitutional role of the military has been reduced and brought into line with
common European practice.... Mr. Erdogan
must assert his authority and find a political consensus to remove the adultery
clause totally if he is to remain credible as a broker of reform and a champion
of EU membership.”
POLAND: "Erdogan The
Robert Soltyk observed in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza
(9/24): “Erdogan was successful at one
thing: by focusing the attention of the public on the symbolic matter of
adultery, and by scoring--as it seems--an equally symbolic victory, the Turkish
prime minister showed that he holds the helm firmly in his hands. This way he gained some confidence in
Europe. But one move does not determine
that the game has been won. All the more
that there are many who do not want that Turkey--lay, reforming, but also
Muslim, big, and, on top of this, located mostly in Asia--enter the EU at
all. In order to dispel their concerns,
Erdogan will have to do even much more.”
"The Decision Burden In Turkey"
Foreign affairs analyst Adrian Peter Pressburg
stated in moderate Narodna Obroda (9/9):
"European and world entrepreneurs are in favor of Turkey’s
integration into the EU. So is the
USA. None of the 25 members of the EU is
against it. There were only few negative
reactions among the overall approval.
The nerves are hidden behind the spastic smiles and forced optimism in
Brussels. We are talking about a country
of 75 million that at the time of its entry would be the most populous among
the EU countries. That would give it
certain rights in Brussels.... What if
Ankara does not solve the problems with the Kurds until then, or if so, then
only on paper? What if Islamic
fundamentalism strengthens and some Turks do not accept the liberal Western
understanding of morals, family and minorities rights? To cope with the destabilizing influence,
Ankara’s pro-European government would have to establish an authoritarian
rule. Something like Putin’s democracy
in Russia. This kind of mangled
situation should be unacceptable for the EU."
"Division Over Turkey"
Left-of-center El País
opined (9/25): "Is the EU ready to
admit Turkey? With the recent
enlargement of 10 new members...[the EU] needs to settle down and to create a
nuclear core, boosting integral momentum before again geographically
expanding. Is Turkey ready? It has made huge progress in its political
and economical reform, but still has a long road to walk. However, today that is not the issue. A new rejection [of membership] could provoke
a brake on these reforms and end the experiment of reconciling democracy and
Conservative ABC editorialized (9/17): "Islamic fundamentalists keep trying to
destabilize Turkey with their terrorist blows.
They are trying to undermine Turkish laicism and prevent it from getting
off the ground. The worst news for them
would be for an Islamic country to be able to definitely get westernized
through its entry into the EU. That is
why the obstacles devised by France and Germany in order to prevent this from
taking place are regrettable. The shadow
of Kemal Ataturk lengthens, but even longer is that of the national interests
of a Franco-German axis that is trying to build a Europe according to its
wishes. The hypocrisy of their Europeism
confirms itself again."
"The EU's Power"
Left-of-center El País concluded
(9/16): "The about-turn in Turkey
is evidence of...the power of the EU to further the democratization of those
seeking to join it.... Ankara's decision
deserves praise...but Prime Minister Erdogan and his party should make it clear
that the matter will not be raised again, because already this failed attempt
has been a serious slip-up.... The
European Council of Ministers is due to decide next December on whether to open
negotiations with Ankara on its membership bid.... A refusal or an ambiguous offer...might bring
about economic, political and social regression in Turkey.... The EU's responsibility is all the
greater...now that (Turkey) is governed by an Islamist party whose adaptation
to Europe and its secular values might...have a positive effect on a convulsed
TURKEY: "Turkey Cannot
Afford More Mistakes In The EU Process"
Selcuk Gultasli concluded in Islamist-intellectual Zaman
(9/24): “The last fifteen days were very
stressful for Turkey. All of Europe was
discussing Turkey’s future membership in light of the adultery
controversy. Most EU members emphasized
that Turkey ‘showed its real face’ in the adultery debate. Meanwhile, Turkey tried to decipher what led
to the prime minister’s course of action on the adultery issue. In the end, the problem was apparently
resolved with Verheugen’s comment that ‘there are no obstacles left for Turkey
on its way to the EU.’ We have to
evaluate this past 15 days from both positive and negative angles to figure out
what it all means.... PM Erdogan’s
strategy may have prevented the EU from presenting new conditions to
Turkey. The adultery crisis also has
given us a chance to distinguish our supporters in Europe from those who oppose
our membership. On the negative side, PM
Erdogan’s reliability in the eyes of EU members has been severely harmed. This damage will linger long after the
current crisis passes. Therefore, the
next three months are very critical for Turkey, and it is clear that Turkey
cannot afford any more crises on the road to the EU.”
"Turkey On The Washington-Brussels Fault Line"
Hasan Mesut Hazar commented in conservative mass-appeal Turkiye
(9/24): “The artificial crisis with the
EU ended during with the Erdogan-Verheugen meeting. This was an expected development, which was
confirmed by Verheugen when he announced that there are no obstacles left on
Turkey’s path to the EU. Washington is
following closely the developments related to Turkey’s EU accession talks. Up to now, we have managed to overcome
problems on the path to the EU through the visible and invisible support of the
United States, we understand the close U.S. interest in the matter. Turkey’s EU venture always took place along
the Ankara-Washington-Brussels fault line.
At every critical point, such as when Turkey entered the EU Customs
Union, or when Turkey tried to implement the Copenhagen Criteria, Ankara always
received Washington’s strong support.
However, this support has not ended speculation that Turkey was being
forced to ‘choose’ between the U.S. and the EU.
The validity of this scenario is matter for debate. First of all, the U.S. and the EU are not
enemies but allies. It is only natural
that there will be differences on some policy issues. But these differences never affect the
strategic coordination between the U.S. and Europe. Whether we like it or not, the fact is that
we live in a world controlled by a single power--the U.S. Moreover, the EU depends on the U.S. as
well. The strength of the NATO-EU-U.S.
alliance is one of the most important pillars of the U.S. standing as a
superpower. Many EU countries feel
closer to the U.S. than to the EU. If it
weren’t like this, the U.S. could not invaded Iraq in the face of strong
opposition by France and Germany. If we
consider all these facts, we can see that Turkey has no problem in being
‘caught’ between the U.S. and the EU. On
the contrary, all of these arguments prove the value of the
Ankara-Washington-Brussels line. We can
only hope that Turkey can show its potential more effectively as events move
"Last Tango In Brussels"
Derya Sazak stated in mass-appeal Milliyet (9/23): “PM Erdogan is going to Brussels for the last
tango. Adultery or the EU? If it hadn’t been for the AKP’s efforts to
add adultery as a crime to the Turkish Penal Code, PM Erdogan’s Brussels visit
would have been more like a holiday than an official visit. Because the EU Commission had already prepared
its report and, on October 6, would have recommended that Turkey begin
accession negotiations in 2005. AKP’s
insistence on the adultery provision destroyed this plan. After two and a half years of determined
efforts, PM Erdogan, by his own hand, has pushed the EU project to the
brink. Some columnists warned the PM
that if he insists on the adultery issue during his discussions in Brussels, it
will be a big mistake. If the Turkish
Penal Code is not passed by the parliament before October 6 without the
adultery issue, there will likely be some new conditions for starting
negotiations. During the last tango in
Brussels, the prime minister shouldn’t play with Turkey’s destiny."
Sami Cohen opined in mass-appeal Milliyet
(9/23): "How will the adultery
crisis, which has recently topped the agenda of Turkish-European Union
relations, be resolved? To put it more
correctly, will it be resolved?.... The
European Commission wants the reform of Turkey's penal code (TCK) to keep the
adultery article out. The article would
impose harsh penalties on those accused of adultery. Unfortunately suspension of the reform bill
because of the adultery issue at a time when negotiations were going well has
led to serious problems in the Turkey-EU relationship.... Although the government and Parliament
managed to overcome the most sensitive problems (the death penalty, Kurdish
broadcasts, etc.), what is really surprising is that Turkey has stumbled over
the adultery issue, which has only recently appeared on the agenda.... Another surprising and confusing issue is the
argument voiced by the premier while defending the adultery amendment.... For example, he said Turkey had its own
values and claimed the EU cannot interfere in Turkey's domestic
affairs.... Erdogan's statement, which
surprised many political circles in the EU and the media, but which amused the
anti-Turkey circles within the union, has formed the essence of the current
crisis.... Now Europeans are blaming
Erdogan and his supporters for not properly understanding what the EU
means.... That is to say, the current
developments have shaken Europeans' trust in Ankara, and commentaries and
adverse reactions in the Western media show it will not be easy to compensate
the harm done.... Despite all this, it
is the Turkish side which should take the initiative to immediately overcome
the crisis as time is running out. Also, the EU should not close its doors to
Turkey. This may be a last chance for
both sides--and it should not be missed."
"Crisis Deepens Over Penal Code
Ali Bayramoglu wrote in the Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak
(9/22): “The debate over the Turkish
criminal code doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. Despite what people emay be hoping, PM
Erdogan has made it clearly understood that the Government has no intention of
taking a step back on this issue and will not pay attention to EU demands. He has laid out his action plan: he will explain to the EU that their demands
with regard to the penal code are illegitimate.
Whether this approach is realistic will only be determined at the end of
his trip to Brussels. But there is no
reason to hold out much hope on the question.
In fact, quite the opposite....
Columnists, politicians, and experts are having a difficult time
explaining this in the face of strong negative press coverage in Europe. The problem is basically a sociological
one. Despite the fact that the AK Party,
as a ruling national party, has taken revolutionary steps toward greater
political rights and freedoms, it hasn’t been able to push ahead with similar
measures on moral, traditional issues.
The ‘deep rift’ with regard to the EU stems from this. We must also say that these recent events
have been indexed directly to PM Erdogan.
He is the one who has been engaged and insistent on the adultery
issue. He is the one who blocked further
debate on the criminal code, even over the objections of some ministers and
despite the fact that the decision led to this difficult situation. And if there is one person who represents AK
Party and its soul, it is the prime minister.
At this point, the AK party group has fallen in behind the prime minister,
and the friction and debate within the party have been put in abeyance. What will happen under these conditions, and
where this will lead is difficult to say.
Is there a way out of this? Only
time will tell.”
"Bargaining With Brussels"
Ferai Tinc commented in the mass-appeal Hurriyet
(9/20): “PM Erdogan is going to Brussels
this week. I wouldn’t like to be in his
shoes, because, even I was fed up with the foreign press’s questions on the
Turkish Penal Code. Some journalists
asked me if Turkish family structure could harmonize with the European family
structure. Some others said ‘in Turkey
honor killings are widely tolerated. Do
you think this is in harmony with Europe?’
None of these is true, however, and we don’t deserve this prejudiced
thinking. However, we are so successful
in giving wrong messages that we just cannot give the right ones. I would like to give the foreign journalists
the story of the two female mayors in the southeast whom I met last week and
explain how hard they are working to defend women’s rights, to better
education, and explain how they are doing real good work in many other
areas.... PM Erdogan is going to
Brussels on September 23. He is going to
give the message that Turkey fulfilled the Copenhagen Criteria. But, if he decides to bargain in a
conservative manner with Brussels with the examples that abortion is not
available in Ireland or some other country negotiates gay marriages, etc., then
he has no chances for success in bargaining with the EU.”
"One Man's Gain Is Another's Loss"
Gunduz Aktan wrote in liberal-intellectual Radikal
(9/17): "The adultery issue has
ended, just the way it started. Even if
had become law, it would have been annulled by either the Constitutional Court
or the European Court of Human Rights.
However, the adultery debate also made everyone notice an important
social disease, polygamy.... This penal
code should include articles banning adultery and they should be
implemented. Such people should also
have their right to elect and be elected rescinded. If we had bad intentions, we could say that
the EU disregard for polygamy was based on their objective to protect the high
rate of population increase of Kurds, living in the southeast. However, this polygamy issue will eventually
be raised during the EU negotiation process.
The Copenhagen Political Criteria are all about freedoms. In other words, the objective is to minimize
the state's interference in people's lives, while recognizing differences. It appears they did not think the inclusion
of gender equality was necessary among the criteria, because it already existed
as a Christian value. However, for a
Muslim country like Turkey, it is obvious that the status of women will be
raised, as the European Court of Human Rights decision on headscarves shows. The liberals in Turkey who support all types
of differences have begun to voice their opposition to medieval practices. However, some of them still continue to hope
that 'change' will come without modernization or development. They will learn."
"As The EU Constitution Is About To Be
M. Emin Kazci wrote in Islamist Vakit
(9/16): "Turkey's 'inferiority
complex' vis-à-vis the EU manifests itself...in a submissive readiness to
accept whatever conditions happen to be dictated by Brussels and a tendency to
regard the EU as a civilization project rather than as a natural international
cooperation project based on mutual interests.... Turkish ruling cadres also deserve scorn for
their failure to ask EU officials how ready they are to coexist with Muslims, whether
they will be able to free themselves from their historic and cultural
prejudices toward Muslims and treat them as a society enjoying equal rights
with Europeans if Turkey joins the EU."
"Turkey's Penal Code"
The leading Globe and Mail commented (9/22): "Mr. Erdogan's government has proved
remarkably progressive, loosening restrictions on civil liberties, improving
minority rights, abolishing the death penalty and undertaking numerous other social,
economic and political reforms. But Ankara's
misguided attempt to criminalize adultery and its subsequent decision to
withdraw a package of important penal-code reforms shows that religious
conservatives still retain considerable clout within the governing party and
are determined to exercise it.... The
European Commission has warned that any delay in reforming a penal code with
insufficient respect for human rights will sink Turkey's chances of getting its
foot in the EU door. Mr. Erdogan's
initial response--that the commission should stay out of Turkey's internal
affairs--does not bode well for future compromise. But compromise he must. For the sake of all Turks, Mr. Erdogan needs
to resolve the internal party feud, keep infidelity out of the criminal courts
and get his country back on the road toward a more open and humane