Assyrian Int'l News Agency
Dec 3 2004

Turkish Minority Digs in Its Heels Against Drive to Join the EU

A sub-headline in Wednesday's edition of Ortadogu [Middle East], the
newspaper of Turkey's hardline Nationalist Action party (MHP), read:
"Another outrageous demand from the EU".

It was above a report claiming that some members of the European
Union were demanding that Turkey open talks with Kurdish separatists.

In the tidal wave of pro-EU sentiment in Turkey's media, politics and
business, Ortadogu stands out by being opposed to membership. Opinion
polls show that 70 per cent of Turks favour joining the EU. Yet the
paper, which appeals to extreme Turkish nationalists, is not alone.

While leading figures in France, Germany and Austria oppose Turkey's
membership, there are also high-profile voices - in academia and
think-tanks - inside Turkey who are hostile to the idea. There is no
united campaign, and their opposition is more reasoned than
Ortadogu's - but no less passionate.

These voices reject the "eurosceptic" label in what is sometimes the
British sense of being opposed to everything to do with the EU. They
subscribe to "European" ideals as the best way for Turkey to achieve

But they consider that neither Brussels nor Ankara is being honest in
setting the goal of full membership, because the EU may not be able
to deliver it and Turkey may not be able to live with the concessions
required to achieve it. And they believe they will be vindicated in

"I'm not a British-type eurosceptic and I'm not anti-EU or a diehard
nationalist," says Hasan Unal, a professor of international relations
at Bilkent University in Ankara, who is perhaps the most prominent
figure arguing against full membership.

"My position is that I have come to the view that Turkey's membership
is not going to materialise in the foreseeable future and that
membership is not going to be as beneficial today as it would have
been 10 or 15 years ago."

He considers that the membership process is damaging Turkey's
interests, given the concessions it has had to make over issues such
as Cyprus or Kurdish nationalism to arrive at the point where the EU
may, on December 17, offer it a date next year for negotiations to

If the process takes 10 to 15 years, as even the most ardent
supporters of Turkish membership accept, Turkey may be forced to
concede even more.

"The EU project", Mr Unal says, "is an opportunity for every country
with a grievance against Turkey to come and pinch a piece of it."

He lists Greece, Armenia and Cyprus among those that have wrung
concessions out of Turkey or might expect to do so, whether over
territorial Aegean waters or Armenians' claims of genocide against
the Ottoman empire, or the withdrawal of Turkish settlers from

He, and others, also consider that it is only natural for French
intellectuals or German politicians to balk at the prospect of
Turkey's membership, given its size, poverty and booming population,
and that these objections do not get an honest hearing in Turkey.

"You've been running the EU for 50 years and suddenly this poor, huge
country turns up, grabs all the resources and starts telling you how
to run it. Of course you'd be hostile," he says.

Gunduz Aktan, chairman of the Centre for Eurasian Studies, a
think-tank in Ankara, argues that Turkey ought not to be too
surprised, or too offended, if the EU is unable to agree on December
17 to set a date for the entry process to begin.

"This is a very long-term project," he says. "There are many
arguments for and against Turkish membership, but an artificially
forced acceptance will not be good either for Turkey or for the EU."

For Turkish sceptics of full EU membership a "privileged
partnership", based on the country's existing customs union with the
EU, is an ideal alternative.

That would allow the EU to complete its political project and
integrate those European countries awaiting membership.

Only when Turkey knows what Europe will eventually look like should
it consider becoming a full member. "Then we can see if a full
marriage is possible," Mr Unal says.

By Vincent Boland
Financial Times