by Steve McGiffen

Morning Star
October 17, 2005

Feature - Turkey and the EU;

The question of Turkey's possible accession to the European Union
poses a number of dilemmas for left critics of this "Europe."

On the one hand, many objections to Turkey's membership are based on
nothing more than thinly disguised racism and Islamophobia.

On the other, there are perfectly sound reasons to question whether
Turkey is a suitable candidate for EU membership.

The Bush administration is enthusiastic for Turkey's entry for purely
militaristic reasons and an EU member state bordering several Middle
Eastern countries would provide Western imperialism, whether directed
from Washington or Brussels, with a major asset.

It must also be remembered that EU membership would benefit only
the rich elite which already controls the country, being at best an
extremely mixed blessing for the mass of the country's population and
more certainly a complete disaster for the millions of Turks living
in poverty.

I would argue, however, that this is something which Turkish people
and the progressive forces in Turkey must work out for themselves.

For the moment, there are more pressing concerns, as the European
Commission's most optimistic estimate is that talks will take at
least a decade.

In the meantime, it would be foolish not to admit that the EU decision
to establish accession negotiations offers supporters of basic human
rights an opportunity to demand improvements in the country's record
on a number of fronts.

Refusing to open negotiations or delaying them would, under
current circumstances, only have strengthened the fundamentalist,
anti-democratic forces which have acquired increasing strength both
among ordinary Turks and within the ruling circles in recent years.

Negotiations could enable progressives within Turkey and their
supporters elsewhere to exert pressure for effective democratic

The changes which have already come about as a result of the elite's
desire to join their country to the EU have been more than purely
cosmetic. Negotiation will make monitoring of such reforms more
effective, provided that we keep up the pressure.

Nevertheless, we should be demanding that negotiations be broken off
immediately should Turkey fail to hold to agreements affecting the
position of religious, ethnic and political minorities in the country
or regarding its armed forces' illegal occupation of Cyprus.

Cyprus will, in fact, provide the first measurable test of Turkey's
preparedness to hold to agreements, as Ankara has agreed to withdraw
ships and military planes within a few months.

As long as 40 per cent of Cyprus's territory remains under Turkish
occupation, there should be no question of its being admitted to the
EU. The EU position in relation to this question is already seriously
compromised, given that the terms of Cyprus's own admission accorded
the illegal occupation a degree of legitimacy.

If that were not the case, Turkish, an official Cypriot language,
would already also be an official language of the European Union.

Equally serious are continuing human rights abuses within Turkey

Arbitrary arrests continue to occur, as does torture, while censorship
and laws and practices interfering with the freedom of assembly
are regarded as entirely legitimate by both the army, which remains
the country's most powerful institution, and ruling political and
economic elites.

This repression is uneven. I have personally addressed perfectly open
meetings of a Marxist organisation in Istanbul and was assured by my
hosts that I had nothing to fear, though I was also warned to avoid
any open criticism of the military.

Gradual improvement of the situation on the ground in Kurdistan
and the relaxation of laws aimed at the destruction of the Kurdish
people's language and culture should not lead to complacency.

The situation remains volatile. The Kurdish people continue to be the
object of serious human rights abuses and, even if Turkish aggression
were to cease completely, perpetrators of crimes against humanity
should not go unpunished.

The Turkish armed forces have come close at times to a systematic
policy of genocide in the region and, until the guilty are punished,
there should be no talk of simply "moving on."

A much older genocide, which was perpetrated on the Armenian minority
in 1915, also hangs over the modern Turkish state.

In this case, it is too late for the guilty to be punished. However,
it is not too late for Turkey to admit what happened and to take
steps to purge its conscience of this shameful episode in its history.

Its doing so should be an absolute condition for a "successful"
conclusion of negotiations.

Turkey has shown on many occasions that improvements will come only in
the face of pressure and those seeking to exert such pressure within
the country, generally at great risk to themselves, need our help.

In the negotiations to take place over the coming 10 years, we should
be insisting that Turkey fully adhere to the human rights aspects of
the Copenhagen criteria - the conditions which an applicant country
must fulfil if it is to be accepted - and that negotiations be
suspended in the event of transgressions.

Kurdistan, the Armenian genocide and the illegal occupation of Cyprus
must all be addressed.

For all its talk, the European Commission will not prioritise
such matters above the economic advantages it believes that the
developed countries which form the core of the EU will gain from
Turkish accession.

It is hard to see how progress can be made unless the issue of
Cyprus is dealt with, but it will be up to us to ensure that Turkey's
minorities, her political prisoners, the rights of Turkish women, the
Armenian genocide, the victims of war in Kurdistan and the right of
all Turkish people to basic freedoms are not allowed to slip quietly
from the agenda.

- Steve McGiffen edits www.spectrezine.org - a left internationalist
website which focuses in particular on EU affairs.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress