Selcuk Gultasli

Zaman Online, Turkey
May 2 2006

Has the crisis over the political criteria which had the potential to
sentence the negotiations to absolute failure even before the start
of actual talks or to exaggerate a little bit, make the talks drag on
for a century like "the Hundred Years' War" been solved or postponed?

The European Union (EU) has once more created a sui generic solution
enabling each and every member country to interpret the decision
befitting its own domestic political agenda. As you probably know, it
is defined as "constructive ambiguity" in the Brussels lexicon. That
is, the EU avoids undertaking any responsibility whatsoever regarding
Turkey's future membership, which means ambiguity; meanwhile, the EU,
on the other hand, encourages Turkey to make reforms in the country,
which is the "constructive" part.

Many EU experts in Turkey say the crisis was solved amicably implying
France has backtracked. It is impossible for France to take a backward
step. It is strained optimism to think that France, which has been
using the Armenian "genocide" in a disgusting manner in a bid to end
Turkey's EU journey right at the very beginning and which has already
started the electioneering, would make a U-turn.

The French mind, which has prepared a draft law - expected to be
brought to Parliament's floor on May 18, which will likely pass -
stipulating penalty for the deniers of the Armenian "genocide,"
is also keeping the political criteria issue in its stock.

France, proud of being the first country in the world to ratify the
"genocide" law, is now preparing for a second success (!) by being the
first to stipulate "the penalty for deniers." Belgium that emulates
French policies will probably pass the bill swiftly.

However, France will not discuss what was done in Algeria, nor will
Belgium talk about the genocidal colonization of Congo. Naturally,
to punish the Turks is an easier way of clearing Western conscience.

Getting back to the issue of the political criteria, France is of the
opinion that the English word "benchmark" does not exist in French
and that the expression, in a way, means political criteria. Any
EU member would be able to bring up the issue because this debate
went into the EU minutes. Anyhow, letters containing "benchmark,"
interpreted as political criteria by the French, will be sent to
Turkey for tough chapters.

We know Greek Cypriots firmly supported France while Greece
reconsidered its stance due to the gravity of the consequences. We
should concede that Finland, Britain, and Spain acted according took
a principled stance knowing that the issue was brought up to prevent
Turkey from joining the EU. These three countries suggested that Turkey
has faced enough difficulties in its EU bid and the political criteria
issue will spark unnecessary and endless debate. It is not a surprise
that Angela Merkel's Germany, which orchestrates the "privileged
partnership" chorus, placed itself somewhere between Finland, Britain,
Spain and France. What is surprising is that Italy; Turkey's so-called
advocate in the EU did not join the three-party alliance.

According to many diplomats in Brussels, the political criteria crisis
has now been postponed. Some members which have not been satisfied
with the 71 veto rights on Turkey's accession process can not even
stand the snail's pace of talks. To summarize, it is in our best
interest to carry on the EU process as long as it can move.