Sunday Herald, UK
Oct 2 2005

Enlargement fatigue hits EU as it talks Turkey

ANALYSIS: By Trevor Royle, Diplomatic Editor



Diplomats call it `enlargement fatigue' - the feelings of anxiety and
lack of energy that have suddenly checked the seemingly inexorable
growth of the European Union. Today in Luxembourg, EU foreign
ministers will test the syndrome to the full when they sit down at
emergency talks aimed at breaking the deadlock over Turkey's bid to
join the European club in 2015. Unless agreement is reached, the
accession talks due to start tomorrow morning will be put on hold and
Europe will have a crisis on its hands.
Brussels saw warnings and protests yesterday as 4000 Turkish Kurds
marched through the city, demanding that the entry talks include
recognition for a Kurdish homeland in the southeast of the country.
Lord Patten, the former EU external affairs commissioner, also warned
yesterday that if negotiations break down over the coming days it
will `have very bad implications'. He added: `What the hell signal do
we send to the rest of the world if we can't accept Turkish accession
to the EU?'

The deliberations will test Britain's presidency of the EU to the
full - no other issue has divided the community so deeply in recent
years. Doubts have surrounded Turkey's application ever since it was
mooted in 1999, resurfacing with a vengeance last week when Austria
gave notice that it was opposed to the move.

It mooted a compromise which would give Turkey a partnership with the
EU instead of full-blown membership. The proposal did not go down
well in Ankara: prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has angrily
insisted his country will walk away from the talks rather than
negotiate for what is seen in Turkey as a grubby compromise.

In some quarters, opposition to Turkish accession has been touted as
an anti-Islamic prejudice. Turkey's population of 70 million is
predominantly Muslim, and there are lingering memories of the
massacres of 1.5 million Armenian Christians during the first world
war, an episode generally regarded as the first genocide of the 20th
century.

Although it seems perverse to use a 90-year-old incident as evidence
of a modern country's unfitness to join the EU, the genocide is
usually mentioned in conjunction with accusations about Turkey's
human rights record, not least its continued prosecution of writers,
notably of distinguished novelist Orhan Pamuk for criticising the
state.

There are also concerns about Turkey's refusal to acknowledge Cyprus.
Critics point to the anomaly that would see Cypriot ships and
aircraft being banned from Turkish ports and airports while Turkey's
application was being negotiated. But it is not just anti-Islamic
sentiment which is holding up the negotiations.

A recent poll across the EU found that there is only 35% support for
Turkey's membership - in Austria, just 10% - and there is a
widespread feeling that the enlargement policy has gone far enough;
the EU has to fully absorb its current membership of 25 before it
starts adding others.

Ahead lie applications from Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the states
in the Balkans and the Caucasus and there is a growing feeling that
the enlargement policy has to be settled before entering into
negotiations with Turkey.

And that is the rub. The EU is no longer the buoyant, wealth-filled
institution which thought that it could grow like Topsy, regardless
of cost, convenience or constitutional change. France has already
voiced its disapproval by voting `No' in the recent referendum on a
European constitution, largely in protest against Turkey's
application, and there is similar disquiet in older EU members, such
as Germany and the Netherlands.

That opposition has led to calls for the European institutional
framework to be put in place before Turkey's application is
considered. As a German diplomat told the Sunday Herald last week:
`We don't even have a constitution for 25 states, so how can we
stretch it further to embrace 35?'

One way out of the impasse could be provided by the country which
leads the objections to Turkey's membership. Austria supports
Croatia's bid to join the EU, which began earlier this year but was
put on hold until Zagreb co-operated more fully with the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Given
Austria's traditional friendship with Croatia, it would not surprise
anyone if it were brought into the equation ahead of tomorrow's
crucial meeting.