The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Is Turkey's EU Membership Inching Closer?

For decades now, Americans have been telling the EU that if it wants the world to take it seriously, it needs to admit Turkey as a member. Turkey’s strong military forces, its growing economy and its key position in the Middle East would add considerable weight to Europe’s global position and deliver a boost to the struggling European economy.

The Europeans may be finally warming to this suggestion—the Germans and the French in particular. The NYT reports:

Ms. Merkel’s government and the Christian Democrats have for years called on the bloc to allow Turkey to achieve what they call a “privileged partnership,” instead of full membership. But important party members have begun to indicate their apprehensions toward Ankara may be changing.

France has also resisted the idea of Turkey’s full accession and, with Cyprus and the European Commission, has blocked movement on all but 13 of the 35 policy areas, called chapters, that countries striving for membership must complete. Turkey has so far completed only one.

But President François Hollande of France signaled last week that he was ready to open talks on one chapter blocked under the government of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

There’s still a long road ahead. Fears of mass migrations of poor, Muslim Turks are still there. Historical enmities and rivalries have led Greece and Cyprus to use every trick in the book to delay and obstruct Turkish membership. And France hates the thought of admitting another powerful, populous country: Paris’ influence in Europe would inevitably be diluted if Turkey joins.

There are also problems of human rights. Turkey’s war with the Kurds and its record of abuses under both the Kemalist governments and the current Islamist one give many Europeans pause.

For their part, many Turks have written the EU off as too unwelcoming, too anti-Islamic, and now too economically sluggish.

Is this dynamic about to change? It’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.]

Published on February 25, 2013 11:39 am