By Christos Iliopoulos
But now things have changed. Europe is enjoying a long period of peace and development since the end of WWII and Turkey wants to democratize its administration.
25 European countries have long ago stopped waging wars between themselves and have today established a loose confederation of independent states, which, however, have given up part of their sovereignty in certain areas in favor of a quasi federal European entity, the European Union (EU). This entity, save a few British euro-skeptics, wants to become something like the United States of Europe in the future.
The EU has reached an unprecedented stage of unity, creating many “federal” institutions, like the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament, the Commission (the executive of the EU) and the European Central Bank, which exercise many powers that previously belonged to the member – states, but now have been transferred to these EU bodies of government.
One of the emblems of European unification is of course the common currency, the Euro (€), which has been introduced since 2002 and has successfully gained a principal role in the international markets, rivalling the US dollar and the Japanese yen.
The EU has been enlarged only recently, when the 15 member states became 25. Many other countries (Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania etc.) are queuing up for EU membership. Some of them may be accepted by 2008 or later, when their economies become stronger and reliable.
Turkey, on the other hand, is a more complicated case. One could sum up the problem of Turkish adhesion to the EU by saying that it is not only the shuttered economy of this country that stands as a huge obstacle to European membership. Apart from the economy, a large part of Europe’s public opinion is questioning the practicality of the whole project. Some Europeans say that Turkey does not belong to Europe, anyway. That historically Turkey does not share the traditional European values of democracy, protection of human rights, Christianity and freedom.
Giscar d’ Estaing, the former President of France and one of the most prominent statesmen of Europe, wrote an article a couple of weeks ago published by eight of the largest European newspapers, effectively saying that Turkey has never been a part of the Greco Roman civilization which is the foundation of the modern western society and that the EU could establish a relation of close partnership with Turkey, instead of full membership. Such opinions and the view that a fundamentally Islamic Turkey is not part of Europe geographically and culturally are shared by a large part of the peoples of Europe and recent polls show that in most European countries the majority of the people are against Turkey’s full EU membership.
Within this context, the leaders of the 25 EU member – states (Greece and Cyprus included of course) held a summit in Brussels on the 17 and 18 of December 2004, in order to examine the Turkish application for membership. It seems that the EU leadership has decided that Turkey can start accession negotiations with the EU on October 3rd, 2005. These talks are expected to last 10, 15 or more years and their outcome is not certain right now. Europe officially tells Turkey that negotiations may start on October 3rd, 2005, but they could be stopped at any time, if Turkey does not keep up with the European terms.
One of these terms is that Turkey must legally recognize, before October 3rd, 2005, the government of Cyprus. This can happen with the formal exchange of diplomatic missions, (de jure recognition), something which is almost impossible at the moment. But it could at least happen de facto, indirectly, if Turkey signed the Customs Union Treaty with the EU. It is unheard of a country applying for membership to an international entity (the EU) and at the same time not recognizing the government of one of its members!
Other terms that Europe is putting forward for Turkey’s negotiations to start and progress, are the stabilization of Turkey’s economy, the democratization of it’s system of government, the enforcement of the protection of all human rights within the Turkish state, the recognition for the Kurds of Turkey of their right to speak kurdish, publish newspapers and educate their children in their own language and the recognition of the Ecumenical title of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Most independent analysts admit that despite the fact that Turkey has recently done some steps towards democratization, a lot remain to be done in order to reach an acceptable level of human rights protection. And the protection of the Christian and of the other minorities of Turkey is a basic criterion. Allowing the reopening of the Halki Christian school in Constantinople, which will restart educating the future clergy of the Patriarchate, would be another proof of Turkey’s transformation to a modern civilized state.
These terms for Turkey’s entry to the EU can serve as a motive for Turkey to seek to enforce more democratic rules in the next decade, in order to achieve the much wanted EU membership after the year 2015.
Is the start of accession negotiations with Turkey a good development for the Hellenic duet of Greece and Cyprus? Should Greece and Cyprus vote for or against Turkeys’ membership? These questions will be asked more and more in the years to come. The view that prevails right now among the Greek political leadership is that Turkey must be helped to enter Europe. As Turkey will want more and more to enter the EU in the next years, it will be forced to apply the rules of international law in Cyprus and in the Greek Aegean Sea. Turkey may accept the rules of the International Convention of the Sea, which is part of international law, allowing Greece to exercise sovereignty within 15 miles off the coast of the Greek islands. It may also make Turkey withdraw the 30,000 Turkish soldiers that illegally occupy almost half of Cyprus (an EU member - state!), enforcing thus the more than 25 United Nations resolutions that call for Turkey’s withdrawal from Cyprus.
In order full membership negotiations to continue, Turkey must have peaceful relations with all EU members. That way, Turkish fighter jets may stop violating Greece’s air space 20 times a day. Turkey may also start respecting Cyprus’ sovereignty and legal government. Finally, Turkey may reopen the Halki Christian school, so that new orthodox clergymen can be educated for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
all these things happen, Greece and Cyprus will be more than happy
to vote for Turkey’s admission to the EU. Military episodes
between these countries will be a thing of the past and the peoples
of all three countries will be able to develop closer commercial and
cultural ties in a peaceful atmosphere, where the rights of every
single citizen of Europe are respected and protected.
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