Europe set for clash over Turkish question
Turkey and the West: Cyprus, human rights and growing nationalism are seen in the EU as obstacles to a closer relationship
Friday 07 February 1997
The statement underlines how Western governments are grappling with a modern version of the 19th-century Eastern Question. They want to put relations with Turkey on a more stable footing but seem divided over how to go about it. Among the unanswered questions are whether Turkey should join the European Union, how much importance to attach to human rights issues, and how to prevent Greek-Turkish tensions from flaring into war.
Divisions among Western governments were highlighted this week when the Dutch Foreign Minister, Hans van Mierlo, strongly implied that Turkey should never be admitted as a full EU member. "There is a problem of a large Muslim state. Do we want that in Europe?" asked Mr van Mierlo, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
This was not the public position adopted last week by the foreign ministers of the five biggest EU powers - Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain - when they held a special meeting in Rome to discuss relations with Turkey. France's Foreign Minister, Herve de Charette, said that the five ministers had reassured Turkey that there were "no obstacles in principle" to Turkish membership of the EU.
Turkey applied to join the EU in 1987, but the European Commission ruled that its economy was not ready and its political institutions were insufficiently democratic. An EU-Turkish customs union came into effect last year, but Greece has blocked the funds that were supposed to flow to Turkey.
Secular, broadly pro-Western Turkish politicians such as the Foreign Minister, Tansu Ciller, have begun to sound more nationalistic and critical of the West. As for the Islamist Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan, few Western leaders have forgotten how he once described the EU customs union as a form of "slavery to the Christian establishment". Since coming to power last June, Mr Erbakan has made friendly overtures to Islamic states while pointedly refusing to visit Western capitals.
The risk of a total Turkish break with the West seems small, but some problems will not go away, such as poor prison conditions, torture, lack of civil rights for ethnic Kurds and restrictions on free speech. The sharp deterioration in relations between Greece and Turkey is another source of concern. Some fear that the risk of war over Cyprus is becoming all too real.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 3 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
Ian Thorpe gay: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
Death in the Valley of the Dolls: Heroin overdose turns the spotlight on prostitution boom in California's tech industry
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Woman, 61, jailed for seven years after drink-drive death of cyclist
Gaza-Israel conflict: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to streets of London, Paris and New York in wave of protests
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Payment Dev...
£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...
£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...