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.
- 1 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
- 2 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 3 Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
- 4 iPhone 6s camera: features to include 4K video camera and flash for selfies
- 5 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
If Surrey were Syria: Social experiment shows what it's like to live under siege
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...
Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...