Leading article: A prize slipping away

Share

Turkey's bid to enter the European Union received a double blow last week. First came the parking of talks on Ankara's membership after objections by Greece and Cyprus. And then there was the vote by the French Assembly to outlaw the denial of the Armenian genocide by the troops of the Ottoman Empire some 90 years ago.

EU foreign ministers met yesterday with their Turkish counterpart to repair some of the damage. But the real diplomatic crunch will come next month when a report is due from the EU's enlargement minister on Turkey's progress in implementing reforms since membership talks began a year ago. If the report criticises Ankara's refusal to open Turkish ports to Cypriot ships and planes, as expected, EU leaders at their next summit may decide to freeze entry negotiations entirely. Once frozen, they would be very hard to re-start.

Pessimism over future enlargement is widespread. At the weekend the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, gave the most downbeat official assessment yet of Turkey's chances of membership. He argued that it could be up to two decades before Turkey is in a position to join. In the past the official line has been that the process would take 15 years at most.

We learn that the French President, Jacques Chirac, has apologised to the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for the provocatively timed vote on the Armenian genocide by French deputies hostile to Turkey's bid. And with the ruling party against the bill, it is highly unlikely to become law. But the damage has been largely done.

The French vote has played into the hands of Turkish nationalists who argue that Europe does not really want Turkey in its cosy club. Pro-European Turks are finding it increasingly difficult to argue that "concessions" over Cyprus, Kurdish rights, and stronger ties with Armenia are worth it. The Turkish government will now find it impossible to recognise Cyprus before elections next year, for fear of looking weak.

A great prize could be slipping away. It would be a great boost for Europe - ideologically and materially - if it were to incorporate a predominantly Muslim country within its borders. And in the meantime, Europe has a valuable opportunity to promote human rights, free speech and a liberal economy in a land that borders the Middle East. If Turkey is not politically engaged with Europe, none of this can take place.

The rejectionists, both in Europe and Turkey, are in the ascendancy. That spells trouble, not just for Turkey's ambitions, but for Europe's future as a progressive and inclusive political force.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Tory whips were anxiously ringing round the “usual suspects” following Douglas Carswell's defection to Ukip  

Douglas Carswell’s defection reminds us that it's the Tories who have the most to fear from Ukip

Andrew Grice
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone