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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday break until Jan 6

The TurkEU Blog will be inactive until January 6.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Orhan Pamuk: Turkey is Europe's "mirror image"

A more leisurely post during the holidays. An interview from 2009 with Orhan Pamuk, in which he pontificates on the significance of identity - both Turkish and European - for the Turkish EU-bid. Courtesy of Euronews.

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Slanted reporting on Turkey's stalled EU bid

I will continue on the theme of slanted media reporting of Turkey-EU relations, simply because there's a lot to cover. Don't get me wrong - most of the reporting is good and even the bad usually contains bits and pieces of good information. But a growing number of news stories appear to be converging around a simple explanation for the lack of progress in Turkey's accession negotiations, and I think that this explanation is one-sided. (Fortunately, it is not yet a consensus, and I will quote reports with a different take to emphasize that there is another side to the story.)

But let me give just one recent example, posted yesterday on the South East European Times website (find the article here). (The SET, btw, is sponsored by the US European Command.) The article sums up recent developments concerning Croatia's progress toward accession, and then turns to Turkey. Here is what the piece says about Turkey, in its entirety:

Turkey, which also began its membership talks in October 2005, has been moving at a much slower pace in the negotiation process. It was able to open only one negotiating chapter this year, bringing the total to 13, and has closed only one since the start of its negotiations with Brussels.
The main reasons for the slow pace are Turkey's sluggish reform progress, as well as its refusal to open its airports and ports to traffic from EU member Cyprus. As a result, negotiations on eight of the chapters have been frozen since late 2006.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Going East, Young Turk? An emerging narrative?

At times, it must feel to Turks that they can do no right in the eyes of many in the EU. My last post was a link to a news piece about the Turkish economy, and it got me thinking about how the latter is being portrayed in Western media.

The Turkish economy, as most readers will know, is now doing extraordinarily well and is coming out of the current recession in much better shape than many of its European neighbors. As Bloomberg notes:
During his first five years as prime minister, Erdogan presided over gross domestic product growth that averaged almost 7 percent per year. Turkey’s GDP increased at an annual rate of 6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 as the country recovered from the global crisis, lagging behind only China among the Group of 20 nations, and the International Monetary Fund predicts an expansion of 6.25 percent in 2010.
The IMF now ranks Turkey as the world's 15th largest economy and Turkey is growing faster than its EU counterparts. All of this may seem like good news from the EU's perspective, and four EU foreign ministers recently did make the argument in a NYT op-ed that such a dynamic economy would be a good addition to the troubled EU economic area.

Instead, it is striking to note how many of the Western reports of the Turkish "miracle" that end up either mentioning of framing the entire story in terms that make the recent economic growth and trade a threat to the EU. The trouble is, we learn, that much of this growth is due to Turkey's increased trade with its eastern, Asiatic, and most troubling of all, predominantly Muslim neighbors - like Iran and Syria - rather

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Turkey Welcomes EU Council's Enlargement Conclusions

From Turkish Weekly:
Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued Tuesday night, it welcomed the "Enlargement Conclusions" released by EU's General Affairs Council that will be presented to the EU Summit to be held next week, only voicing objection to conclusions on the Cyprus issue.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Turkey's long wait

The following graph illustrates the special case in which Turkey finds itself in terms of how long it has stood at the EU's door compared to other current applicants and recent members.

The graph is taken from my forthcoming book Turkey and the European Union: Christian and Secular Images of Islam, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. I will be posting selections from the book on this blog. In the book, I try to shed light on the special challenges that Turkey's EU bid faces by looking at history and issues of collective identity.

Turkey's entry bid scores mixed points in EU debate | Reuters

The Council's statement on enlargement and the accession process is now out. You can access and download the original document here. Reuters summarizes the gist of the statement, which expresses 'deep regret' that Turkey is not living up to the so-called Additional Protocol (which would have Turkey opens its ports to ships flying the Cypriot flag), 'welcomes' the recent constitutional reform as an 'important step in the right direction,' but notes that 'further progress is needed.' The Council
encourages Turkey to further improve the observance of fundamental rights and freedoms in law and in practice.
The statement also suggests that the opening up of the competition chapter can be achieved early next year.

Turkey's entry bid scores mixed points in EU debate | Reuters

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

EU ministers: Talks with Turkey have reached "more demanding stage" - Monsters and Critics

Deutsche Presse Agentur reports that a draft discussed by EU ministers today will note that negotiations with Turkey 'have reached a more demanding stage.' Ministers are expected to reassure Turkey that progress is possible, but obstacles lie ahead:
Eight chapters have been frozen by the EU because of Turkey's long-simmering conflict with Cyprus, with the island nation having informally blocked another six. On top of that, France is preventing advances on another handful out of opposition to Turkey's EU entry.
EU ministers: Talks with Turkey have reached "more demanding stage" - Monsters and Critics

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cardinal Ratzinger Moderated Opposition to Turkey Joining Europe on Becoming Pope: Wikileaks | Informed Comment

Juan Cole's blog (Informed Comment) reflects on the recent Wikileaks cables that show a Cardinal Ratzinger - on his way to becoming pope - who was more skeptical of Turkish EU membership than the official Vatican line. Prof. Cole takes issue with the headline of the Guardian's report: "Future pope objects to EU membership for Muslim Turkey." On Prof. Cole's interpretation, Cardinal Ratzinger modified his personal conviction to fit the official Vatican line upon becoming pope.

My rejoinder would be that this indeed seems to have been the case, but it is nevertheless likely significant for the Vatican position over the long run that the new pope sees Turkey as a threat to Europe's Christian identity. While I am not a close observer of the Vatican, I cannot help but get the feeling that the pope's recent trip to Turkey was more of an attempt to mend relations that had gone sour due to e.g. the pontiff's 2006 remarks in Regensburg, which were seen as offensive by many Muslims in Turkey and elsewhere, than a sign of a new heading for the Vatican under Benedict.

Turkey reaches out to Greek Christian minority – CNN Belief Blog - Blogs

From CNN's Belief Blog, a report on the resent easing of restrictions on Turkey's small Greek Orthodox, most recently by granting passports to Orthodox bishop.
"A more tolerant society is emerging in Turkey," said Egemen Bagis, Turkey's top negotiator in its troubled bid to join the European Union.

"The situation in Turkey might not be perfect. But it is definitely better. And it is improving day by day," said Bagis, at a religious freedoms conference at the European Parliament in Brussels last month.

European values: liberty or tyranny - Features - Al Jazeera English

A survey of recent Islamophobic and xenophobic trends in Europe, from al Jazeera English (by a Dr. Parvaz.)
And it is not just tabloids that have contributed to the hysteria - social media has played a role in the anti-immigration, anti-Islam campaign, with film clips predicting when various Western countries will become Muslim states getting millions of hits, and clips refuting those claims receiving just a fraction of the interest.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

WikiLeaks: German foreign minister privately strongly against Turkey joining EU

From The Hindu on December 11:
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is far more opposed to Turkey joining the European Union than he has expressed publicly, the media reported on Saturday, quoting U.S. embassy documents released by WikiLeaks.

Link courtesy of Turkishdigest.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bildt, Frattini, Hague, and Stubbs in the NYT

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt in an op-ed on enlargement in today's New York Times, together with his British, Italian, and Finish colleagues:
The crucial question is not whether Turkey is turning its back on Europe, but rather if Europe is turning its back on the fundamental values and principles that have guided European integration over the last 50 years.

Belgian presidency cancels Turkey talks scheduled for Dec 22

According to Toby Vogel at the European Voice, the outgoing Belgian EU presidency will stop short of opening a new chapter in the negotiations over Turkish accession, and has cancelled talks with Turkish officials scheduled for December 22. Vogel points out that the Belgian presidency will be
the first since Turkey began membership talks with the EU in 2005 that fails to open a single negotiating chapter.
The Belgian foreign minister justified the decision not to open the chapter on competition because Turkey's progress on the issue had been "a bit too slow."

Resources on the Turkish EU accession negotiations with commentary

Here (for download as a pdf file) is a helpful recent (November 26, 2010) review and assessment of Turkey-EU relations from the Congressional Research Service.

The report is written by Vincent Morelli, a Section Research Manager at the CRS. His conclusion that
Turkey’s march toward EU membership appears to have slowed considerably
is not surprising to anyone that follows the issue, but the report starts and ends with basic information, so it is very useful to someone who is not yet familiar with the accession negotiation process or Turkey's application.

Here is the latest (2010) Progress Report on Turkey from the European Commission. It was drafted after the September 12 referendum on constitutional reform in Turkey, which approved an ambitious reform package on the 30 year anniversary of Turkey's last military coup (1980). The report's evaluation of the package is lukewarm:
Overall, the constitutional amendments are a step in the right direction. They address a number of priorities of the Accession Partnership in the area of the judiciary, fundamental rights and public administration. However, broad public consultation involving all political

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Dutch gov’t reassures Turks of Muslims' rights"

Hürriyet's Daily News & Economic Review reports from a meeting between Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal and a group of Turkish journalists. During the meeting, Rosenthal attempts to reassure Turks that the Netherlands does not discriminate against Muslims or against the nearly 400 000  in the country. He argues that, while the government relies on the backing of Geert Wilders' far right and Islamophobic Freedom Party, the party is not a formal coalition member precisely because of its position on Islam.

Somewhat awkwardly, Rosenthal states that
People who believe in Islam are entitled to go to the mosque. The only point that they have to take into account is that they should not go beyond the rule of law and the constitutional duties going with that..
One can only speculate about what he means by the latter caveat, but one gets the impression that Muslims in his view tend to "go beyond the rule of law" when they go to the mosque...

The article also quotes Rosenthal on the Dutch government's position on Turkey's EU bid:
“The principle of the Dutch government with regard to enlargement is strict and fair. We

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Polish PM Donald Tusk in Turkey

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is visiting Turkey to present Poland's priorities before assuming the EU presidency in July 2011. A Polish news site quotes him before leaving:
Our priorities concentrate on EU expansion. Poland has not change [sic] its ideas [on Turkey’s entry to the EU] and we continue to support the enlargement even at times when the issue is not on the top of [others] agendas.

The Economist's recent special report on Turkey

The Economist had a good recent report on Turkey that you can find here. While much of the report was upbeat about the progress on reforms and on the state of the Turkish economy, the piece on Turkey's EU accession talks was rather pessimistic.

About this blog

Welcome to the TurkEU blog,

This blog is dedicated to disseminating information, commentary, and analysis about Turkey's bid for accession to the European Union. I will try to post regularly both links to articles and other materials on the web on this topic, as well as my own reflections.

The posts will likely betray my own interests in the long history behind current events, as well as items such as the resurgence of Islamophobia and xenophobia in much of Europe that I believe are closely related to the issue of Turkey's EU bid.

Please feel free to leave your comments and thoughts, and enjoy your stay.

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