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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is the Blame Game afoot?

The debate about Turkey's stalled EU-accession negotiations is heating up. I have previously commented on Erdoğan's Newsweek Op. Ed., in which he described the EU in rather harsh terms. Now, in a meeting at Davos Turkey's former top negotiator and current Deputy PM, Ali Babacan (pronounced Baba-Jaan) has warned that the Union is turning into a "Christian club."

File:Ali Babacan - World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2008 retouched.jpg
Ali Babacan at Davos in 2008. Copyright World Economic Forum (

According to the AFP, Babacan remarked that the "open door policy" of the EU is simply "not there" anymore. And that
one of the big themes about why Turkey cannot become a member of the European Union is because it is a Christian club. This is in our view very, very dangerous
There are several ways to interpret these moves, but my best guess is that the Turkish leadership is
aiming to try to shame the liberal and progressive forces in the EU to help restart the negotiations.

And there are such forces that still openly push for fairness and a strict application of the Copenhagen criteria. Sweden has recently emerged as the most outspoken supporter of Turkey's EU bid. At the same Davos event, Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt came out unequivocally in favor of the accession of a "reformed Turkey." Again according to AFP:
In Sweden a couple of decades ago we abolished the idea of a state church. We are not in the conception that we all of one religion. [...] We have 400,000 Muslims in Sweden. For me it's not a religious cooperation the European Union, it's a set of values that is open for all world religions. We are very much in favour of a reformed Turkey's entry into the EU.
The alternative interpretation, inspired in part by Andy Duff's recent and very dire FT piece, is that the negotiations have crashed and that Turkey's EU bid is irrevocably damaged. I am not prepared to go so far, and much could happen with e.g. a change of leadership in France, an unexpected breakthrough on Cyprus, or just some increased momentum with the opening and closure of a few chapters, but the prospect of a crash needs to be raised.

AFP: Turkey warns EU becoming 'Christian club'

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