This is an important indictor for the EU that allowing Turkey into the bloc would be something more than the technical works and that it would have important consequences for the international community.
There are two EU members, who oppose unconditionally Turkey’s membership: France and Austria. Many Turkey-skeptical Europeans rely on the referenda that those two countries promised to hold as a last resort to prevent potential Turkish membership to the club.
On the other hand, in a tragic twist of fate, both countries need Turkey and its strategic position to protect their interests.
Earlier in the week, the leaders of France, Syria, Turkey and Qatar met in Damascus to discuss the burning issues of peace between Israel and Syria, Iran's nuclear program, and the situation in Lebanon.
After taking the helm of the EU, French leader Nicolas Sarkozy had started to play a more active role in international disputes. He brokered a ceasefire agreement between Russia and Georgia after the clashes erupted and now seems to regain influence in the Middle East.
While Sarkozy tries to make the EU a part of the today’s global conflicts, his path crosses with Turkey, and it appears this has started to reflect in his rhetoric.
Sarkozy had congratulated Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for his country’s efforts to promote dialogue and the peaceful solution of the conflicts in the region. Moreover he said Turkey’s efforts would be needed further in the coming period.
Turkey has started to make greater positive contributions to solving conflicts in the region. It has been mediating between Syria and Israel, taking some kind of a role in Iran’s nuclear dispute and finally working on the formation of a Caucasus alliance, even discussing the issue with Armenia, a country that it has no diplomatic relations with.
All these issues are under the spotlights of Europe. France’s right leaning Le Figaro described the situation as “Indispensable Turkey” in its editorial on Thursday, another signal that finally France started to admit the necessities of real politics.
ENERGY KEY FOR AUSTRIA
Turkey is indispensable for Austria, another country which does not hide its opposition to Turkey’s EU bid, as well, as its key role as an energy transit country.
During the Cold War, Austria had been on the front line of Europe against the Soviet states and the energy hub of the old continent. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the EU membership of former communist states weakened the position of Austria in the bloc.
Now it has intensified its efforts to regain its strength in the EU. The Nabucco natural gas pipeline plays a crucial role at this point.
The Nabucco pipeline is aimed at diversifying the EU’s energy supplies and decreasing its energy dependence on Russia. The pipeline is planned to be built from Turkey to Austria, passing through fellow bloc members Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.
Under the plan, the gas would be stored and distributed to Europe in Austria, increasing its hopes to redeem its former position within the EU.
Turkey’s EU bid and possible membership would be completely different to previous enlargements.
It would bring enormous economic and political costs to the EU. Should one day Turkey become a member of the EU, it will not be because of its full compliance to the criteria, but to the EU’s success and readiness to become a global player.