The future is not for Sarkozy or Merkel to decide

The upcoming elections to the European Parliament have opened the "Turkey shoot" season in Europe again. President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel are again in the forefront leading the "No to Turkey in the EU" chorus. There are others who will no doubt jump on the bandwagon also as the elections near.

As for the arguments, they are all too familiar at this stage.

However, there is something banal about it all this time. Most commentators seem to be able to see through what is going on now.

Put another way the "elections equals cheap populism equals easy targets equals hit at Turkey" approach is too transparent to be taken very seriously.

Of course, President Gül had to respond to Sarkozy and Merkel, regardless of this, when asked about it at a press conference during Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva’s visit to Ankara earlier this week. And, of course, he was correct in indicating that both lacked a vision for Europe.

Sarkozy’s attempt to offset this with a vision of a Mediterranean union, on the other hand, has come to nothing of significance. A year after it was launched, hardly anyone is talking about this project.

He is now taking another pitch with another "union" idea that somehow includes Russia and Turkey in a special relationship with the EU.

Clearly this will entail another stillbirth, even if it sounds good in an election environment to ears in France, where we are told 67 percent of the public oppose Turkey’s EU bid. As we said, there is something banal about it all at this stage.

The fact is that given the difficulties in the EU, which even the much publicized French presidency of the union failed to overcome, on one hand, and Turkey’s own problems, on the other, it means that we are talking about a 15-year period at best for Ankara’s EU bid to mature and become real.

Tony Barber's commentary, "Europe's line must take in Turkish sand," in yesterday’s Financial Times, spells out some of the problems on the economic side, and there is no point in being naive about these difficulties, which will clearly take time to sort out.

But Turkey is not a static country and the best gauge of this is to measure where it was two or three decades ago against where it is today, in order to make some extrapolations concerning where it might be two to three decades hence.

In the meantime, it is equally obvious that worlds can be destroyed and re-created during such a period. Put another way, it will be neither Sarkozy nor Merkel who decide whether Turkey will become a member of the EU, or Ğ for that matter Ğ whether it will become a special partner by its own choice, and not others.

Such questions will be decided by circumstance much more than by design. In other words, we have to see what happens in Europe, what kind of a turn the situation in Turkey takes, and what shapes up politically and economically on the global scale before we come up with fast and ready answers, as Sarkozy and Merkel are doing.

Barber, in his FT commentary, sets the picture right in the best possible manner when he says, "The EU can draw all the lines on maps it wants, but it should remember that Turkey can decide its destiny for itself Ğ possibly, in ways the EU would not like."

This is why, contrary to the impression that Sarkozy and Merkel are trying to create, there are more influential names in Europe than they would like to admit, who want to leave the door open to Turkey, not the least because of the unpredictability concerning Europe’s own future, and the dire consequences that might follow from alienating Turks at a time when there is no need to do so, other than the requirements of crass populism.

As an aside here we would like to suggest that Sarkozy and Merkel might like to read Walter Laquers latest book, "The Last Days of Europe" for a sobering account of the real problems that confront their continent and which require genuinely visionary leaders if the "Old Continent" is to overcome some of its very serious problems.
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