Al Jazeera Blogs


Europe

Turkey to EU: Call us when you're ready

Given the strength of Turkish foreign policy and its youthful population, why would Ankara now want to subordinate itself to a group that more resembles an aging diplomatic country club?

Last modified: 17 May 2010 21:17
Photo by GALLO/GETTY

It's a great time to be in lovely Istanbul, taking in the Bosphorus and all the historic sites by foot. The scenery on Turkey's political landscape is every bit as dramatic.

Consider Turkey's statesmanship today in Tehran (along with Brazil) to try and resolve the ongoing Iranian nuclear standoff.  

Or the Turkish parliament's vote over constitutional amendments. 

In the backdrop lies the increasingly inconsequential issue that used to dominate news on Turkey - its long stalled bid for EU accession.

Just last week I was concentrating on this subject at a majestic retreat in Austria courtesy of the Salzburg Global Seminar

For five days I deliberated with a group of distinguished Turkish and European diplomats, politicians, business people and scholars, all eager to explore how the Turkish accession project might conclude. 

I suppose I showed my own hand when I enquired out loud, with news of Greece's financial crisis and the puzzling EU response, why Turkey should anyhow want to join? 

Chatham House rules applied, so I can't say what others felt (though my hypothesis was shared). I did get an interesting "on record" insight from Turkish parliamentarian and AK party executive committee member Suat Kiniklioglu

Until we met in Austria's verdant hills last week I was pleased to learn we had stomped the same grounds when were living "la vida think tank" in Washington DC's Dupont Circle, circa 2005.  

With all of Turkey's economic successes, I asked Suat why the ruling AK party should want to continuing pursuing a membership that will mean inheriting the liabilities of 27 deeply divided countries with unequally performing economies

Given the strength of Turkish foreign policy, its growing nexus to the global energy supply, its youthful population (etc, I could go on), why would Ankara now want to subordinate itself to a group that more resembles an aging diplomatic country club?

One important impression I gathered from the Salzburg discussions: Germany, France, and especially Austria, will never, repeat never, allow Turkey to join. 

Too much bad blood, "enlargement fatigue," the excuse of domestic politics, and probably even a degree of not-so-latent ethnic discrimination. 

So what's wrong with Turkey turning from its position of strength to say, 'Thanks, but no thanks!?' I can't find a compelling answer against it. 

Meanwhile, I notice there are many Germans, French, and Austrians walking around the same touristic sites as me. 

Too bad for them that the euro is so weak, although it will still buy you some killer street food