Turkey Pins New Club Hopes on December Summit

Article excerpt

TURKEYS hopes of clearing an early path to European Union (EU) membership now rest on Decembers summit in Copenhagen after it was refused a date for the start of accession talks last week.

The rebuff disappointed Washington, which sees Ankara as increasingly vital to its regional interests, particularly if conflict erupts with Turkeys southern neighbour, Iraq.

Turkey has been trying to build stronger ties with the EU since the early 1960s, but any chance of realising its ambition of actually joining proved elusive until the Helsinki summit in 1999 gave it candidate status.

Since then, the government of prime minister Bulent Ecevit has been trying to steer a course straight for Brussels, passing a major package of EU harmonisation reforms in August.

To us, the EU represents an anchor, Emin Ozturk, an analyst at Istanbul-based Bender Securities, says. Its a set of standards you have to live up to and most of the political and economic problems Turkey have are there because those standards arent being met.

Turkeys business leaders see EU membership as boosting quantity as well as quality and have also been supporting the governments push for entry.

Since we signed the customs union agreement with the EU at the end of 1995, theres been a great increase in competitiveness and exports, Mustafa Mente, from the Turkish Businessmen & Industrialists Association, says. EU membership would increase that still further.

Last weeks decision by the European Commission in Brussels to clear 10 candidates for accession talks but not Turkey left many disillusioned.

The EU is going through a test of goodwill and sincerity, foreign minister Sukru Sina Gurel said last week. If it fails, that will reflect adversely on other aspects of Turkey-EU relations.

Others were more optimistic. The commission isnt closing any doors, Ozturk says. This wasnt unexpected. The EU is saying to Turkey, youre not ready at this point, thats all.

The report could have been better, Hakan Avci of Global Securities says. …