The European Union's plans to begin membership negotiation talks
with Turkey this week have once again been thrown into disarray -
for European governments have had difficulty coming to an agreement
over the very terms of the negotiation. This does not bode well for
those ignoring the very real possibility of Europe rejecting
Turkey's EU membership.
After years of indecision and delay, the most optimistic
assessment sees Turkey joining the club in roughly 10 years - but
Ankara's real chances are diminishing by the day as the political
landscape in Europe continues to change rapidly.
Consider the cases of France and Germany. After the rejection of
the EU constitution earlier this year, Paris has become increasingly
critical of Turkey. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is now
publicly talking about stalling membership negotiations. Prospects
for Turkey could deteriorate further if Nikolas Sarkozy, the rising
star of French politics, wins the presidential election in 2007. Mr.
Sarkozy has stated bluntly, "Turkey has no place in Europe."
Similarly, if Angela Merkel ends up heading a coalition
government in Germany, this could turn Berlin from a key supporter
of Turkish accession into one of its staunchest opponents. Instead
of admitting Turkey to full membership, Mrs. Merkel's party has
consistently favored a "privileged partnership" with Turkey - a
concept that has signified little, other than a desperate desire for
Ankara to stay outside the union.
The dismissive attitude of these leaders is a manifestation of
the European public's skepticism toward Turkey. A recent EU poll has
shown that only 35 percent of European citizens are sympathetic to
the idea of Ankara joining the bloc. If a referendum were held today
more than 60 percent of the French and 80 percent of the Austrians
would vote against Turkish accession.
"Turkey fatigue" has become so obvious that even the Euro-elites
in Brussels have been unable to ignore it any longer. Yet the
European Commission, itself hopelessly divided over Turkey's
European vocation, is not providing leadership on the issue. What is
offered instead is a draft negotiation document that is both for and
The EU can't have it both ways. Membership negotiations will
suffer from Turkey managing comprehensive and lengthy political and
economic reforms without the promise of reward - admission to the
club. Given the uncertainty of public referenda, however, it is
exactly this reward that the EU is unable to guarantee. This puts
the valuable reforms Ankara has achieved so far into jeopardy -
including greater economic liberalization, increased political
control over the military, and strengthened independence of the
It is imperative that the West develop genuine policy
alternatives to Europe's current all-or-nothing approach, on the
chance that Turkey is denied accession. …