EU Talks Turkey

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

EU Talks Turkey


Byline: By Eluned Morgan

At the end of a week that saw the EU agree to formally begin membership talks with Turkey, Wales MEP Eluned Morgan gives her verdict on the 'Turkey Question.'

THE European Union's success has always lain in its unique ability to draw countries towards peace, democracy and co-operation through the magnetic pull of prosperity and stability. This week we witnessed a climax of this process as EU countries gave the go-ahead to embark on a new and uncharted phase of development.

On Monday, 18 years after it first applied to join the European Union and after days of fierce wrangling, Turkey was finally allowed to open formal negotiations on becoming a member. The move has divided public opinion, both here and in Turkey. Indeed not since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire 100 years ago have Europeans agonised so much over the 'Turkish question'.

At the European Parliament last year I voted in favour of starting these formal negotiations. For someone who as a young member of Amnesty International wrote countless letters to Turkish leaders appealing for them to improve their human rights record, it was a difficult decision. But I believe it was the right one.

For the EU to have slammed its door on Turkey, and thus symbolically the Islamic world, at this terrorist-infested moment in history would have been tragic. Turkey's membership talks should be seen more as an opportunity for reform and progress than a threat. Moreover, Monday night's decision marked the beginning, not the end, of what will be a long, difficult process of negotiation for Turkey. Success is by no means guaranteed.

Turkey still has to travel a long and bumpy path of economic, social and environmental reform. It is a poor country. Its average income per head of population is a mere $US2,790 compared to $5,270 in Poland and $28,530 in the UK. Infant mortality rates are telling: 41 deaths per 1,000 births, a rate twice as bad as either Bulgaria or Romania, and far higher than recent EU entrants such as Poland and Slovenia.

The country's recent social reforms also leave much to be desired. Little progress has been made on women's rights and not enough is being done to tackle 'honour killings'. Earlier this month acclaimed Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk, was charged with the 'public denigrating of Turkish identity' and faces prison merely because he claimed certain topics were off-limits in Turkey. There also remains a long way to go on relations with Cyprus, Armenia and Turkey's 12 million Kurds. …

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