With the arrival of summer, it appears that the discussion over Turkey's troubled European Union membership bid and the possibility of offering Ankara a "privileged partnership" with the bloc is heating up. Hurriyet Daily News has an interview today with Pierre Ménat, director of EU affairs for the French foreign ministry, who urges Turkey to "see the reality" and accept that it will have to settle for something other than full membership.
From the interview:
"Calling it a ’privileged partnership’ is wrong. Turkey is already in a customs union with us. What we seek is a relationship that would make Turkey associated as much as possible with the EU," Pierre Ménat, director of EU affairs for the French foreign ministry, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview conducted last week in Paris.You can read the full article here.
"It would be much better if we could discuss it. But it’s not possible, as the Turkish authorities are too emotional on this issue. If we can see the reality, then we can have better relations," he said....
....Many conservative and far-right politicians exploited the issue during the elections for the European Parliament, stirring disappointment and anger in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has suggested the possibility of canceling France’s "Turkey Season," a nine-month-long campaign initiated by Paris to promote Turkey in all its facets.
"We have worked a lot for this project. We knew we had to be careful about the dates - I mean the European elections," Ménat said. "Actually there was nothing new that has been said during the campaign. But those who were talking once in a year spoke every day. And we have talked about it with the Turkish authorities. It would have been a pity if it would have been annulled.
"Having said so, France, during its EU term presidency, did not hinder the negotiations," he said.
Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group has just posted a piece on its website, arguing that "Privileged Partnership Offers Turkey neither Privilege nor Partnership." From the article, written by Hugh Pope, ICG's Turkey analyst:
In short, "privileged partnership" offers no obvious new privileges to Turkey, even though it is a member of almost all pan-European organizations from the Council of Europe to soccer leagues, and is in many ways closer to the EU than any other non-member. Nor does it offer real new partnership, since the main goal appears to be either to control Turkey or to exclude it from the decision-making that would make it a true partner. Already, the EU happily concludes free trade deals with third parties that supposedly urge them to open their markets to Turkey. But these third countries are under no obligation and are reluctant to do so.
There is a downside to "privileged partnership" as well. European states have formally contracted with Turkey that it is in a process leading to full accession to the Union, if and when it satisfies all the criteria. Reversing this obligation for transparent reasons of domestic politics sends a message that Europe cannot be trusted. There is an element of dishonesty, too. Politicians and commentators present the accession talks as if a poorer, over-populated Turkey was about to join tomorrow. In fact, the process will take a decade or even two, by which time the relative positions of fast-growing Turkey and a more stagnant Europe will doubtless be much changed. Fears of a flood of Turkish migrants are exaggerated - free movement of Turkish labour will likely not be allowed for many further years, if ever. Even then, Turkey's accession can ultimately be vetoed by any government....
....In the circumstances, talk of "privileged partnership" thus looks more and more like a scapegoat for popular European fears about jobs, immigration and Islam. Blaming the EU-Turkey accession process does not just build up problems for the EU-Turkey relationship -- with all the lost opportunities that this implies for future cooperation between the EU and NATO, European energy security and cooperation with the Muslim world -- but it also delays an honest appraisal of the true causes of these fears in European states themselves.
You can read the full piece here.