Opinion: A Matter of Prestige for Ankara | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 05.10.2004
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


Opinion: A Matter of Prestige for Ankara

The EU Commission is likely to give the go-ahead Wednesday for opening talks with Ankara about its membership bid. But it won't silence the controversial debate over whether Turkey belongs in the EU in the first place.


The EU's bridge to Asia?

Can the European Union cope with Turkey's entry? The controversial question may be currently raging in Europe, but, in theory, it's already been decided. At least from Brussels' perspective: Ankara has been an official candidate for over four years.

In addition, an imminent go-ahead for opening concrete negotiations is likely to set in motion an automatic EU membership process that is going to be hard to stop. At the most, referendums in EU countries or a failure on Turkey' part to implement further reforms to fulfill membership criteria could put the brakes on it. But, actual entry into the Union is not expected before the next 10-15 years anyway.

Widespread EU euphoria

However, the widespread skepticism against ever-growing ties between Turkey and the EU is highly one-sided. After all, in Turkey itself, the vote in favor of joining is as high as 70 percent. And there isn't any significant political or social force that would openly act against EU membership.

Of course that doesn't mean that such forces don't exist. But, as long as Brussels doesn't disappoint Turkish expectations, anti-European forces will hardly dare to reveal themselves for what they are. EU euphoria among the Turkish population is simply too robust for that.

EU entry equals social progress

The reasons for the euphoria aren't simply economic. EU membership is a question for prestige for Ankara and is often viewed by many ordinary Turks as leading to social progress. They may not be entirely wrong either.

From the abolition of the death penalty to a strengthening of women's rights to television programs in Kurdish, the Turks are already witnessing numerous improvements that would profit Turkish society in the long term. These reforms could only be pushed through because of Brussels' insistence on sustainable reforms. Nothing has contributed more to Turkey's stabilization in the past years than the prospect of EU entry.

A crowning of the "European way"

From a Turkish perspective, EU membership would amount to a crowning of the "European way", which the nation's founder Kemal Atatürk led his people towards over 80 years ago.

Atatürk didn't just introduce the separation of state and religion, which is still valid today. He was also responsible for the fact that Turkish women could vote in 1934 at a time when their counterparts in countries such as France and Switzerland had to obediently stay at home on election days.

This should provide some food for thought for those who today reject Turkey as "culturally alien" despite its decades-long membership in NATO and the European Council.

Of course, large parts of Turkey still remain underdeveloped. And naturally, there are cultural differences which cannot be denied. Despite that, for most Turks it's no contradiction to feel Muslim, Democrat and European at the same time.

The current Turkey debate in Europe unfortunately raises the impression that one would like to talk them into such a contradiction.

DW recommends