Posted on July 2, 2004

An EU Joke

Günther Nonnenmacher, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 2, 2004

The tests Turkey supposedly must pass on its way to becoming a full member of the European Union have become a farce. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder already knows that Turkey will get good grades in the progress report that the EU Commission plans to issue in October — thanks to Günter Verheugen, the Commission member who is responsible for enlargement and who plays a pivotal role in this matter.

So with the cat out of the bag, Schröder has already said he will support opening accession negotiations with Turkey when the European Council votes on the issue in December. Germany has leaned in this direction for quite some time. The stance is based on geopolitical considerations and a set of hopes cloaked in political-cultural rhetoric that cannot be assessed anyway.

Even French President Jacques Chirac, who in the past has criticized U.S. President George Bush for demanding speedy Turkish membership, threw his weight behind paving the way for Turkish accession. But when viewpoints are already set in stone, it is hard to understand the reasoning behind the whole reporting theater.

Those in the EU who are skeptical about Turkey’s membership — and they are out there — do not dare state their views openly. The geographical argument no longer holds water. And it is no longer politically correct to demand an EU with a modicum of homogeneity amid all of the diversity, a European Union that possesses an identity to which its citizens can relate and has the power to act. Even the last naysayers fell silent after Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hinted at what could happen to his country if Turkey were rebuked.

So the EU, which began integrating 10 new members in May, is sliding into the next adventure with its eyes wide open. And all this is taking place against the backdrop of two major events: the European Parliament elections last month at which voters expressed their growing unease and the EU leaders’ Herculean effort to find a new Commission president. Well, Schröder said he wanted to give the new candidate a chance. We can only hope that Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso receives a few more heartfelt words of congratulations.