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591 words - May 27, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
On May 23, Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, came to Turkey where he met with a number of top officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After the two met, Mr. Van Rompuy explained that "we all want to strengthen further the ties between Turkey and the European Union (EU)."
As a candidate to the EU and a member of NATO, Turkey has developed relationship with the EU on the basis of the Ankara Agreement of Association and whose 2013 marks the 50th anniversary. Last December, Mr. Van Rompuy said, the 27 EU heads of state and government reconfirmed their commitment to Turkey's accession process. Welcoming Turkey's continued reform efforts, the EU countries would be willing to open a new chapter in the negotiations, the first since 2010. Judicial reforms and recent breakthrough in solution process to end the conflict with the PKK may lead to imminent positive effects for Turkey, particularly a visa liberalization that is "an important goal on our immediate agenda" said Mr. Van Rompuy.
Its geopolitical relevance in the Syrian crisis, its close ties with the United States and its increased reach in the Arab world makes Turkey a country that is getting promotion on the EU's political agenda. In Brussels, many believe that developing stronger ties with the EU has or will have positive consequences in Turkey, where "the European Union remains a key anchor for democratic modernization," said EU Commissioner Stefan Fule on May 14. Furthermore, as Turkey became the sixth biggest trading partner of the EU and the latter became the former's first, the bilateral trade between the EU and Turkey totaled EUR 115 billion in 2012. As an entry point to the Middle East and a center of economic growth, Turkey could become a real asset in the EU's future, EU officials repeat.
Yet the Brussels officials' assessment is not shared by a large majority of the European population who seems unfavorable to Turkey's accession to the EU. Beyond economic interests, the European peoples, particularly in France where former President Nicolas Sarkozy favored a "privileged partnership" for Turkey instead, are questioning the "European" character of Turkey and the relevance of accepting a country of a different culture into a framework that already seems outmoded by the ongoing financial crisis of the Eurozone and by its hasty enlargement.
According to the report entitled Turkey Watch, EU Member States Perceptions on Turkey's Accession to the EU, most of the opinion polls tend to corroborate such claims. At the European level, the report said, France, along with Germany, Austria and Greece, demonstrates the strongest popular opposition to Turkey's accession to the EU. "French opposition appears stable over time, even tending to increase in recent years: varying from 64% to 69% between spring 2002 and autumn 2006, and reaching 71% in spring 2008," one can read.
As a result, while Mr. Van Rompuy wants to rebuild momentum in Brussels, it seems most of the Europeans think he, like many EU officials, is increasingly out of touch with reality. First, re-build trust between Europeans and Brussels. That is what opinion polls and recent elections said. Even a United States report agreed. "Neither Turkey nor the EU appear to be prepared to actually end the accession process," wrote Vincent Morelli, a Section Research Manager with the US Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a paper released on January 8.
The "we" in Mr. Van Rompuy's remarks is not "us", say Europeans.
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