Turkey and the European Union


by Miguel Portas, MEP


Should the negotiations for Turkey's adhesion to the Union start or not? This is the doubt that preoccupies the current European debate.

The decision, if positive, will not be equivalent to a road map. The negotiations will last years and, in the meantime, many things might happen in Turkey, in the Union and in the World. As long as we have negotiations and not actual adhesion, nothing is irreversible. And even if the negotiations are successful, entrance will not be immediate. The European Council (made up of heads of government of the 25 Member States) will have to decide in December if the bicycle of enlargement will keep on rolling, now in the direction of Turkey. Or if the Turks will have to wait.

In order to dispel the doubts, I think that it must continue rolling. If the bicycle stops it falls.

This is, however a difficult subject that divides all political tendencies. On the right wing, the extreme conservative administration of Washington advocates the entry of Turkey, a country integrated into NATO and with decades of firm Atlanticism behind it; on the other hand, the European right wing, in this case accompanied by the Vatican, is terrified of the spectre of having a mainly Muslim country within the Union.

On the left, the problem is not that Turkey is regarded as unfit. Like every other country, it should be entitled to choose for itself. However it is relevant that Cyprus, a country of recent adhesion, has 40 per cent of its territory occupied by the Turkish army; and that there exists an abyss between the legal changes that the Turkish government has been making, and the actual practice of human rights abuses against women and the national minorities, in particular the Kurdish people.

Finally, within the powerful central bloc that runs the Union, there are also tangible nuances of opinion: many think that Turkey’s adhesion would be too expensive for Europe. Eurocentrism and national egoism are not incompatible. And the closer we are to the peripheries, the bigger the distrust becomes.

So why am I, in the face of all this, in favour of Turkey's adhesion?

Firstly, because I believe that delaying the negotiations would not improve the position of the democratic and secular forces in Turkey. On the contrary, this would only feed the fundamentalist and authoritarian forces that exist in the country and its ruling circles.

Only negotiation will enable the exertion of strong pressure for, and a permanent verification of, the effective democratic reforms. We can already see this in the example of the delay in the recognition of Kurdish domestic laws. Without a European horizon, it is probable that the Kurd language would have been kept banned.

Finally, Turkey is the gateway between the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The alternative to the USA's politics to the region is not more weapons or purely financial aid. It is rather the establishment of a broad pact in which peace and human rights have as their counterpart an economic, social and environmental policy of integration in a mutually advantageous space.

Turkey might just represent Europe’s first serious reply of Europe to the strategy of armed globalization, of Empire. It's worth trying.

Miguel Portas represents the Left Bloc of Portugal in the European Parliament and is one of the 41 members of the United Left Group (GUE-NGL). This article is translated from a piece which first appeared in Diário de Noticias on 7 October 2004.