A Big Turkey vs. Big Mouth Little Guy

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Leave  Turkey’s  bid  to  join  EU  to us, Nicolas Sarkozy warns Barack Obama
(((   Who  will  devour  who  in  the  end  ?  )))

The love-in between Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama proved short-lived after the French President warned his US counterpart yesterday to keep his nose out of the issue of Turkey’s membership of the European Union.

President Obama used his first EU-US summit, on the eve of his visit to Turkey, to encourage European leaders to embrace the Muslim country and “anchor it in Europe”. However, Mr Sarkozy, a long-standing opponent of full membership for Turkey, rebuffed the US leader in language that seemed to sour the revival of Franco-US relations.

Support for Turkey in joining the EU, a process that it began formally in 2005 and hopes to complete before 2020, has long been an American foreign policy goal.

Mr Obama, who flew to Turkey last night, clearly wanted to leave on a positive note. He told EU leaders: “The United States and Europe must approach Muslims as our friends, neighbours and partners in fighting injustice, intolerance and violence.

“Moving forward towards Turkish membership in the EU would be an important signal of your commitment to this agenda and ensure that we continue to anchor Turkey firmly in Europe.”

Mr Sarkozy, who has talked of offering Turkey a privileged partnership rather than membership, did not wait to hit back. “I have been working hand in hand with President Obama but when it comes to the European Union it is up to member states of the European Union to decide [on membership],” Mr Sarkozy said in an interview on French television. “I have always been opposed to this entry and I remain opposed,” he added.

His comments laid bare the continuing EU split over Turkish membership, with France and Austria openly opposed and deep reservations in Germany and the Netherlands. Turkey would become the most populous EU country and Germany in particular is said to have concerns about the shift in power that this would cause, with the largest number of MEPs coming from Turkey, along with strong voting rights in European Council decisions.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, sought to paper over the cracks as he welcomed Mr Obama’s comments. “We have started a process of negotiations with Turkey for membership of the European Union and that was a unanimous decision of the European Union, all 27 member states,” Mr Barroso said.

“Of course we have to go on with the negotiations and at the end, we have to see if Turkey is ready to join and if the European Union is ready to integrate Turkey.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, reiterated his country’s desire to join the EU when he visited Brussels this year.

Olli Rehn, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, called last week on Turkey to renew its focus on reforms to meet Union entry criteria for democracy and workers’ rights. “The pace of negotiations depends on the pace and intensity of the reforms in your country,” he said.

The Turkish press said yesterday that the country had secured concessions for dropping its objections to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, becoming the next Nato Secretary-General.

Ankara had argued that Mr Rasmussen was not suitable because he did not offer an apology for cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper in 2005, which led to violent demonstations across the Muslim world. Turkey expects to secure several key Nato posts, including that of assistant secretary-general.

Mr Rasmussen insisted in the Danish media yesterday that he had not sacrificed his defence of freedom of expression in order to secure Turkey’s support of his nomination.

Turkey also objected to the hosting by a Danish satellite of a Kurdish television channel that is regarded by Ankara as a mouthpiece of the outlawed PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Speaking to the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Mr Rasmussen added: “If it can be proven that Roj TV is participating in terrorist activities, then we will do what we can to close the television station . . . within the framework of what Danish legislation allows.


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