KLAUS – European Parliament debate(s) on Turkey: fair?

European Parliament debate(s) on Turkey: fair?A candidate country to the European Union is faced with multiple demands all along the way to eventually securing full membership. There are the Copenhagen political criteria as a prerequisite, then there is the constantly evolving acquis communautaire and its tens of thousands of pages filled with legal fine print.

Besides, candidate countries are under constant scrutiny by various EU bodies such as the European Commission, the European Council and of course the European Parliament. However, this is a one-sided process because candidate countries have little or no say at all with regard to influencing internal EU policies before becoming a member state.

This being so, I argue that it is all about the speed. Why keep a confirmed candidate country out in the cold for untoward and extended periods of time?Of course, some countries are easier to integrate than others.

Once a small-by-size nation has become a candidate country — such as Malta — little if any lingering obstacles will be detected. As a matter of fact, and if I remember correctly what was said in the Brussels political corridors back in the early 1990s, both Malta and Cyprus knew that they would join one day anyway they were not included in 1995, but most definitely on May 1, 2004, together with eight more states.

So it took time, but the outcome was known well in aance.Granted for bigger nation states — measured both by size and by population — it is more complicated to andldquounofficially agreeandrdquo on full EU membership in any case at a certain future date.

But even then it is not the simple announcement of having become a candidate country that is the key to eventually achieving mutually beneficial success at the negotiating table. What would turn that process into a success story is speed.

The speed with which a bigger candidate country readies itself for importing the contents of the acquis communautaire (the body of EU law which, however, is not finite but continues to grow each passing month) and the speed with which the EU ticks off those areas in which the candidate country has met the criteria and in turn readies itself for accommodating a new member state as quickly as possible.And Turkey did get EU acquis ready.

It was back in 2007 when one of my valued contacts in the capital Ankara told me that two years from that day, Turkey could, technically speaking, be EU-ready. Two areas of concern remained — public procurement and the environment — but in most other acquis domains, a quick implementation of EU laws would be no hurdle.

If only Brussels had allowed Turkey to open as many negotiation chapters as quickly as possible and as fast as feasible back then to help Turkey speed up that further alignment with EU law. But then EU acquis chapters were frozen or blocked we know the story.

It was not Turkey which lost interest it was Turkey wondering about Brusselsand#39 seriousness which led decision makers and above all the Turkish public to focus on Turkey first, then on joining the EU.Too late — no! The number of EU-related events and meetings I have had the pleasure to attend over the past two weeks alone, up and down the country, is truly remarkable.

It seems reality on the ground looks different from the grimmer bigger picture in Brussels. Am I thus gold-plating the smaller picture? Far from it — but nothing could be more wrong for us columnists and journalists to now say andldquoadieuandrdquo to Brussels.

But characterizing the EU as an anchor only functions as long as that very anchor is not lifted unilaterally from far away. Turkey needs reassurance from Brussels that whilst not being Malta or Cyprus, it nevertheless has a clearly defined chance to join one day soon, too! Then domestic policies will be further aligned with EU standards and ultimately the EU would be a truly multicultural, cosmopolitan, diverse group of nations.

Paraphrased: Reading news tickers, some in the EU say today that Turkey has drifted away from the family if that is the perceived wisdom over there (correct or unfair wisdom, I am not judging Brusselsand#39 politicians), a responsible parent must roll up his sleeves instead of abandoning that family member! Donand#39t lift the anchor, lower it further.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman