In view of the coming Summit on 17 December 2004 in Brussels which is to decide on the initiation of negotiations for Turkey's accession to the EU, Mr. Jelko Kacin, Member of the European Parliament (ALDE) and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament presents his reflections on Turkey's role in the modern Europe and on the importance of initiation of negotiations for accession of Croatia and Turkey to the EU.
Jelko Kacin, MEP,
Member of the European Parliament (ALDE) and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee
At the European Film Awards Ceremony on December 11, 2004 in Barcelona, the European Film Academy announced the German film Head-On as the best European film of the year. Its director Fatih Akin conceived a brilliant story about two Turkish immigrants who married for interest and then fell in love. I chose this topic as the cue for my and our reflection on the future of Europe, EU and Turkey. The film's title, content and actors reflect the agonies and dilemmas we face when we think about our future. These are dilemmas of individuals, interest groups, states and supranational institutions such as the EU.
I still remember clearly the meeting of presidents of foreign policy committees of national parliaments in Brussels during the Belgium presidency of EU, when Slovenia was not EU member state yet. President of the Turkish Committee Kamran Inan always attracted special attention at those meetings with his public questions as to why they always talk about only ten or perhaps twelve candidates, but always forget about the thirteenth one. Although no official date for the beginning of negotiations had been set for Turkey, it was always invited to those meetings. Inan's presence and discussions were the proof that he was alive, that he was there and that Turkey was also invited though always ignored, denied and, as he would say, humiliated in a way. »Why do you invite me if you keep ignoring and forgetting me?« was his question. A clear proof of his lucidity was his question: »Is there anybody here who can tell me in which century of the third millennium might Turkey become EU member?« At that time this was a rhetorical question but today it is realistic and I know the answer: yes, Turkey can definitely become EU member in this, first century of the new millennium.
WHERE IS TURKEY LOCATED?
Turkey is definitely located in Europe and most definitely it definitely is located also in Europe. I first visited Turkey twenty years ago. I hitch-hiked then and the long journey from my home in Slovenia, then the northwesternmost part of Yugoslavia and now a part of Europe, did not take much time. Despite the iron curtain the journey through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to Edirna never lasted more than a day and a half, even though I always travelled with truck drivers. Turkey is near, Istanbul even nearer. The city of Istanbul is known to the Slavs also as Constantinople and Byzantium. In our history it is perceived as a Christian (Orthodox) rather than an Islamic centre of the western civilisation. Its biggest mosque was once actually a Christian church and there are plenty of roots of the Christian culture and western civilisation. The two cultures interweave, measure with each other and, lately, respect each other.
As Europeans we are very conservative and often inflexible. All our patterns of behaviour are standardised and we view the world in an explicitly »Eurocentric« way. We are full of ourselves, believing that this is where the world starts and ends. This is the attitude of majority of Europeans and this is our biggest problem and barrier to understanding other views of the world and of the people.
I like to provoke the people I talk to and it is interesting how quickly a European can be confounded. Usually I spread out the map of Europe without the borders marked and turn it upside down so that Europe is seen from the North Pole and not from the equator as we are used to from our childhood. Most people can hardly recognise the shape of the Mediterranean and even their own country, let alone the neighbouring states. Nothing has changed, only Europe as the subject of interest is viewed from another perspective, and we no longer know where nor how or what. It is obvious that Europe, the EU and Turkey can be viewed from several different perspectives. The perspective we have applied to Turkey till now is not, may not be and can not be the only one. There are other truths and we still have to learn about many of them in order to see further, more and better.
If we turn the map so that we look at it from the west and put Turkey on top, we will find out that Turkey spreads far and deep towards the »west«, i.e. towards the Indian Ocean and the Indian peninsula. The »imperialists« would say that it penetrates into Asia, but I rather describe it as a bridge ascending over Bosphorus towards the east, towards Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Central Asia.
By turning the same map by 180 degrees and looking at it from Asia so that the Pyrenees are on the »top« or »north«, Europe will appear in yet another perspective. Turkey will no longer be in the east. Instead it will look like a southern peninsula of Europe with its lowest point somewhere in the Arafat Mountain where the remnants of the Noah's Arch are supposedly lying. Europe will be different again, even more astonishing and interesting.
If we look at Turkey from Asia, Ankara looks like the southernmost capital of the future EU member state and Istanbul becomes the most attractive economic metropolis in the wider area. Indeed, the people from Turkey's neighbouring states see Turkey as the beginning of Europe, the successful market economy and the educational and civilizational centre and, what is most important, they see Turkey as a stable and safe democracy. I know that many of you can not agree with me due to differences in our criteria. But in comparison with many neighbouring countries Turkey is much more democratic. Due to demands and pressures of Europe and especially the EU it is much more democratic than it was only yesterday and over the process of negotiations it will be more and more democratic for its citizens and for all of us who are urging it to achieve democracy even faster and deeper.
The answer to the question Where is Turkey located? can not be static but dynamic: everything changes and Europe is different today. After the fall of the Berlin Wall Europe became different and larger. But even before that Turkey was on our side, that is to say on your side, on the west or democratic side and it made progress on this side, defending and espousing this world for decades. The Americans, especially the USA political elite, never looked at the world from the Europe's view, so today their perspective is different and better. In Europe we are often annoyed when the Americans keep warning us about the role and importance of Turkey for the peace, security and stability in the old continent. When it comes to geopolitics we should not be afraid of a little bit of help from America in observing the world, especially regarding Turkey.
»Money rules the world« says the Slovenian proverb. Economic implications of EU's enlargement to Turkey are a complex issue related to the very essence of the EU. An important and valuable realization for me as the freshman in the European Parliament was that sooner or later it all comes down again to the question of common agricultural policy and compensations. I have heard that Turkey has more farmers today than the whole enlarged EU together. But we have to face the globalisation and dilemmas concerning the World Trade Organisation. The events in Cancun are still vivid in our memory and if our recent Commissioner Pascale Lamy becomes the director of WTO we will have to deal with the issue of agriculture even more. Isn't the question of sugar in EU still among other the question of our privileges and monopolies which we have to exceed to the benefit of producers and suppliers from less developed countries? The number of farmers in Turkey will decrease in the future and we are also dealing more and more with rural development and less with the compensations. EU's enlargement to Turkey can not and may not be hostage to the interest of those member states which still demand the same share of subvention in agriculture as they had when they were underdeveloped.
The changed regime in the textile industry and fears related to Chinese potential are perceived by the European textile industry as an approaching tempest. However, EU's enlargement to new member states brings along new possibilities and opportunities for survival and development of some traditional industries and branches which are awaiting a very insecure future. With its economy Turkey has already proven that it has a dynamic industry with a huge potential, which can quickly adapt and co-operate and which offers quality products and services at competitive prices. The growing companies can survive and I believe that EU and Turkey can perform better on the world market if they are together than each separately. In the latter case I am less concerned about the Turkish economy although I am convinced that they would both benefit from Turkey's accession to EU. I believe that together with Turkey EU has many possibilities and opportunities on the world market in the globalisation process and I trust Turkish entrepreneurs that together we can contribute a lot to the development of other economic entities in Central Asia and thus make EU's neighbouring regions more stable, predictable and friendly towards their nations as well as towards all of us.
WHAT WOULD/WILL TURKEY'S ACCESSION BRING TO THE EU INSTITUTIONS?
EU would definitely have another - Turkish language. This is something EU is ready for since it should have been joined by Cyprus together with the Turkish community in the north of the island but, due to the opposition in the Greek part of the island, this has not happened yet. In my opinion this was a major historical mistake. By recognising Turkish language as the official EU language we could contribute more to the speed, depth and content of the negotiations and modernisation of Turkey than with the negotiations which have not even started yet. Millions of Turks at home and throughout Europe could discover, examine and accept the rules and requirements of the EU on the Internet, which would strengthen and deepen the process of Turkey's democratisation. The old EU member states do not pay enough attention to the role and importance of the use of mother tongue in the accession process because they are not aware of the sensitive nature of the national identity and equality issues in countries in transition. The issue of politics is much more present and important in transitional regimes than in old democracies where a high level of apolitical attitude is often present. Language is the prime and main stimulus of development for societies in transition.
WHAT WILL BE THE IMPLICATIONS OF TURKEY'S ACCESSION FOR OTHER INSTITUTIONS?
Like Germany and like Slovenia, Greece or Cyprus, Turkey will have one commissioner. It will not have more members in the European Parliament than Germany which has the largest number of deputies at the moment. Turkey already has its delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe where Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gull, a great friend of the EU and a sincere advocate and campaigner for accession to the EU and for related changes in Turkey, was steeling himself. According to the rules of the game which are already known Turkey's representation will probably be underestimated in relation to its size.
Turkey is a bridge and an opportunity, an ally and a partner. Turkey is our student, but it should also become our teacher. All that glistens is not gold neither is all in EU the best one could choose. The initiation of negotiations between the Commission and Turkish government will trigger a two-way as well as a multi-way process in which everyone will take part: member states and their inhabitants, all the neighbouring countries and their inhabitants as well as other cultures and religions. If we can do that our success will be much broader than we dare imagine today.
I am aware that this short article can not tackle all the issues and dilemmas, as there are simply too many of them. Everyone has a right to his or her evaluation and decision, all I want to stress is that there are always many truths. Those with a different opinion are also right. I would like to point out that my view is explicitly political and oriented into the future since the future should be dealt with an active rather than a conservative approach. Turkey represents a great challenge for the politics and public opinion throughout the world and a challenge beyond all comparison for EU member states. The dilemma I have to resolve is whether I influence and contribute to public opinion or simply adapt to and follow it. I would like to contribute to the forming of public opinion and to creating the positive atmosphere, only which can lead to the necessary understanding, respect, tolerance and, consequently, further enlargement of the EU. I support the setting of an early date for initiation of the negotiations with Turkey. Therefore, this week in Strasbourg, it will be my pleasure and honour to vote, in my good conscience and taking full responsibility, in favour of Turkey's progress report and of setting the date. In this I am guided by the following poem by Leonardo Zanier, written in the language of a minority living in the Italian region of Friuli-Julian-Venetia:
In a thick wood spruces strip off their branches
and grow long,
together towards the light
there is no place for bushes
though the loss of branches is painful we have to loose them;
if we look farther than our yard
we are taller
dead ideas tie us to the world of the dead
if we look farther than our yard
we are stronger
If we look farther than our yard we will be stronger, taller and we will see many things we can not see today. We will see Turkey and behind and next to it other states and nations belonging to our world which will then become bigger and better, oriented towards the future. When I was born, visionaries could see further and that is why they were able to conceive the idea of the European Coal and Steel Community. I was born in Yugoslavia, a state that no longer exists, and although I have never moved I live now in another, different, better and bigger world. Formerly, my home was in a narrow area with many enemies and a cold war going on. Now, in the EU, there are many more of us, I live with former enemies and yet I do not feel more endangered. To the contrary, I feel safe and I look with confidence to the future of my children.
It is my sincere wish that my former colleague and my friend Kamran Inan, the doyen of Turkish diplomacy and politics, who is retired now and in opposition, not only reads this writing but also lives to see the date of Turkey's accession to the EU. Since I respect the customs of the environment he comes from we will not drink a toast to that but I am sure we will both be proud and happy for having contributed our share to speeding up the process. Time is gold, too.