Wednesday, September 1, 2010

End the hypocrisy and talk Turkey

A very interesting article by one of the Financial Times columnists, Gideon Rachman.

End the hypocrisy and talk Turkey

You can gauge the importance of Turkey to the western world by the fact that both Barack Obama and David Cameron gave speeches to the Turkish parliament in Ankara within months of taking office.

The west cares about Turkey because it is a hinge state between east and west and a rare example of a majority Muslim state that is also a secular democracy. Turkey is a neighbour of both Russia and Iran, and is also a member of Nato. It has a rapidly growing and dynamic economy. And yet these days Turkey is also increasingly a source of anxiety to the west.
The country voted against new UN sanctions on Iran and has a dangerously antagonistic relationship with Israel. But it is Turkey’s faltering effort to join the European Union that has come to symbolise the country’s uncertain relationship with the west.

“Talking Turkey” is meant to mean speaking frankly and getting to the heart of the matter. But, in the European Union, “talking Turkey” has become a synonym for double-talk and evasiveness.
Since 2005, the EU and Turkey have been negotiating a treaty that is meant to get Turkey into the EU – a prospect that was first dangled in front of the Turks in 1963. But Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, have made it clear that they oppose Turkish membership. The Turkish government says it still wants to “join Europe”, yet its foreign policy betrays understandable impatience.

So perhaps it is time really to “talk Turkey” – and to be frank. It would indeed be a wonderful thing if Turkey were to join the EU. But if that is to happen, Turkish membership has to be agreed on a new basis. It cannot involve total free movement of people between Turkey and the rest of the EU.

More herrreeeee

Not a new government yet after 3 months of negotiating

“Right-wing cabinet has one foot in the grave”  sums up the atmosphere as the coalition negotiations in the Netherlands are back in the headlines with a vengeance. Doing business with Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party is beyond the pale for many Christian Democrats, and now caretaker Health Minister and senior Christian Democrat Ab Klink has walked away from the negotiating table. He’s abandoned his party leader and negotiating partner Maxime Verhagen after a day-long row, in what some describes as a clash of pragmatism and principles. Pragmatic Mr Verhagen still wants to steam ahead with a mooted coalition with the rightwing VVD, propped up by parliamentary support from the Freedom Party. Principled Mr Klink has had enough.

The coalition talks have come under heavy fire from a string of Christian Democrat elder statesmen, notably former prime minister Ruud Lubbers, who according to “sources” has “secretly sabotaged” the coalition negotiations by putting pressure on Ab Klink to pull the plug.
Here  a roundup of the objections from the Christian Democrat heavyweights: “We’re risking dependence on a party that sees the religion of 1.5 million people in this country as a political ideology” (Cees Veerman). “The Freedom Party is getting an ounce of accountability and a kilo of authority” (Doekle Terpstra). “Do we want to live on a life support machine with Wilders operating the button?” (former prime minister Dries van Agt). “Foreign governments will frown on a country where a party with opinions like those of the Freedom Party have bargained such a prominent position for themselves” (a letter from the heavyweights in chorus).

So what next? As far as Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen is concerned, the coalition talks are still on, but the press is already moving forward. Newspapers run through all the possible coalition line-ups all over again,  providing handy pie charts illustrating how the parliamentary majorities add up. One thing is clear: no one is suggesting any options that take in Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party.

Day Opening - September 1

Entrance to the harbor of Tarabya, Istanbul - by