Headed by France-Turkey friendship group President Michel Diefenbacher, the delegation went to Ankara, Bursa and İstanbul between April 12 and 16. Kudos to Bernard Emié, the successful French ambassador to Turkey, for ensuring that the French parliamentarians had a nice visit.
Diefenbacher is quite an experienced former bureaucrat and a deputy. Ten years ago, he left his position in the bureaucracy and started a political career in a small province in southwestern France. “Are you in favor of Turkey’s EU membership?” was the first question he was asked after his first election speech in this province where no Turks lived or were known. Diefenbacher supports Turkey’s EU membership, but he quickly adds that French people have prejudices and concerns that Turks should be aware of. He says that in France, politicians chose to conceal Turkey’s EU membership process from the public’s attention and deliberately refrained from bringing it to the agenda since the 1960s. For 30 years, both leftist and rightist parties in France have avoided any discussion of Turkey’s EU membership process. For him, the French are intimidated by Turkey’s population and economy because the French are very much dependent on the EU’s agriculture-related funds. In particular, the French farmers, who are experiencing hard times, are not eager to share the EU funds for agriculture with Turkey. Moreover, Turkey’s economic dynamism and modernism is far beyond what the French believe it to be. In terms of structural arrangements, Turkey is ahead of the EU. For Diefenbacher, there is a common understanding for cooperation in all fields between the two countries. Time will solve the problems between Turkey and the EU. Already, the future Turkey will not be the Turkey of today. And the future EU will not be the EU of today.
It is the common belief of the French parliamentarians visiting Turkey that the wealthier levels of French society who are urban dwellers are positive toward Turkey’s EU membership. There is a resistance to Turks in the French countryside. The Turks tendency to accentuate their differences and live as a closed culture in France provokes reactions in rural France. For example, when Turks form a wedding cortege waving Turkish flags and blaring horns in the streets, this creates reactions from the French. The program of events under the “Turkey Season” in France between July 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010 helped to eliminate the bias of rural France against Turkey to a certain extent. Moreover, as the socioeconomic conditions of Turks living in France gradually recover and as they enter French cultural and political life, this creates a positive effect in the country.
Sarkozy will be in Turkey in the autumn. This may be a good opportunity to eliminate disagreements between the two countries. Indeed, they have only agreed on not agreeing whether Turkey will be a member of the EU. While no quick settlement of this disparity can be expected, channels should be opened for the two countries to get to know each other. The EU’s growth as a monolithic structure is no longer envisaged. In the future, the EU will be a union that will allow greater latitude to national policies in some sectors and will treat different cultures with greater tolerance and protect the euro zone. Turkey will become part of this EU in an easier manner. The EU has problems today and it will have others in the future but there is no other international project more integrative and more respectful of democratic rights than the EU. Turkey will certainly be a full member of this project.