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May 13, 2012, Sunday

Open letter to French President Hollande

Mr. President,

Please accept my sincere congratulations for this unambiguous victory. I wish you a very good luck for your first quinquennat, knowing that your task will not be easy at all. The European Union is currently undergoing its worst crisis since its foundation. The diagnostics and the remedies for this are so different from one another that you will have great difficulty finding the right roadmap to stop the recession and push economic growth and to reform European institutions so that eurozone countries will be kept together thanks to more fiscal integration, more convergence in productivity and more solidarity between peoples. And, last but not least, to convince Chancellor Merkel about this new roadmap.

Under such circumstances it would not be very easy for you to have much time to tackle the “Dossier Turc,” but I hope you will do your best. Your victory over Mr. Sarkozy, who was not much loved in my country, for wrong and right reasons, can blow new life into Turkish-French relations through a radically new approach to Turkey's membership in the EU. Your are probably aware that there is a very broad consensus among Turkish academics and political elites strongly supporting EU membership, that the starting point must be the end of the blocking of five chapters, a block introduced by your predecessor under the pretext that “opening these chapters that relate to membership would be in vain as Turkey will never be accepted into the EU."

This block was not only arbitrary but at the same time contradicted agreements signed between the EU and Turkey. The block has also been absolutely unproductive, as it has not in any way forced Turkey to accept the so-called “privileged partnership.” It simply caused a lot of damage to bilateral relations between our countries. A few days before the second round, you wrote in a letter addressed to French voters of Turkish origin -- I believe that it was addressed to Turkey as well -- that you "will respect the international commitments of France and EU agreements.” We hope that you will be faithful to this promise and end the block very soon.

We know very well that lifting the block would guarantee neither Turkish membership nor even the continuation of negotiations. It is clear that some obstacles, particularly political ones like the Cyprus deadlock and the Kurdish problem, can prevent Turkey from being as strongly committed to the negotiation process as it was in the past. It is clear also that Turkish membership will occur in the 2020s if it ever occurs. So, maybe it is time to review for Turkey the standard methodology of negotiations and design a new strategy capable of coping with these obstacles.

A few years ago, Cemal Karakaş, an academic in Germany, defined a new concept of integration for Turkey, called “gradual integration.” My colleague Beril Dedeoğlu and I had also defended this option in our Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) report about the critics of “privileged partnership” and about the search for new options. Very recently, this idea, under the name of “sectoral membership,” was debated at a conference jointly organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in İstanbul. This idea would integrate Turkey step-by-step into European institutions. In brief, the idea is whenever the acquis communautaire would be successfully adopted in one area, Turkey would take part in the decision-making process in this area but without any veto rights. The final aim of gradual integration should be, of course, full membership. This is the critical point that differentiates gradual integration from “privileged partnership,” which was the way to keep Turkey attached to Europe but prevent it from being part of it. I hope, you will agree, Mr. President, that this strange partnership is already a dead idea.

Gradual integration is, of course, just an idea, but it would be worth exploring. If applied, it could encourage Turkey to do its homework in many critical areas and provide -- in this respect -- powerful leverage to solve problems, while at the same time helping to ease the fears of Turkish membership in Europe, giving Turkey the opportunity to show that it can be a rather constructive member in European decision-making rather than a troublemaker.

Bon courage, Mr. President.

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