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February 07, 2013, Thursday

The EU’s challenges

What to do about the fact that Turkey launched its EU accession bid in 2005, four decades after its first application, and that the process has come to a standstill due to resistance from France and Cyprus is a matter of a never-ending debate in Turkey.

Columnists agree that the reason behind the EU dragging its feet is Turkey's Islamic culture and Muslim population and that this delay might, in fact, add to the potential for extremism and hatred of Islam in EU countries, they warn.

Star's Sedat Laçiner says the EU currently faces two big challenges: one from Britain, the other from Turkey. British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced that Britain might leave the EU and that his country will go to a referendum on this in five years. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently described the EU's stance on Turkey as “disrespectful,” and said that Turkey's EU membership bid cannot go on forever. It seems that Britain and Turkey's challenges and the EU's response to these challenges will determine the fate of the union, Laçiner says.

The columnist further writes that Erdoğan's remarks were merely his protest against the EU's unfairness toward Turkey. Many countries applying to the union much later than Turkey have already been accepted. What is more, none of these countries have better economic or political scorecards than Turkey. It is clear that the EU is stalling on Turkey because of its cultural and religious differences with EU countries. And that is what frustrates Turkey the most.

As for the EU, there are two opposing dominant views among the members: Some look at Turkey's bid through an economic perspective and argue that Turkey will contribute to the union's dynamism with its growing labor force and markets and might help the EU overcome its current financial crisis. On the other hand, some argue that Turkey cannot be a member of European civilization and they worry about the growth of Islam and the number of Muslims in Europe. Laçiner says the EU, by rejecting Turkey for cultural reasons, is actually creating circumstances that could lead to more racism and extremism. As a matter of fact, he says if it continues to treat Turkey as it does now, the EU faces the threat of falling into the clutches of extremism.  

Sabah's Emre Aköz says no one can deny that the EU is unfair to Turkey and that the reason for its unfair attitude toward Turkey is our cultural and religious identity. However, on the other hand, he asks: If we had the power of accepting or rejecting Turkey, a country where there has been a terrorism problem for 30 years and more than 40,000 people have died in that period because of terrorism, would we allow this country join the group that was established for the purpose of ensuring peace and true democracy? Here is another way of asking the same question: If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered Turkey the opportunity to establish a major cooperative agreement between the two countries, wouldn't Turkey's first reaction be “Not before you end the war in your country”? Aköz says he knows that Turkey's terror problem is not why EU does not want to have Turkey in the first place, but this problem is a legitimate excuse, and we have to get rid of it at once. Aköz suggests that Turkey achieving internal peace will surely expose those who do not want Turkey in the EU. 

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