Turkey achieved economic miracle, has to continue bridge role

November 02, 2010, Tuesday/ 17:20:00
Defending candidate country Turkey's integration into the European Union, the Greens in the European Parliament (EP) stressed in their enlarged bureau meeting yesterday in İstanbul that Turkey has to continue to be a bridge to the East for the West, and the debate about whether Turkey is going toward the East is not much of a concern as an economic miracle has been realized in the country -- although there are still political problems.

Rebecca Harms, co-chairperson of the Greens in the EP, referred to what her colleague Daniel Cohn-Bendit said in the 2004 meeting of the Greens in İstanbul. “He said ‘We want a Bosporus miracle' regarding Turkish membership. Now, another miracle has happened,” she said, adding that Europe is facing a crisis both economically and regarding the issue of integration.

“The EU is facing a crisis but there is a miracle in Turkey,” she said. “Because of its economic success, Turkey has been emancipated in its foreign policy.” This was in reference to the Turkish success in coming out of one of the world’s worst economic crises, while the European states still suffer the severest effects of the crisis.

The leaders of the Greens in the EP, joined by the French Green Hélène Flautre, who also serves as the co-chairperson of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, at a press conference yesterday at the İstanbul Congress Center, emphasized the interdependence of Turkey and Europe, saying that both sides have to identify obstacles in front of Turkey’s full EU membership.

One of those obstacles has been identified as the issue of Cyprus, an island divided between Turks in the North and Greeks in the South, which joined the EU in May 2004 despite its refusal to unify with the North, which is left isolated. As a result, Turkey has refused to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from Cyprus; thus, several negotiation chapters have been suspended with Turkey, bringing the EU accession process of the country almost to a standstill.

Recently, the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee voiced an opinion that the issue of direct trade with Turkish Cypriots is not under the parliament’s jurisdiction, sparking reactions from both Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots as they believe the decision encourages the Greek Cypriot side to further drag its feet on efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus dispute.

According to Flautre, the issue of Cyprus will be solved when Europeans understand that their future is with Turkey. Cohn-Bendit said the Greens are for direct trade, so they will try to pass a majority vote at the EP plenary for the direct trade rule.

“Nothing has been finalized yet. We are for direct trade -- for opening the ports on the island. Then Turkey should reduce the number of its soldiers on the island,” he said. Another issue that the Greens stressed is the ongoing debate on Turkey’s orientation in its foreign policy choices.

“Turkey is a big country. That’s why we defend its integration. Our problem is not whether Turkey is moving toward the East. Turkey has its own position. Our problem is that Turkey should continue its role of mediation in the Middle East. It should be a bridge to the East,” said Cohn-Bendit who also had a one-and-a-half hour meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who was at the Congress Center for another meeting. Harms added that Turkey has interests not only toward the countries of the East but also toward the countries of Europe.

“We need to identify those interdependencies. There are strong, binding connections between Turkey and Europe, and they are even stronger than the economic ties,” she said.

The Greens also said that the Sept. 12 constitutional amendment referendum process has developed positively. “We want to develop more relations with people who said yes, but it’s not enough,” she said in reference to the strong desire in the country for a new constitution.

Marc Pierini, the head of the EU delegation to Turkey said in answering our questions that the EU did not blindly support the reform package. “The language is clear. If you say that it is a major step forward, you blindly support it. But we said that it is a step in the right direction,” Pierini said. “We also said that the methodology should be inclusive of all political parties and civil society. We said that in March. It did not happen but we kept saying it.”

Regarding the suicide bomb attack on Sunday morning at the heart of İstanbul, Harms said this event demonstrates the fact that they should be more involved with developments in Turkey.

Responding to a question, Cohn-Bendit said they refrain from identifying the act of suicide bombing since the details are not yet known but said that they condemn every kind of terrorism no matter where it comes from. Giving the examples of Northern Ireland and Spain in addressing their terrorism and separatism issues, he stressed the need for the government to continue negotiations despite acts of terror because “terrorism always aims to stop negotiations.”

One other issue the Greens emphasized is the topic of energy policies. They said that in an emerging economy like Turkey ecological errors are likely to occur. The Greens debated energy security in Turkey and in the EU, and nuclear energy in yesterday’s afternoon session. From Turkey Necdet Pamir, World Energy Council Turkish National Committee Board Member, Dr. Şule Ergün, Hacettepe University Department of Nuclear Engineering, and Arif Künar, energy expert and activist from Ankara joined the debate, which was opened by an address from Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s chief EU negotiator.

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