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Western Press Review: Turkey Nurses Grievance Over EU Rejection

  • Don Hill



Prague, 16 December 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today focuses on the European Union's flat rejection of Turkey's bid for membership at its Luxembourg summit late last week. The comments raise more questions about why Turkey's anger at the decision should have taken the EU's leaders by surprise than they do about why the Union decided as it did or why Turkey reacted so bitterly.

NEW YORK TIMES: The Union has insulted Turkey

Steven Kinzer, writing in an analysis in The New York Times, sketches in the background as follows: "A day after Turkey froze its official ties with the European Union, diplomats from European countries urged the government here to reconsider....In Luxembourg, the European Union deferred action on Turkey's application for membership, as it has done several times before. It offered Turkey a place at a coming European conference, but Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz turned it down, saying he would not attend a conference without concrete content and instead decided to freeze relations. Many (Turkish) politicians and commentators applauded Yilmaz's decision, saying that the Union had insulted Turkey and that further negotiations would evidently be pointless."

Kinzer also writes: "Many Turks who deplored the Union's decision in Luxembourg said they could not understand how countries like Romania and Bulgaria could be considered more ready for membership than Turkey. European leaders have argued that those countries, unlike Turkey, are at peace, have no serious disputes with neighbors and are not accused of serious human-rights violations. Turks, however, see them as lacking Turkey's political and economic strength."

DIE WELT: Differences prevail in Ankara

In today's issue of the German newspaper Die Welt, commentator Evangelos Antonaros writes that the predictable Turkish anger is virtually universal and deep seated. He says: "Turkey's national conservative prime minister, Mesut Yilmaz, is keen to strike a balance in the sudden, surprising escalation of the dispute between Turkey and the European Union. The Social Democrats, led by Deputy Premier Bulent Ecevit, who for decades has made no bones about his dislike of the EU, are rubbing their hands in glee. The military is keeping its views to itself and biding its time. The Islamists, whose political party faces a ban, feel vindicated now that the EU, which they saw as a Christian club, has cold-shouldered Turkey. Such are the differences that prevail in Ankara now that the EU 15 (members) have decided to withhold from Turkey until further notice the coveted status of a candidate for membership."

The Die Welt commentary concludes: "Sober voices in Ankara may note that Turkey has no real alternative to Western Europe, and not only because it conducts over 60 per cent of its trade with the EU. The Islamic summit in Teheran has just demonstrated how isolated Turkey is in the Arab and Islamic world. Yet Turkish anger will not subside in a hurry. With the government so unstable and fresh elections imminent, no party, and certainly not Yilmaz's Motherland Party, can afford to turn the other cheek and lose face to the EU yet again."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Europe and Turkey are tied to each other whether they like it or not

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung's Wolfgang Koydl writes in a commentary today that Turkey needs Europe and must eventually come around despite the missteps both sides have taken. Koydl writes with irony: "Europeans and Turks have reason to congratulate themselves. Pride and stubbornness, selfishness and vanity have led to a summit outcome which couldn't have been worse." Then he asks: "Has Europe now lost Turkey?" And he answers: "Not really. A closer look reveals that Ankara's policies will not change much. Turkey no longer wishes to talk about human rights and the Kurdish conflict? It has never done so."

Koydl continues: "Will the consolidation with the Turkish part of Cyprus now take priority? De facto, this has already been achieved politically, economically and militarily. What about the diplomatic alternatives which the nationalist deputy prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, and his foreign minister, Ismail Cem, have been bragging about? It doesn't exist. Turkey is like the person who, in a fit of rage, turns his back on one partner only to find there is no one else to turn to."

He concludes: "Even the strategic partnership with the United States and Israel, which some in the (Turkish military) general staff have been nurturing, is not too profitable for the Turkish export economy. Europe and Turkey are tied to each other whether they like it or not. The only question is when this relationship will be formalized --and it doesn't have to be full EU membership."

FINANCIAL TIMES: Turkey quickly demonstrated its intention to pursue political and trade relations independently of the EU

Writing from Ankara in today's issue of the British business daily Financial Times, John Barham says in an analysis: "The European Union tried yesterday to repair its damaged relationship with Turkey after the Turkish government rejected an invitation to a conference next year of present and future EU member states." He writes: "However, Turkey quickly demonstrated its intention to pursue political and trade relations independently of the EU by receiving Victor Chernomyrdin, the first Russian prime minister to visit Ankara."

Barham says: "Mesut Yilmaz, Turkish Prime Minister, will meet President Bill Clinton next Friday. He is determined to deepen Turkey's friendship with the United States to balance its ties with Europe."
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