Time for Turkey to act

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.21, 24.5.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 24/05/2001
Content Type

Date: 24/05/01

TURKEY has legitimate concerns over the release of NATO hardware to the future EU rapid reaction force, but it risks losing credibility if it continues to veto access to those assets.

Ankara reasonably argues that it should have the right to take part in all operations near its borders and the UK has responded with an initiative aimed at breaking the current deadlock.

We understand it would also give Turkey a clearly-definded role at the planning stages of operations.

Such a compromise may not go as far as Turkey's generals might wish, but it is as much as they can reasonably hope for. Turkey's Ambassador to the EU Nihat Akyol and its NATO Ambassador Onur Oymen should urge Ankara to take the proposals seriously.

Described by one diplomat as an "amplification" rather than a "renegotiation" of what was agreed by EU leaders at the Nice summit, the UK initiative underlines the strategic importance of Turkey and its military capability.

As well as being the provider of NATO's second biggest force, it has pledged 7,000 troops to the EU rapid reaction force - despite not yet being a member of the Union. That's a serious commitment in anyone's book.

However, this should not mean that Turkey is automatically treated as an equal to EU member states as far as the new force is concerned. That can only happen when Ankara finally achieves its ambition of acceding to the Union.

And that still looks a long way off.

Turkey's recent financial problems have been well-documented. It cannot continue to rely on the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to bail it out when it runs into problems.

And it must address concerns over its human rights record. Barely a month goes by without a demonstration taking place outside its Brussels embassy. Last time it was the Kurds fighting for better treatment; this week it was protestors carrying mock coffins in a bid to draw attention to the plight of political prisoners on hunger strike.

Turkey sees itself as a proud nation with the muscle to look after itself. But if it wants to be a leading power in the 21st century, it needs to act like one. Solving the EU-NATO deadlock would be a good start.

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