|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||23/01/97, Volume 3, Number 03|
Fears are growing in Union capitals that Turkey is turning its back on Europe and aligning itself with its Islamic neighbours in the Middle East.
In Ankara, the feeling is equally strong that the EU has abandoned it and is pulling up the drawbridge.
Attempts to soothe those fears are not being helped by an arms build-up in both Turkey and Cyprus, and Ankara's bilateral problems with some EU countries, such as its quarrel with Bonn over new German immigration rules.
At the end of this month, the Union's five largest member states Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain will get together with Turkey to try to tackle those problems during the latest in a series of annual meetings which began four years ago.
Turkish diplomats say that, for them, it is a more wieldy forum than an EU meeting and more successful. “Within the EU it is a difficult thing to get a hold of them [member state governments] at that level,” said one.
It is also a forum where Turkey, unhindered by the presence of Greek officials, can spell out its concerns to Europe's powers.
The agenda for the 29 January meeting in Rome will be a heavy one, with disputes between Athens and Ankara high on the list.
Turkish officials expect the Union partners to ask Ankara for more cooperation on Cyprus to help them resolve the decades-old division of the island and bring it into the EU. “We are sure they will try to nudge us to get Turkish Cypriots to negotiate, but we will say, 'You should talk to Greek Cypriots first and get them to soften their position and talk to Turkish Cypriots',” said a Turkish diplomat.
Ankara officials will also express their displeasure at Nicosia's purchase of Russian weaponry. While Athens has supported Nicosia's move, other Union capitals are anxious about the arms build-up in the region.
“We will tell them their concerns are genuine and that they should talk to the Russians, the Greeks and the Cypriots,” said a Turkish official.
Turkey has warned Nicosia that it might strike at the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft system if Cyprus uses it.
As for Ankara's own plans to purchase Belgian and Dutch Hawk missiles, it does not expect to have to justify itself. But those plans are now in question after the Dutch defence ministry abandoned its three-year-old plan to sell Hawk missiles to Turkey earlier this month. But the Belgian government is still considering whether to press ahead alone.
The Dutch presidency, which has not been invited to the 29 January meeting, has said it would like to help calm tensions over Cyprus, but has placed prime responsibility for this in the hands of the United Nations. Dutch officials will, however, travel to Athens, Ankara and Nicosia in early February.
Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Çiller, who threatened to pull her country out of the Euro-Mediterranean programme in December, will attend the Rome meeting.
EU reactions to that threat have been subdued and political directors are still trying to decide how seriously to take it. Union officials do not like to even speculate on what would happen to the EU's plans to link the entire Mediterranean region of North Africa and the Middle East if Turkey which is considered a bridge were to pull out.
Turkey has also raised the stakes in another forum NATO by warning it will block membership of the alliance for central and eastern European countries unless it wins a place for itself inside the Union.
Meanwhile, Bonn, which is now having serious problems with Ankara itself over immigration rules for the 2.2 million Turks in Germany, is struggling to keep EU-Ankara ties alive.
Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said earlier this month: “We should do everything to show Turkey it belongs to Europe.” But his spokesman was careful to stress that he was talking about 'Europe' and not the European Union.
German diplomats note with alarm what they call “the new accent in Turkish politics towards the Islamic world”.
Çiller will tell her colleagues that Turkey is still geared towards the West but, as her spokesman has said, “there are some nuances now”.
Those “nuances” have been created by what Ankara sees as EU mistreatment blocking funds and making no moves towards helping Turkey fulfil its goal of joining the Union.
They are also due to the new leanings of Turkey's Muslim head of government, Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan.
Erbakan's faith alone has been enough to spark a wave of fear in Europe, a fear which has been heightened by some of his recent actions. The first ministerial meeting last month of the new D8 group of developing nations Erbakan's creation sent shivers through G7 members. The club of eight includes only Islamic countries Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Turkey and is aimed at regional cooperation.
Erbakan's new ties with Tehran and Baghdad are scaring the EU.
Turkish officials say it should be normal for Ankara to build its relations with its neighbours. “The fact that Erbakan is doing it raises some concerns, but it could have and should have been done by all Turkish governments,” said a diplomat.
He conceded, however, that the Turkish premier may be tolerating behaviour from non-democratic, Islamic regimes which his predecessors would not have stood for.
But it is not just Erkaban's personal leanings which are a cause for concern. Turkish diplomats say even the most moderate, pro-European Turks are re-evaluating the relationship between their country and the Union.
“We still want to become a full member of the EU, but there is a limit to everything,” said the diplomat.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Countries / Regions||Turkey|