Sunday, June 14, 2009

The distance between Turkey and the EU widens

George Delastik, a respected Greek journalist, writing for the Greek newspaper, IMERISIA, claims in a recent article that the distance between Turkey and the EU has widened following the recent European elections. The original article written in Greek can be found here.

In response to the increase in the right-wing across most of Europe, Delastik writes that the Turkish press has interpreted the European election results as showing that Europeans are increasingly turning against Turkish membership of the EU.

The most glaring increase in the right-wing vote was in the Netherlands where the leader of the Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, won wide repute and notoriety across the EU for saying that “Turkey will not join the EU even in one million years!” In Italy, the party of the Northern League doubled its vote to 9.5%. Roberto Kota, the chief executive of the Northern League, which is part of the Silvio Berlusconi’s government, declared, “We will work above all to block illegal immigration and the entry of Turkey into the EU”.

However, Delastik points out that Turkey faces problems beyond just the extreme right. “The biggest concern for Turkey's accession course is the rise of extreme right and the Christian Democrats”, notes the newspaper Sabah, and stressing the fall of the Socialists, which support Turkish accession to the EU.

The latest European election results have also had an alarming impact on Turkish public opinion. Delastik writes:

The apparent increase of anti-Turk feelings of Europeans has apparently generated feelings of alienation in Turkey. Recent research at the University of Istanbul Bachtsesehir showed that almost 80% of Turkish respondents believe the EU would reject Turkey's accession even if it met all the criteria.

Only 22% of respondents believe full integration in the EU will occur; despite, 60% of respondents welcoming inclusion into the EU as a very positive development. However, over 35% of respondents considered the strengthening of relations between Turkey and the Islamic world as a more important objective.

Strangely, it appears the wider the distance between Turkey and the EU, the closer the Greek government comes to Turkey. Only recently as part of a long-running process of "Finlandisation", Greece accepted a Turkish commander to be occasionally stationed in Larissa.

Source: Imerisia (George Delastik), Antipodes

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