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Turkish EU accession: much ado about nothing

Népszabadság Online - 06 octobre, 2004
Article
Hajnalka Vincze

The mixed report of the EU Commission on Turkey’s accession marked the end of a double deceit. The one which made Ankara believe in the mirage of fully-fledged membership (obviously already as a candidate Turkey does not have the same rights as others). And the other one intended for the European public opinion and pretending that successive enlargements do not basically alter the Union’s very nature. Because it is precisely what they do.

And it is what they had already done. The necessity of opening the negotiations with Turkey was obvious since December 1999, when Ankara received the status of candidate country. However, this “fait accompli” in front of which the European leaders had placed themselves finally seems to have them made think. They realized that the policy of "all or nothing" - their single solution to stabilize their neighbourhood being the offer of a pure and simple adhesion to the EU – cannot be continued ad infinitum. Of course, the stabilization of the bordering zones constitutes a strategic priority for the EU. If only to ensure the transit routes for its energy supply or to dealmore effectively with transnational risks such as organized crime, environmental catastrophes, weapons proliferation, drug trafficking and clandestine immigration. In order to break the deadlock of the "all or nothing" policy, the Commission conceived, in 2003, a strategy articulated around the idea "more than partnership less than accession". It envisages a progressive integration of neighbouring countries into the common market (by extending to them the four freedoms, i.e. free movement of persons, goods, services and capital), accompanied by a deepening of the political, social and cultural co-operation. At the same time differentiation gains ground even inside the European Union. The management of the increasing number and heterogeneity of EU Member States makes the organization of so-called variable geometry inescapable. Indeed, the regrouping in various circles is the single solution to consolidate and pursue the “acquis” of integration. This both for technical reasons (the meetings of the Council at 25, around a table one quarter the size of a typical soccer field, are "like some sort of Soviet peace conference" as noticed by a British observer), and especially for political ones (divergences of ambitions among Member States as for the content and finalities of the European project). And to what extend are these evolutions likely to affect Turkey’s accession? By the end of the negotiations marathon, Ankara will face an entirely new equation both outside and inside the European Union. A situation in which it is precisely the concepts of "outside" and "inside" that will have undergone a deep change. In which all countries - whether they form part of the EU or of its neighbourhood - will found themselves at various degrees on an integration scale, according to their intention and their capacity to take part in a more ambitious sharing of sovereignty.

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