Turkey

Religion not an EU membership criteria – December 13th 2011

Turkey’s European Union Minister Egemen Bağış and Belgium’s former Foreign Minister Louis Michel wrote an opinion-editorial in EUobserver.

They said:

“The founding fathers of Europe were convinced that they had to define common interests and shared perspectives in order to overcome a culture of hatred and mistrust.

In this process, they did not make a reference to religious belief or even to secular cultural notions and values. Neither the geographical nor the philosophical, cultural and religious affiliations were parts of the membership criteria and had never been a part of European history.”

Here is their excellent editorial published yesterday by EUobserver that should be fully read.

The extracts below are excellent:

Any European state respecting the European values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on the EU and committed to promoting them can become a member of the EU in accordance with Article 49 of the aforementioned Treaty. In that sense membership for the countries embracing European values and promoting common interests should not be subject to any other consideration or criterion.

Enlargement is a mechanism that serves directly the emergence of the EU as a global power.

After 50 years devoted to both deepening and widening efforts, it is time for the EU to choose whether it will be an “assertive global actor” or an “irrelevant Western peninsula on the Asian continent” – in the words of one recent EU reflection Group.

According to the UN, Turkey has entered into a period of a “demographic window of opportunity” which is expected to continue until the mid 21st century. Its young, well-educated and highly skilled labour force can be a remedy for the structural deficiencies of the EU stemming from its aging population.

Thanks to its large and growing domestic market, its mature and dynamic private sector, its leading role in the region, its liberal and secure investment environment, the supply of a high quality and cost-effective labour force, as well as developed infrastructure and an institutionalised economy, Turkey would bring considerable economic gains for the EU.

Moreover, 70 percent of the world’s energy resources are located to the south and east of Turkey, while the world’s largest energy consumer, Europe, is located to the west of Turkey. Turkey’s central geographical position is also critical for the security and sustainability of energy supply to the EU – a vital condition for almost any economic activity.

Its location makes Turkey a key strategic ally of the EU. Its close historic ties and recent experiences in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Southern Mediterranean, furnish Turkey with the necessary assets to make positive contributions to the shaping of EU policies toward these crucial and sensitive regions.

As former French President Jacques Chirac said: “The European Union and Turkey share a common destiny.”

Our common destiny is also evident in our shared concern to promote peace in the world.

The rise of xenophobia, racism, prejudices against certain religions and identities today threaten humanity in many ways. As an EU member Turkey, with its rich historical and cultural heritage, as well as its multi-faceted identity resulting from its geographical position as a bridge between western and eastern cultures, would bring the EU closer to the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Turkey’s geostrategic location allows it to help create a more secure and stable environment for the citizens of the EU and for the world as a whole. Turkey’s membership to the EU would provide the Union with leverage for its ambition of becoming a global power.

If European nations are indeed “united in diversity”, the accession of Turkey cannot be regarded as a threat but only as a promise, a promise of a more powerful, more prosperous and more capable Europe.

In order to achieve its objectives, the EU must maintain its credibility. It must respect the values it advocates and act accordingly. In that vein the Union should demonstrate that it remains committed towards accession and that it assesses each candidate country and its progress on its own merits and as regards its compliance with membership criteria.

A credible, rational and capable European Union should reassess its handling of the accession talks with Turkey and adopt a firm but fair approach towards this accession country whose significance and weight in global politics are increasing constantly. Such an approach will assist in demonstrating that the European Union is still capable of constructing a vision for the future of a united Europe as well as a vision for shaping the future of the world.

Turkey’s contribution to the EU in a number of crucial areas will only be fully effective with an active and credible accession process.

As pointed out by the President of the EU-Turkey Joint Commission, Hélène Flautre, it is time that the decisions taken by the EU reflect the reliability and the seriousness of the existing negotiation process.

Yours faithfully,

Cem

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