And what of their treatment of women or their use of torture? In 2006 the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that a Turkish national could not be extradited back because there was a risk of torture. Neither is Turkey prepared to accept responsibility for past wrongs. How about the genocide of over a million Armenians during the First World War or the deaths of 30,000 Kurds in more recent campaigns?. The Kurds are still denied fundamental rights by Ankara.
Even without its human rights record, official support for the accession would still fly in the face of much European opinion. In 2005, the average support among EU citizens for Turkish membership was around 35%. Polls in France and Germany have shown that less than one quarter of people support the bid, while in Austria, opposition has been as high as 82%. Nevertheless, with their typical disregard for democracy, most EU member governments are officially supportive of Turkish accession. Yet even some of the Union’s greatest advocates are set against it. Former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing is among them, telling Le Monde that Turkish membership would be the “end of Europe”, and that those supporting the membership bid were “the adversaries of the European Union”. Can he mean the EU commission? He continued, “Its capital is not in Europe, 95% of its people live outside Europe, it is not a European country”. Resistance is so strong in France and Austria that referendums have been promised on the issue. But we know from the recent Dutch and French experience the respect such things are accorded in Brussels.Turkey as a nation is much poorer than most European countries. Accession would inevitably see a repeat of the migration rush that followed the joining of many former Eastern Bloc countries. Cheap labour could threaten wages, while Turkey would need a huge amount of EU funding to bring its infrastructure into line with other member-states. British taxes would help pay for this. 20% of Turkey’s population is below the poverty line; that is a huge financial commitment.
Lastly, but perhaps most important of all is the unresolved issue of Cyprus. Invaded by Turkey in 1974, this European Union member is not even recognised by the aggressors from Asia Minor. Turkey still refuses not only to open up its ports to Cypriot vessels in defiance of EU demands but to even recognise the state. Simultaneously it demands recognition for its own self-declared province on the north side of the island, born of an illegal occupation.
In the short term, all may be well. President Sarkozy is a well-known opponent of the plans. In his own words, “Turkey has no place inside the European Union”. Angela Merkel’s Germany is also hostile. If the French and Austrian governments were, in a surprise move, to honour their commitment to referenda then the prospect of Turkish entry would be destroyed. But the EU has a habit of deathbed revivals. A privileged partnership with Turkey makes sense. But the EU is more than a market place in the long term. It is a union founded on common cultures and histories. Sarkozy perceptively said “Enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union”. There is a part of me that starts to warm to the Turkish membership bid!
In the frank words of Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, the Turks would be joining an “Empire”, an empire they are neither ready nor right to join.
Edward Leigh MP