Turkish EU Accession or Why I Miss Strauss-Kahn

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/16/2011 12:01:00 AM
Well sort of. I've just come from an event hosted by our research centre (LSE IDEAS) on "Turkey In the World" discussing that country's foreign policy. Straddling Orient and Occident, religiosity and secularism as well as several other divides, let's just say Turkey needs to contend with forces pulling it in different ways. Professor Sevket Pamuk of LSE and Fadi Hakura of Chatham House gave a most interesting talk about the subject matter. Being LSE IDEAS' resident migration issues guy, I just had to ask whether Turkey's diminished prospects for EU accession at the current time are temporary based on souring European sentiment. That is, when times turn bad, migrants are usually made the scapegoats.

My line of argument goes like this: France and Germany have been the most active blockers of Turkish EU accession by not opening several chapters of the acquis communautaire to the country. Generally speaking, conservative politicians alike the UMP's Nicolas Sarkozy and the CDU's Angela Merkel disdain migration. Hence, the fear of being overwhelmed by Muslims looms large in the popular imagination if not in reality as Turkey does accept that migration limits would be an unavoidable component of its accession conditions. At best, Sarkozy and Merkel may be the lesser of two evils in co-opting some of the more extreme anti-migrant sentiment emanating from far-right voices in France (Marine Le Pen) and Germany (Udo Voigt). At worst, they are capitalizing on barely concealed racism.

The question for me is if eventual change in leadership to more left-leaning parties in France and Germany would remove this roadblock which has emerged in recent years to Turkish accession. Well guess what: my hopes may have been another victim of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's rather appalling indiscretions. Prior to his New York imbroglio, he was the only member of France's Socialist Party to openly champion Turkish EU accession. With some polls indicating that he would have beaten Sarkozy in 2012, you can figure out what that means for Turkish EU accession prospects. From a 2004 FT article:
Mr Strauss-Kahn also weighed into the debate over Turkey saying the country had a "calling" to join the EU. "If the European Union hopes to play its part, it should take responsibility for the whole of the zone from which its culture and civilisation originated: the north of Europe as well as the Mediterranean. I cannot see it lasting in setting up a sort of barrier in the Strait of Gibraltar and in the Bosphorus," he said.

His comments came a day after Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, called for the EU to limit links with Turkey to a "privileged partnership".
Ouch! Fadi Hakura does point out though that fading interest in Turkey joining the EU at the current time is mutual (though others are more optimistic). Certainly the troubles of peripheral European states are not exactly an inviting prospect for observers on the Turkish side. Still, it begs the question: are the foibles of DSK alike those of Bill Clinton forgiveable in light of their leadership abilities and vision? The latter found (eventual) redemption; the former may not given that the hour is getting late for him.