TURKEY AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

 

HEINRICH HALL,

Madam, - Much as I admire Vincent Browne as a clever and witty commentator, his repeated, jaded views on the EU require contradiction. According to him, on Friday 13th in Copenhagen, "the rich West defaulted on the original promise of wealth redistribution" and gave the East "a take-it-or-leave-it choice" (Opinion, December 18th).

First of all, any accession treaty is a take-it-or-leave-it choice; what else can it be? But the treaties are hardly pure Western diktats; they are the result of long negotiations, and some states, especially Poland, managed to have them altered at an extremely late point. I do not remember any promise of wealth redistribution: what would be the good of promising things we cannot currently afford? So far, new EU members have always ended up profiting from accession more or less quickly. Why shouldn't that happen again?

As regards Turkey, Mr Browne's statement that the EU "surrendered to the racist drum beats of France and Germany" and "excluded Turkey indefinitely" is both wrong and objectionable. First of all, if Mr Browne bothered to read the European press, he would find that there are indeed strong objections to Turkish EU membership, but that they are hardly based on racism, but on differing views of cultural identity, long-term strategy, and religious tradition (disliking Muslims is obviously stupid, but hardly racist: Islam is a religion, not a "race").

He would also find that most voices opposing Turkish entry believe that Copenhagen paved the way for exactly that, and sooner rather than later. At any rate, the question here is what we think the EU is for. Those of us who favour an ever more democratic and federal political union, and also a more serious social democratic approach to the economy, would certainly have realistic worries about the consequences of Turkish membership. Why an objection to EU entry should be seen as an indication of hostility to Islam mystifies me. If I oppose China's or Mongolia's EU entry does that mean I hate Buddhists or Shamanists?

The idea that EU engagement would "take care of Turkey's human rights record" is foolish. So far, it has been the EU's principle to allow states in once they have developed stable democracies, rule of law, human rights, etc., not before they do so. The fact is that although Turkey has been "engaged" with the EU, and willing to join for many decades now, it has not yet solved these issues.

Instead of name-calling, Browne should give as a more constructive idea of how he thinks things should develop. Looking especially at his concern with our dependence on US protection, and the growing lawlessness of that power, what alternative do we have to Europe? - Yours, etc.,

HEINRICH HALL, Athens, Greece.