The results of European Parliament election have caused deep concern in European Union candidate Turkey, where gains made by conservatives and some far-right parties have been read as a clear win by the “No to Turkey” camp” and thus a blow to Ankara’s already troubled EU membership quest.
Trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the vote as a “futile effort by those who cannot digest Turkey’s enormity and strategic importance”. He said politicians who vilified Turkey to win votes in the short term would be judged by history.
Erdogan was probably referring to anti-immigration parties that have openly campaigned against predominantly Muslim Turkey’s accession bid, among them the Dutch Freedom Party of Geert Wilders who promised that Turkey would not join the union: “Not in 10 years, not in a million years.”
But last week’s results certainly don’t bode well for Erdogan’s European dreams and come as pressure is mounting for Ankara to push ahead with long-delayed reforms.
The European Parliament has no power to make decisions on EU enlargement, but the European Commission is expected to bear in mind how people voted in the election when shaping policy over coming months. The European Parliament also publishes periodic assessments of progress in Turkey and has been critical in the past of Ankara’s record on human rights, freedom of expression and police mistreatment, to name a few areas.
So-called “friends of Turkey” such as Britain’s Gordon Brown, Spain’s Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Germany’s Social Democrats suffered significant defeats, deepening a sinking feeling in Ankara that it is being left alone to face the wolves.
Meanwhile, the European Commission in December will review its decision to freeze eight of 35 “chapters” — or membership areas — because of Turkey’s refusal to open its ports to Cypriot vessels.
Will France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who oppose full membership for Turkey and whose parties did well in the European Parliament vote — press for Turkey’s EU membership to be put on hold?
Are Turkey and the EU heading for a clash?