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Tuesday 27 July 2010

Blue Rondo A La Turk

The EU has spent decades on the admission of one country to the club, without giving any date for that admission, or even confirmation that the admission will ever happen. It’s a saga of delaying tactics that has carried on far longer than the longest treaty negotiation. And it needs to stop.

The country is of course Turkey, and thereby hangs the problem. Here is the ultimate test for the EU to show that it is not merely a Christian club. Modern Turkey is now a secular democracy, although its population is overwhelmingly Muslim, a product of the move by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to remorselessly, indeed ruthlessly, force his country to face West.

Nevertheless, a variety of EU member states, notably France and Germany (the latter always happy for Turkish labour, even parking its unemployed part outside its borders), have advanced a variety of excuses, and deployed yet more stalling tactics, to stop the talks on Turkish accession from making progress. From “associate membership” in 1963 it took 42 years to get to the start of “proper” membership negotiations.

So it’s been refreshing to see that the UK is not only on the side of Turkey, but willing to shake up the rest of the club. Credit where credit’s due to Young Dave: he has gone in to bat for progress on Turkish entry, with one very memorable line in his speech to the Turkish Parliament:

I believe it is just wrong to say that Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit in the tent

Cameron’s reference is to Turkey being part of NATO and effectively guarding the bridge between Europe and the Middle East. The country keeps a large standing army as part of that commitment.

For once, I agree with Cameron and will continue to speak up for Turkey’s efforts to be admitted to the EU. If Europe really is a union of member states and about freedom of speech, trade and movement, then it cannot fall back on any kind of religiosity.

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