Atatürk banner, Ankara

There are two reasons why following news on Turkey’s EU accession is quite an easy task.
First, it is a slow process. Turkey wrote an unsatisfactory application to the EU in 1987 which according to Wikipedia was immediately turned down on the basis of its poor economical and political situation, bad relations with Greece and their conflict with Cyprus (or so to say Greek Cypriots). The request was accepted seventeen years later, so at the end of 2004 the negotiations started. As we enter 2009 Turkey has surely more money (a larger burden of IMF loans too), but in the political arena coups are still fashionable (e.g check out on Ergenekon), the relations with Greece are not the greatest and the problem with Cyprus remains. But that’s just part of the story.

Second, it’s very much about a few standard statements from the country’s political power. One of the latest from the PM Erdoğan was that accession to the European Union was a top priority and that he hoped his country would move closer to that goal in 2009.

I would be glad to read that their top priorities were to solve the damned Kurdish issue, to make Islamists and Secularists have çay together, to end the denial of 10 million Turkish Alevis and to make history on the last divided capital: Nicosia/Lefkoşa, Cyprus. It seems to me that Erdogan’s recurrently publicized hope (EU) would then be a matter of writing a proper application and wait Brussels to type it in the computer.

But why isn’t this process following this sequence?, i.e. first tackle the old ghosts and then get the EU membership? Maybe because these problems – the Kurdish issue, the Islamist/Secularist divide, the Alevis and the Cyprus dispute – are far greater and historically heavier than anything related to the European Union. Solving them would mean a different identity and would imply a great deal of loss or defeat for the Turks.

Is the membership to a complicated bloc that isn’t sure of wanting Turkey around more important than Turkey’s territorial integrity or even, than Turkey’s identity as carved by Mustafa Kemal a.k.a Atatürk? Maybe yes, maybe not. There’s a complicated trade off between identity and EU membership that, in my opinion, is what Turkish politicians are trying to reach, slowly, at the cost of their future generations.

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