Three complex and closely related issues are moving rapidly toward important showdowns at the Dec. 12 European Union summit in Copenhagen. The outcome of this summit could have an important effect on any future conflict with Iraq, could influence decisively the EU's long-term relations with Turkey's 70 million Muslims, and could have a major impact on the EU's relations with with rest of the world. After years of discussion and negotiation, the issue of Turkey and Cyprus is finally on the agenda for definitive resolution. It is unclear whether the EU will grasp the need to act.
At stake are three things: Cyprus's application for EU membership, Turkey's desire to start talks on its own EU membership, and the long-stalled talks on the future of the divided island of Cyprus itself.
The first issue seems all but formally settled: At Copenhagen, Cyprus will be invited to join the EU, along with nine other countries, effective in 2004. This is the correct outcome to a battle in which the Greek Cypriot government was supported initially only by the United States and Greece.
The most consequential part of this historic European moment is Turkey's application to join the European Union. The newly elected government in Turkey is controlled by an Islamic party, and this has set off alarm bells among both moderate Turks and in Europe. But since the election, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamic leader who stunned Europe with his victory, has skillfully lowered fears about his party's intentions, especially with a tour of European capitals to plead his country's EU case. He has even suggested a more forthcoming policy toward Cyprus. Enter, seemingly out of nowhere, former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Three weeks ago Giscard used his new platform as chairman of a major EU commission drafting a European constitution to declare, in a blistering interview in Le Monde, that Turkey was "not a European nation" and its entry into the EU would be "the end of the European Union." It was well understood that what Giscard meant was that the EU was a Christian club whose values and culture would be threatened by the admission of Muslim Turkey. Merci, M. Giscard. By saying in public what many European have long said in private, Giscard inadvertently did the Turks an enormous favor. Since his comments, almost every other public figure in Europe has been scrambling to disagree with Giscard, and to deny that anyone in Europe could possibly harbor racist feelings toward Turks or other Muslims. Yet the furious Turkish reaction to Giscard's comment only served to underscore Europe's dilemma: Keep Turkey out and risk the eventual creation of a radical or fundamentalist regime at the very gates of the European Union.
This brings us back to our starting point. If all goes perfectly, Cyprus will be invited into the EU at Copenhagen, Turkey will be given a starting date for its negotiations, and the two parts of Cyprus will start serious talks on the basis of the U.N. plan. That would be a real trifecta -- a tall order for just three weeks. It is unlikely to happen unless Europe's leading nations make a bold leap past the kind of not-so-secret fears so openly uttered by Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
Source: Washington Post