Thursday, October 10, 2002

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The EU wimps out

Generally, when the United States adopts a tough position towards a predominantly Muslim country, European Union members reply with the assertion that carrots are better than sticks. With both Iraq and Iran, for example, the EU position is that in the long run, economic, political, and diplomatic inducements will alter behavior better than coercive diplomacy. I think it's more complex than that, but it's certainly a defensible decision.

Now, however, the EU has made it clear that there's a limit to their reliance on carrots. Yesterday's announcement about EU expansion to the East was noticeable for the snub that was delivered to Turkey. The EU, as expected, targeted ten transition economies for membership by 2004. Bulgaria and Romania were given the target of 2007. Turkey was not given a target date. There is not even a date for further talks. Instead, the press release observed: "Turkey is encouraged to pursue the reform process to strengthen democracy and the protection of human rights, in law and in practice."

This is a country that consciously decided to join the West after World War I. Among the candidate countries, it was the first to apply for admission (in 1987). It is a country with a longer track record on democracy than any other country in the Balkans. It has had a functioning market economy for much longer than most of the other aspirants. It abolished the death penalty to please the European Union. It's certainly not ready for accession today, but by 2004 it would have been a reasonably safe bet. In terms of geopolitics, bringing Turkey into the EU club would have been the best way to ensure further political reforms and ensure stability in Souteastern Europe. The parallels to Mexico's accession into NAFTA are pretty clear. Instead, the EU treats Turkey as its doormat, pushing the Turks aside to pave the way for Bulgaria and Romania. [You knocking the South Slavs?--ed. I don't mean to impugn these countries, which have made great strides since 1989. It's just that Turkey is without question closer to meeting most of the EU criteria.]

What kind of message does this send the Turks? There can be only one message -- you're not welcome if you're Muslim.

I don't want to hear the Europeans talk about the power of incentives any more.

UPDATE: The U.S. has been leaning on the Europeans to reconsider, and now even Greece is changing its tune.

posted by Dan on 10.10.02 at 03:27 PM