A critical friend

‘That is, if Turkey meets the Copenhagen criteria’, says Judith Sargentini, Dutch Green Party representative in the Europarliament. She just attended the first meeting of an informal group of MEP’s who call themselves ‘Friends of Turkey’. They are pro Turkey’s accession to the European Union, but of course, not without the mantra: ‘if Turkey meets the Copenhagen criteria’.

Later this month, German chancellor Angela Merkel will pay a visit to Turkey. She is one of the important EU leaders who are against Turkey’s full membership of the EU. A privileged partnership is preferred, or, as other European leaders suggest, Turkey could be one of the members of a ‘Mediterranean Union’ which could work closely with the EU. ‘You would almost think’, says Sargentini, ‘that everybody in Europe is against Turkey’s membership. That is not the case. In the European Parliament there are a lot of people who support Turkey’s accession.’

There is, she says, even a Cypriot who became a member of the Friends of Turkey group. And Christian Democrats too. Sargentini: ‘They can not easily say openly that they support Turkey’s membership. The Cypriot man would probably be lynched when he visits his home country. Also some Christian Democrats are not really supposed to be openly pro-membership.’ In the Friends of Turkeygroup they can speak openly: it’s off the record and less politicized than the meetings in parliament. Sargentini adds that the Friends of Turkeygroup will be critical towards the object of their friendship.

I really hope it won’t be just another group that urges Turkey to adjust the constitution, make the army less powerful, extend freedom of expression, give more rights to Kurds, protect women’s rights – well you can make the list as long as you wish. There is an inclination in ‘Europe’ to view Turkey mainly as a country eager to become a EU member, and as a result those Europeans only hammer on the reforms the country has to make to achieve that. Such an approach doesn’t do any justice to the big transitions Turkey is going through at the moment. Transitions partly triggered by the EU, but mainly by Turks themselves, and by the changing social and economic dynamics. Turkey could rise from these as a fully grown democracy, a country unquestionably ready to join the EU.

A critical friend is priceless. But in the end worthless if he focuses only on one side of you and in that way denies your strength and tarnishes your pride – a factor not to be underestimated in this country. The Friends of Turkey sure know it too.

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