Accessibility links

Turkish Leaders Criticize EU Decision to Delay Membership

Turkish leaders at the EU summit in Copenhagen are speaking very critically of EU leaders for their failure to give Turkey a firm date to start membership negotiations. But in Turkey many people are reacting differently. Even if Turkey didn't get a firm date for talks, many Turks are now more optimistic about their country's chances of joining Europe some day.

Speaking at a conference in the Turkish capital Ankara, Tuncay Ozilhan, the president of the most influential industrialists' group in Turkey, Tusiad, said the EU's decision was not the end of the world. Mr. Ozilhan urged Turkey to remain optimistic and said the country's accession to Europe was irreversible.

His views were widely echoed in Istanbul, the country's commercial capital.

Many Turks here say that Turkey must not give up on its European aspirations and continue to press ahead with reforms to raise their country's democracy to European standards. They add that this should be done, not simply to please Europe, but for the sake of the Turkish people themselves.

However, there are those who argue that the EU's refusal to give Turkey a firm date to start membership negotiations may lead to problems. They fear it may discourage Turkey's new government, formed last month by the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, and could prompt it to distance itself from Europe. The refusal is also likely re-enforce a growing suspicion among many Turks that the European Union is a Christian club.

Kemal Kirisci, a political scientist at Istanbul's Bosphorus University, is critical of the EU's policies toward Turkey. He suggests that, after being put off by Europe, Turks may seek alliances elsewhere. "A displeasing, disappointing decision from Copenhagen will invariably lead them to wonder what should their reference point be, where they should base their bearing, who should they be trusting," he said.

Yet, like many of his compatriots, Professor Kirisci is also of the view that if Turkey keeps pounding at Europe's door, as he puts it, and meets its conditions for full membership, sooner or later those doors will be forced open.