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Turkey's E.U. Future

By Javier Solana

December 9, 2002 - The New York Times

Turkey is a subject of intense discussion in Europe today. The reasons are obvious: the change in the political landscape in Ankara and the expectations this has generated; the historic opportunity for a solution to the Cyprus issue offered by Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations; and the decisions to be taken this week by the European Council at Copenhagen on the next steps in the European Union enlargement process. The debate is an important one. But we must be careful to avoid misunderstandings and pointless controversies.

Turkey has already booked its place in Europe. In December 1999, the European Council recognized Turkey's full-candidate status. This was unanimously agreed on by the 15 European Union heads of state and government. No one challenged that decision. No one can challenge it today on the grounds of geography. To do so would endanger the enlargement process and the principle of inclusiveness that has sustained it.

This principle of inclusiveness lies at the origin of the European Union. There is a conviction among Europeans today, including those about to join the union this week, that Turkey should be fully anchored in Europe. This conviction must continue to determine our future.

If Turkey wishes to assume its place in Europe, then, like all other candidate countries before it, Turkey must chart the course that gets it there. Only Turkey can answer two crucial questions: Can it take the road to Europe? And does it wish to do so?

To answer the first question, Turkey must meet the criteria required for the initial stage of accession negotiations. The Turkish government has acknowledged, by placing a new legislative package of necessary reforms before Parliament, that it does not yet meet those criteria. Its determination to do so is equally clear, as may be seen in the decision to pursue such proposals following the highly encouraging measures adopted last summer.

Will this be enough to make up the necessary ground and satisfy the criteria defined for the other candidate countries in Copenhagen back in 1993? Will the reforms be adopted and put into effect before the next European Council meeting? We shall be discussing these questions on Thursday.

Whether Turkey wishes to take its place in Europe is a question only it can answer. The Cyprus settlement plan proposed by Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations on Nov. 11 offers everybody an opportunity to write a new chapter in the history of an island that has for too long been divided. Both Turkish and Greek Cypriots should embrace the secretary general's proposal. During my recent visit to Ankara, some argued it was dangerous to try to resolve a 40-year problem in only four weeks. They are mistaken. Mr. Annan's plan is the courageous and ambitious culmination of years of international efforts. Both communities in Cyprus must agree to the plan and see to its implementation. Who could possibly prefer that a militarily divided, rather than a united, island join the European Union? The inhabitants of Cyprus? Of Turkey? I don't believe so.

The future of Europe is intrinsically linked to that of its defense. If it is to take its place in Europe, Turkey must also play a role in the European defense project. Turkey will need to help shape permanent military arrangements between NATO and the European Union. Ankara cannot any longer stand in the way of cooperation between the union and NATO.

I believe Turkey's future as part of Europe is within reach. By matching actions to words, Turkey, the European Union and our NATO partners can together make this promise reality.

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