from issue no. 02 - 2004

The seven "packets of harmonization"


by Gianni Valente

A functionary of the European Parliament hoists the Turkish flag  at the opening of the extraordinary session, 19 November 2002

A functionary of the European Parliament hoists the Turkish flag at the opening of the extraordinary session, 19 November 2002

The year 2004 is the year of truth for Turkey’s joining the European Union. By December the European parliament will meet to check whether, on the basis of a report by the Commission, Turkey has complied with the political criteria required for admission established at the Copenhagen Summit in 2002. In the case of a positive outcome effective negotiations for membership could begin, according to the optimistic but by no means forgone opinion of the leaders in Ankara, in the early months of 2005 and realistically conclude about 2012.
Turkey presented its request for membership of the EU in 1999 but has remained at the starting gate while the candidacies of various countries in Eastern Europe were accepted. Anomalies in the Turkish economic and political spheres, and in that of the safeguarding of civil rights, have converged to justify this European hesitation. The Turkish government has committed itself to filling the gap by means of the “packets of harmonization”, the legislative reforms introduced at a forced pace to bring the Turkish polity up to European standards. The provisional reports, drawn up by the community bodies to monitor the process of reform, revealed both lights and shades. The almost complete abolition of the death penalty and the declarations of willingness to grant full equality of linguistic and cultural rights to twelve million Curds were positively received. But the 2003 report stigmatized slowness and deficiencies in the concrete application of the reforms. It also asks for the gradual reduction in the anomalous key role played in the national political equilibrium by the army, which set itself up as custodian of the secularism of the State from the times of Kemal’s revolution.
Apart from the individual points, the basic objections to the Turkish entry into Europe on the part of the élites and of European public opinion derive from political reservations (the burden of Turkey even in merely demographic terms would harm consolidated balances) and from doubts about the adaptability of a country of Islamic culture to Western parameters of civil co-existence. The Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was aware of this when, on 14 February last, he tried to convince the doubting audience at the Congress of the European Peoples Party, speaking highly of the achievements of the moderate-Islamic led government: «We have demonstrated that a Moslim society can achieve contemporary standards of democracy, a state of law, religious freedom, human rights, transparency, reliability and good government…».

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