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Turkey and the tradition of EPP – article in European Voice


To unite Germany and France after two murderous world wars seemed. Half a century on, this Europe – scarred by centuries of conflict – is at peace. That is above all thanks to the vision, determination, and political generosity of the great post-war leaders. Churchill, Schuman, Adenauer, de Gasperi: these are the towering figures, men who refused to be deflected by apparently immovable obstacles.
Turkey!!1s application to join the EU demands similar boldness and farsightedness. The prize is the same, to establish peace and stability in a vast region convulsed by ancient hatreds, dictators, and injustice.

I believe the EU!!1s moral and political duty is to send out the clear message that it is open to nations which support its fundamental values of freedom and democracy religious and ethnic differences are irrelevant.

Turkey!!1s EU application is a big and important issue because Turkey is big and important, and must not be allowed to be muddled up with (mostly German and French) electoral issues. Significant as these two nations are, they are finally only two out of 25

It is essential to be clear and honset, too. The Copenhagen Criteria are manifestly not a genuine issue, we would be astonished if they were not fulfilled to the letter well before Turkey enters the EU. It is appropriate to expect restraint and if possible statesmanship in the Schuman spirit from those who are now tempted to make Turkish membership a matter principally domestic electoral calculation.
The real question is whether the EU is capable of integrating such a large and relatively poor country. That is the nub of the matter.

Turkey, like poor applicants such as Spain and Portugal before, has enormous potential for economic growth, especially once it is inside the Single Market. It is explicitly a secular state. It has shown its solidity as a neighbour and ally over many decades now as a cornerstone of NATO/ European security.

The Turkish issue is so electric not just because of imminent elections but because it raises fundamental questions about the existing 25 EU Members States, about their kaleidoscope of cultures and traditions (not to mention climates and topography), as much as about the candidate country itself.

If we are wise, this debate will be the occasion for looking again at our basic values, and for inspiration to the political imagination which created the Union in the first place.

I personally am convinced that closing the door on Turkey would be an historic mistake, and would like to place on record that the idea, put about in some quarters, that the EPP-ED Group is united in rejecting Turkey!!1s application is incorrect. There is debate, as there should be.

Moreover, a rejection of Turkey, before negotiations have even started, does not reflect the traditions of the EPP as the agent of benign change, and of bringing people and peoples together across old and troubled frontiers.

Gunnar Hökmark

MEP, Head of the Swedish delegation in the EPP-ED Group