Turkey: A “Strategic Partner” or a “Regional Power” MARIA ELENI KOPPA* Introduction Our notion of Europe is outdated. Since the 1990’s we share a mental map of Europe divided amongst laggards and frontrunners on their way to Europe (Noutcheva & Bechev 2008, Ekiert et al. 2007, Fish & Choudry 2007, Pop-Eleches 2007), with regular reports being compiled by the Commission to mark their progress or lack thereof. This perception is no longer in touch with realities on the ground for two reasons: •
first, because the project of European Integration is no longer uncontested;
secondly, because states in the wider European neighborhood, including Turkey, are discovering that there are viable economic and political alternatives to EU membership.
For several decades Turkey pursued the project of European Integration with unwavering commitment. By the signature of associate membership with the European Communities in 1963, by the submission of a formal application in 1987, by the signature of a Custom’s Union Agreement in 1995, by the formal recognition of Turkey’s candidate status in 1999, and by the opening of formal negotiations in 2005, Turkey has been made to believe that membership remains a viable prospect. This prospect is now uncertain, not only in Brussels but, perhaps more significantly, in Ankara. In recent years, European conservative forces have no qualms about using culturally reductionist arguments, openly pronouncing Turkey’s culture and Muslim identity as barriers to accession. Such arguments are clearly responsive to prevalent racist perceptions of Turkish people as the servants of Europe, along with Italians, Yugoslavs, Greeks and Portuguese, which can be traced back to the 1960s. During the golden era of Fordist Capitalism, Turkey signed bilateral labour migration agreements with Germany (1961), * Member of the European Parliament. Vice-President, EU - Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee of the European Parliament.
A Publication based on the International Conference organised at the European Parliament/Brussels by Dr. ELENI THEOCHAROUS, Member of the Eu...