Lettre du 5 juin 2008
THE URGE … (of the European Union) .. TO GAIN WEIGHT ….
Visiting Bot, … Buttiglione,…. Berlusconi, … …Babacan
………in VOE-mode? The reader of these pages has in the past seen some articles in English, some in French, some in Italian, respecting thus a few of the many “Voices of Europe“..
But why not combine a few languages in a single piece if there is a good reason for it, like showing some quotes in original text?
We shall therefore from time to time proceed along that line and indicate such pieces in the heading as ( “in VOE-mode” )
The topic of today? The urge of a few European politicians to enlarge the Union in order
“TO GAIN WEIGHT”
In a way this is also a return to our old favorite of Turkey’s continuing obsession with admittance to the European Union, but it now gets a wider…… girth..
A “vocation” which has lost its sense.
During Ataturk s time, westernization and even Europeanization might have been proper tools for the modernization of Turkey.
Meanwhile, however, we have seen countries getting modernized without any need of westernization or Europeanization. The present Turkish obsession is therefore out of place, carries an unwarranted name “vocation”. The suspicion arises that it conceals now a hidden agenda namely: getting rid of the military and then create a fully Islamic Turkey.
We make today a tour around a few “B”-s from Bot to Buttiglione, to Berlusconi, and finally (only in a
note, since the Turkish Minister was uncerta8in to come to Europe) to Babacan. .
Here is a quote we take from the service which the French Embassy in the Netherlands provides for those who want to follow the Netherlands ‘newspapers
“Il faut élargir l’Union européenne à des pays qui, à proprement parler, ne se trouvent pas en Europe”, relève le NRC Handelsblad (p.7) d’hier soir.
“’Opter contre l’élargissement, c’est opter contre la croissance de la prospérité, de l’influence de notre continent et du respect qu’il inspire.’
C’est l’ancien ministre des Affaires étrangères Ben Bot en personne qui a exprimé mercredi cette opinion encore peu populaire.
En prononçant la Conférence Mandeville de l’Université Erasme de Rotterdam, il a rompu une lance pour un nouvel élargissement de l’Union européenne, qui compte actuellement 27 Etats membres.
Il ne s’agit pas de la Turquie ou des pays des Balkans, car ces engagements ont déjà été pris.
Bot veut aller plus loin.
’Si nous estimons vraiment que l’UE est une communauté de normes et de valeurs et pas tout d’abord un continent géographiquement plus ou moins clairement délimité, il ne peut y avoir que des avantages à ce que de plus en plus de pays agissent selon ces normes et valeurs’, a déclaré Bot.”
“Interrogé sur ce point, l’ancien ministre dit qu’il…. pense à des pays du Caucase et à des Etats qui font partie de l’Euromed avec lesquels l’UE coopère déjà (entre autres le Maroc, l’Algérie, la Tunisie).”
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Caution: The quote is not directly from Mr. Bot but from a newspaper report and then translated by an embassy in The Hague with a few questions and answers added… Yet “de plus en plus de pays”” set forward as an objective for EU expansion , including North African countries and the Caucasus is a recipe for disaster and outside the realm of prudent policymaking..
We know Mr.Bot as an intelligent man, well versed in the Brussels corridors.
That he presided over the disastrous The Hague Summit in December 2005 is another matter on which you will find an article on the website (http://www.voices-of-europe.org )
One of his characteristics is that he has sometimes “symbolic” moments.
One of those “symbolic” moments the Netherlands Government could put to very good use. Minister Bot went to Indonesia offering for the first time the very belated Dutch recognition that Indonesia achieved its independence on the day of the Sukarno-Hatta proclamation, and not just when Queen Juliana in the Netherlands signed the papers. (
For Ben Bot who carries still in his passport the indication of his birthplace as “Batavia” (not today’s name of the Indonesian capital Jakarta – since legally that was the correct name at his birth, again something of a symbol) and who carries moreover a wider heritage of Indonesian background, this must have been a happy moment. We congratulated him on that performance like on a few other actions
But with Ben Bot’s symbolic proclivities on the European Union’s future we have to be careful. To extend membership to Turkey since it would make a “nice gesture to the Islamic world” is highly imprudent. Turkey’s membership would be fatal to a balanced further development of the European
“’Opter contre l’élargissement, c’est opter contre la croissance de la prospérité, de l’influence de notre continent et du respect qu’il inspire.’
This again is dealing with symbolisms but in a dangerous way. The capacity of the EU to arrive at agreed foreign policy solutions is very limited. We have seen that with the entertaining but highly poisonous European theater plays around the Iraq war
We see it again on the question whether the Serbian province of Kosovo Methodical deserves independence, breaching the 1244 UN resolution. We see it on migration where the EU members are often still beholden to leftist’s old slogans or entrepreneurial egoism. We saw it certainly on the “Constitution” and recently on renewed ideas for a “Mediterranean Union” initially reserved to EU situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Some European countries still think they have particular vocations looking southward, like German might have a vocation looking eastward and to the Balkan. (note 1.)
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A visit to Rocco Buttiglione in Rome
Two weeks ago we were in the office of Professor Rocco Buttiglione, the former Italian Minister in a Berlusconi government, who got so maltreated by a leftist majority of the European Parliament. He is now vice president of the Italian House of Delegates, and President of the little party UDC…
We asked him about his ideas on Turkey’s candidature since exactly a year ago he had assured us that there was no reason for worry since France had a solid referendum in place and other countries (Austria) might have similar obstacles.
We made the visit in the hope to hear from the President (he is also president of UDC a smaller party of Christian Democrats which broke away from Berlusconi) what action we might deploy now that President Sarkozy later permitted some uncertainty on his intentions in this matter.
In Paris with the Association La Voix des Francais we held for the first time in 2003 a “manif” on Paris’ Boulevard Raspail, and later on the Champ de Mars.
Similar action might be needed in the future, and we wanted to sound out the professor on possible joint action, since political movements in our European Union still operate too often in isolation.
Though Rocco Buttiglione did not express an absolute once-and-for-all rejection of Turkey’s candidature, and had not any suggestions for action in the streets, he made quite a long list of “considerations” which all tend to be against Turkey’s membership.
The Vice Chairman of the Italian House of Representatives went through his exposition with a sour throat. We emphatically nodded, both in order to assure him that his considerations were also ours, and as an encouragement to save his voice.
Here are a few of the reasoning in my French notes:
• …….La politique européenne est contradictoire. On nuit a la position des militaires et par cela on favorise le retour de l islamisme. De cette manière un objectif européen, le redressement de
Note 1 = In Paris I get regularly visits of African personalities who ask for Dutch and other addresses and links in their effort to crawl out from under the remains of French colonial domination. Definitively past those times, but the recognition of such facts is still far away. No sound basis for a common European diplomacy or an Europe Pouvoir”. Let pouvoir come slowly thanks to our prudent hard work
la position de l’état major des militaires turcs fait obstacle a un autre objectif de l Europe, plus important encore, c’est à dire la démocratie et une juste mesure de laïcisme.
• ……L Europe a pris des engagements dans le passé envers la Turquie. Mais dans ce temps la ce ne fut encore pas l’Union Européenne avec son importante dimension politique. Ce fut simplement une « Communauté Economique ». Nous aurions de très bons arguments à rester dans ce cadre limité, sans impliquer la Turquie dans nos institutions européennes, dans la dimension politique.
• …….. (Avec une formule étonnante) La vraie question turque n’est pas une question turque mais une question européenne Les Américains et les Anglais poussent dans la direction de l’élargissement – surtout avec la Turquie – point as pour les mérites d’une participation Turque a notre oeuvre mais pour diluer, pour étouffer la force d’une Europe compacte et unie.
• ……..Ceux qui prônent l’accession de la Turquie disent qu’ils veulent faire quelque chose pour la stabilisation du Proche Orient, Mais est-ce vraiment nécessaire jusqu’à une accession institutionnelle de la Turquie voulons nous éparpiller nous forces et engagements a des situations limitrophes comme la Syrie etc.? Cela serait au dessus de la capacité d unité des européens. C’est une fantasmagorie propre à des eurocrates.
• …….Les entrepreneurs voient la Turquie comme un marché intéressant, mais est ce que cela doit déterminer la route à prendre ? (note : on this point our nodding became even more strong since we know very well from our contacts with the Dutch VNO-NCW how that national organization of employers has been sold on the Turkish candidature for its own, mostly short-term egoistic economic reasons) ; (Note 2)
• …….Le danger qu’après avoir donne écoute aux prétentions Turquie il serait hautement difficile de résister à une demande de l’Ukraine. Or on pourrait discuter de la question si l’Ukraine est européenne ou non. Peut-être cést le cas, et alors elle aurait le droit de formuler une demande d adhésion. Mais formuler une demande d adhésion n’est pas la même chose qu’avoir droit à l adhésion. Telle décision reste dans le souverain pouvoir de l’union Européenne et ses membres.
Evidemment toutes ces considérations sont bien déjà les nôtres.
Nous étions heureux de leur formulation, et en signe d’appréciation nous avons offert ……
….de notre part deux considérations supplémentaires :
o L’accession Turque aurait une influence déstabilisatrice sur deux niveaux importants de la vie européenne : le niveau très haut et central des prises de décisions politiques a Bruxelles et a Strasbourg, et le niveau bas et pratique de notre vie de chaque jour dans les villes, surtout dans les banlieues :
Le niveau central de l’Union Européenne, dans son centre de décisions, la présence turque avec sa population massive qui depuis le Traite de Nice est reconnu comme un élément majeur déstabiliserait toute la vie politique. U pays extra européen mais avec une force de vote supérieure a celle de l’Allemagne ne pourrait pas aller de pair avec une distribution sage des pouvoirs
Le deuxième niveau ou la présence turque serait déstabilisatrice est dans nos villes mêmes, qui seraient entoures par des banlieues d’immigration qui se refuse à s’intégrer. Le discours d’AKP leader fait en Allemagne est plus que clair
Note2 the Professor did not mention specifically the question of oil transportation to Europe. This topic again has been raised by some as a valid argument to include Turkey in the European Union. The Nabucco project would compete to “South Stream” which has an alliance with Gasport and the Italian ENI) Gazprom and ENI have also ideas about getting gas and oil from Libya. Ali Babacan however did not miss it.(short note at the end)
Apres cette liste de quelques arguments CONTRE la candidature, nos lecteurs pourraient avoir envie à voir une liste des arguments qu’ – ’il y a douze ans – ont été formules EN FAVEUR DE L ACCESSION TURQUE, par un haut fonctionnaire de la Commission Européenne, Monsieur Serge Abou, actuellement Ambassadeur de la Commission en Chine. = The list of argument in FAVOR of Turkey’s accession was given during a seminar organized by Hanns Seidel Foundation, the think tank of the Bavarian Christian Democrats CSU at a time when on the topic of a possible Turkish accession most nations : the French, the Dutch, the Italians and all others were sleeping, if not snoring ! Proficiat to Hanns Seidel and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung ! The list will immediately follow the present essay.
Reprenons notre tour de Bot, Buttiglione, Berlusconi …et Babacan :
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Ainsi finit notre visite à un penseur généreux et trempé dans la tradition européenne. Nous nous sommes promis de rester en contact pour nous épauler quand telle chance se présente.
Nous souhaitons au Vice-président aussi bonne sante, force et sagesse. Dans le moment actuel ou Berlusconi a tout le vent dans ses ailes, il n est pas facile a manouvrier la barque de l’UDC. Mais tout étant petite, cette barque a sur certains dossiers dont la Turquie, une avance dans l’adhésion populaire
Très souvent les vrais ennemis ne sont pas les concurrents directs dans le secteur politique mais les décideurs économiques du pays. Sur quelques dossiers comme l’immigration et sur la Turquie ces décideurs cherchent les profits à court terme, prennent des positions complètement égoïstes ne calculant pas les effets désastreux qu’ils apportent à leurs pays et à l Europe. Je connais cette circonstance par l expérience Hollandaise, mais laissez-moi le dire en anglais !
Let us add this also in English:
In the Netherlands the position on Turkey was not formulated by politicians, people like Bot mentioned above but imposed to their party by the country’s employers
The Dutch CDA (Christian Democrats) has been from the beginning under the liberalistic influences of the Netherlands Federation of employers, the VNO, not withstanding that the full name of that body would read as “VNO-NCW”, in which NCW means Association of Netherlands Christian Employers.
The story how the position of the party was reached deserves being told. That will be for another time.
The employers are well staffed and well served. Generally they are young and well spoken, and have a keen eye on their career objectives. Quite frequently they or their colleagues in political parties are able to get into the graces of European Parliamentarians and get nominated on committees. Let us be warned!
Returning to the Roman scene we have to add a word on Prime Minister Berlusconi
His Forza Italia party recently had an enormous electoral victory.
What was admirable was that his address to the Italian parliament was a balanced sober one. It was widely admired by the whole political spectrum. After the chaotic period of Prodi a steady hand seems to come back. A touch of magnanimity was an extra gift, well appreciated as I could personally witness.
But Berlusconi’s pro Turkish attitude is worrying. It is now official Italian policy.
From a document of the Italian Delegation to the European Union (21 may 2008) we take the following quote and we add a few words of comment:
Interessi italiani e posizioni degli altri Paesi:
La posizione dell’Italia è tradizionalmente a favore della piena adesione della Turchia. Trattasi di una posizione condivisa all’interno del panorama politico italiano e sostenuta sia dal precedente governo che da quello attuale. Le ragioni di tale posizione sono di carattere geopolitico (l’adesione della Turchia accrescerebbe il peso dell’Unione nei confronti degli altri grandi attori internazionali), ideale (il forte impatto simbolico che l’entrata nell’UE di un grande Paese a maggioranza musulmano avrebbe), economico (l’Italia è uno dei maggiori partners commerciali della Turchia).
La nostra posizione è condivisa da Regno Unito, Svezia, Spagna, Finlandia e, con minore convinzione, dai Paesi di recente adesione che hanno una posizione di principio favorevole all’allargamento.
(Note: …our position is shared by the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, Finland and – with less conviction – by countries which recently joined the European Union)
Come noto, il Presidente francese Sarkozy si è espresso più volte contro la piena adesione di Ankara prospettando come alternativa un partenariato privilegiato Tale alternativa preclude la discussione nel negoziato di adesione di quei capitoli che Parigi considera compatibili unicamente con la piena adesione della Turchia. Scettici rispetto alla piena adesione di Ankara sono pure i Paesi Bassi, l’Austria e, in parte, la Germania dove la questione è controversa all’interno della “grande coalizione” (socialisti favorevoli, cristiano-democratici contrari).
(Note: President Sarkozy has often spoken against full accession by Ankara and proposed a privileged partnership .Some chapters of political nature will therefore be excluded from the negotiations between the Commission and Turkey. Skeptical on Turkey’s accession are also the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, where the question divides the partners in the Grand Coalition)
We have to wait and see how this Italian difference on the Turkish candidature plays out between Rocco (who has wide support of the common people) and Silvio (support probably from high-level economic decision makers).
The wish to gather geopolitical strength by mere extension of the European Union is in our view childish and imprudent. What is gained in extension will be lost in inner cohesion, and the real power is in cohesion, not extension. “Qui trop embrasse mal etreint”
A further look ate the Italian document is therefore warranted
The Italian Embassy paper continues as follows and we shall see that former Minister Bot, mentioned above, is not alone in his geopolitical dreaming:
“….l’adesione della Turchia accrescerebbe il peso dell’Unione nei confronti degli altri grandi attori internazionali),’
Tell us, please, readers, if from a situation of weakness you should want to get to a position of power, would you announce that to the world at large? Certainly not. You keep quiet, work hard, and you make sure that meanwhile you do not make yourself ridiculous with the big players in the world.
Indeed, the Chinese and the Americans will laugh at such advertised and not yet realized dreams of grandeur. The Americans perhaps more than the Chinese since it is the Americans who for their own, and certainly not our reasons, push for Turkey’s entrance in the European Union.
The Chinese on the other hand will be more reserved and think their options over.
They look already with some doubt and misgivings on the sudden independence of Kosovo. Their misgivings would increase if Turkish influence should further increase in Europe over future decennia
Did we forget about “East Turkestan”?
When I was (like Mr. Bot) a few years in the Netherlands Embassy in Turkey, but without the burdens of a Chief of Mission, (and therefore without the need to raise my glass at dinners for Turkey’s future entrance into the European Union),
I sometimes received around New Year a postcard from a group which called itself the Great East Turkestan Committee in exile in Istanbul.
The picture showed a dignified turbaned and bearded gentleman from a past century.
A Turkish revival in Western China would by no means please the Chinese. A Turkish influenced and dominated Europe might soon feel the effects of Chinese resistance.
The flows of the seven seas the world over are in continuous movement.
Let us take a further look at the Italian Delegation in Brussels when it lists the arguments for Turkish accession and mentions one single argument followed by an explanation between brackets, namely a cultural and symbolic argument:
…… ideale (il forte impatto simbolico che l’entrata nell’UE di un grande Paese a maggioranza musulmano avrebbe),
Where would such symbolic impact be felt and produce good results? In the Arab countries, which still remember their former Turkish colonizers? Many Muslim countries see also the Turkish model of Islam as a wrong one. (Note 3 )
Again this is a child play not appropriate for practical prudent policy makers.
The Italians get closer to their usual realism with a last reason for including Turkey namely
………economico (l’Italia è uno dei maggiori partners commerciali della Turchia)
Hm, this is language we understand somewhat better. It is also in the tradition of Ben Bot’s “Mandelian economic vice-worshippers” he met among the merchants of Rotterdam.
But here non-Italian readers will immediately shoot back and say: “Do you expect us to leave to Italy such a significant advantage?”
If indeed (we have our doubts) the Italians had such a favored position in Turkey, the other countries of Europe will not be inclined to solidify it and see a few new “Galata towers” built in Turkey.
There might be some backdoor deals between Italy and Turkey. We don’t know. But if the Italians advertise so openly there advantage in Turkey, the other European nations better keep out of danger and engage Turkey in something different from the European Union
Perhaps a Privileged Partnership (see our article on the Robert Shuman book brought out in December 2006 in Paris) , or a European Commonwealth link, a new form of interacting with non-European nations which the European Parliament is now looking at.
Such other setting might better preserve a level playing field.
The Turkish businessmen themselves would not care much. Turkey has sufficient clever people around who would be willing to engage in business relations with all comers whether inside or outside a political framework…
It is the illusion of politicians if they are so obsessed with institutional frameworks
Note 3 International Herald Tribune 070912 Geneive Abdo , The wrong model Islamist won’t follow Turkey’s lead secularism in the arab world ended with the six day war of 1967. also state control as ap;lied in Turkey over religious affairs is resisted in other islamic countries
Do we blame them? Can we honestly expect otherwise? Institutional dreaming is their only daily bread .
If we see how the USA in the last half century with unbounded appetite and little knowledge of the world’s gastronomy or history has wildly overeaten. (and might now like to slim down),
…we, as European Union, should definitely
………resist the urge to gain weight!
………….Non ingrassare, Cara Europa !
I think we have for today completed our tour of visits: Bot, Buttiglione and Berlusconi, thank you for your company. If H Exc. Ali Babacan has kept his appointment and has come. We shall see him in the annexed note.
Anton Smitsendonk Paris Roma , June 5 2008
The Turkish Minister did come indeed. There had been uncertainly as only a few days earlier he had threatened not to come to the Association Council if the “accession” word should have been dropped from the agreed communiqué which was to be issued after the Council Meeting
Though Minister Ali Babacan would merit a place of honor in our tour of the famous “B” s (with even to “B”s to his name) the uncertainty about his coming left us only the possibility to give him a place in this late note.
If offered an occasion to drink a glass of raki with water with His Excellency, we certainly would not refuse because the Minister seems to be an entertaining gentleman. We heard of the event only by word of mouth
It looks then that this week he expressed himself in these (abbreviated) terms:
We still want to join the European Union. It is for us an OASIS of peace and welfare.
We liked the report of Mrs. Oomen Ruyten on the Turkish progress. 1
We can help the EU to achieve the right multiculturalism in the Balkan, following true Ottoman traditions.
Our presence would add to Europe’s variety and enrich it
We love the work of Prime Minister Zapatero and Sampaio (Port) on an alliance of civilizations
We offer you a better way of getting oil and gas (partly from Iran) to Europe through our NABUCCO line, better than the South Stream of Russia
Our soldiers in Cyprus are your guarantee for peace on the island
We favor more links between NATO and the European Union and we are strong NATO members.
We can usefully in the midst of a European Union express the voice of the Islamic Conference of 57 members and help you in your reach-out to the Islam.
The young generations of Turkey may help your failing demography.
We trust that the French chairmanship (second half of 2008) will take a friendly attitude and not block our Turkish ambitions.
C est de la musique classique Turque qui va agréablement accompagner notre verre de raki !
After the list of counter arguments which we took from Pres. Rocco Buttiglione , here is the list of “PRO”arguments as expressed in 1996 by a high commission representative.Readers may find a comparison of the two lists of some interest.
The occasion for this list was a seminar held in one of the many halls of the European Parliament in Brussels during a seminar organized in 1996 by the Hanns Seidel Stiftung, the think tank of the CSU (the Christian Democrats of Bayern). The speaker was Mr. Serge Abou, who is now EU Ambassador in China and who was then staff member of the European Commission
One of the leaders of the CSU in that meeting Member of Parliament Ingo Friedrich was very clear in their mind :no Morocco, no Turkey in the European Union. But then came the Commission representative.
While Mr. Abou is a man of great “finesse” in his style of expressing, we may wonder how his arguments might strike readers of today, 12 years later. Could we mildly suggest: ”childish”?
Each of his arguments is encapsulated in a short line, which I follow up with my impressions of that day, 12 years ago.
“Turkey has a strong vocation towards Europe”.
Our reaction: Is that sufficient? If a man comes to you and says: “I have a strong vocation to live in your house”…do you give him your house keys? Not Turkey’s “vocation” is determinant here, but Europe’s vocation to admit Turkey as a full member. Do we have that vocation? The country is quite respectable, and I love it, having lived there 4 years, but at the same time it is very foreign to us in its culture and traditions. The answer should be: “NO”.
“We in Europe can have a favorable balance of trade with Turkey”….
Our reaction being a citizen of a trading nation, the Netherlands, I know that this old mercantilist idea has no weight. We earn on both the exports and imports side. And if we export, it is ultimately in order to import.
“We (the French, and others) can have many investments in Turkey”…etc
Is that a good reason? We have many investments in China. Are we going to make China a Euro-Union member?
“We need Turkey as our fascinating, challenging “Nouvelle Frontière”.
Our reaction Well, I had not thought of this surprising idea, but it sounds good. Let us pursue it. But should we also cross that “frontière” and incorporate that country into the E.U.? No. There are also other fine “nouvelles frontières” to explore.
The “strategic importance of Turkey in the cold war and even during the Gulf War”.
Our reaction … …But that was yesterday, and anyhow that involves the NATO and not the EU. Let us stop mixing accounts, confusing organizations and thereby debilitate them.
If NATO incurred a debt to Turkey let NATO pay and not the EU, of which the check would even be a wide open check at that!
“Turkey’s attractive abilities as a link with Central Asia… its “connivences politiques et linguistiques”..(as Mr. Abou elegantly evocated)
…..Can we not explore that region ourselves? We have been merchants for centuries. We certainly could also find Turkish businessmen able and willing to help us in our contacts with Central Asia. Is Turkish
membership in the EU needed for such an enterprise? Certainly not.
In sum we could strongly support Mr. Abou’s plea for “vivification” of Europe’s relations with Turkey, a country which we love.
But we should stop short of destroying our European house.
That was so in 1996 and it is still valid in 2008.
The loss of time between those dates cannot be imputed to the European side. It was for those twelve years and it remains entirely at the risk of Turkey’s obsessive requests
We conclude with relief: There are no reasons for the European Union
“gaining weight” in Turkey or elsewhere.
NON INGRASSARE, EUROPA !
– Roma – Paris May June 2008