Carnival of Romantic Diplomacy

What should we retain from the European Council session of December 17th 2004?

A quick appraisal and a look forward

A Carnival of romantic diplomacy>

The European Summit of December 17th 2004 in The Hague brought the decision to start accession negotiations with Turkey. That had little to do with reality, the reality of Turkey or the reality of our European nations. One has to understand it as rather a festival. A festival of goodwill, of brotherly love, an effort to bridge worlds with the Islam. There was a wish to please the Turks who during 40 years had pressed their “European vocation”. About our own European vocation or our own European interests ….not a single word !

The fact that Turkey ‘s economy is developing well, and that the country shows great activity  in developing its  diplomatic, economic and cultural relations with  central Asia and the Middle East seems to have escaped our European leaders. Those European leaders still expand on their view that Turkey should be “anchored” to Europe as if that country were in danger of getting lost, to drift  away to some unknown destination. Is that not a rather patronizing attitude, not very worthy of such a dynamic nation as Turkey?

Ataturk in his time could have been right in when he advocated the equation :  “Modernization =  Westernization,  =  Europeanization”.  But nowadays there is no need for this antiquated equation. Several nations have shown that they can very well modernize without westernizing or europeanize themselves. When shall our European leaders learn to show a little respect for non-European cultures?

Meanwhile the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs prides itself of ending its EU chairmanship with a Big Bang. (Note:  BZ – Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken Magazine voor Medewerkers 24 dec 2004 nr 23: “Nederlandse voorzitterschap afgesloten met Big Bang… Het Turkse vraagstuk een enorme uitdaging en een mooie afsluiting van een Nederlands voorzitterschap”   translation : The Dutch EU chairmanship concluded with a Big Bang.  Te Turkish question was an enormous challenge and a fine conclusion of the Netherlands Chairmanship…….

Poor big bang!

A spectacle of diplomatic gesticulation…..

The opening of talks with Turkey has been advocated above all with the perceived need to make a gesture to the Islamic world. To make gestures in diplomacy is however often a prescription for disaster. Diplomacy is about realities and needs, not about theatre. Diplomacy tries to achieve solid things and to avoid ways which can bring danger to social cohesion at home…

In the particular case of a gesture to Turkey it was rather naïve to suppose that the Arab world (formerly colonized by the Turks) would see Turkey as its representative and would be glad with the gesture.

And with the Islam there is no need whatsoever to make gestures. It is good enough if we can maintain a respectful distance with our best efforts towards cooperation in todays world questions.

Under the constitution of some member countries it is considered that European policies are the special domain of the Head of State and not to be decided by parliament. This is the case in France and it is rather out of date. Because European policies, and certainly policies about enlargement  directly impact domestic policy and social cohesion. France is somewhere on the way in getting out of this predicament (a proposal of Edouard Balladur tends to oblige the government to hand over documents on European questions and allow discussions in parliament).

Let other nations in Europe avoid the present French set-up and make sure that European policy is treated as eminently domestic policy. In particular accession of Turkey would have its major impacts not on international relations but would gravely destabilize the European decision structure and even all our societies in Europe. Internal social cohesion and internal solidarity are the only basis on which we can begin to confront the great problems of our European future: our agriculture, our social welfare and retirement systems, economic reform and other questions.

European political leaders exceed their powers is they try to play “geopolitics” or –  in this case –  even  “geo-spiritual politics”. Their basic responsibility is only with the wellbeing of their own nations and of Europe . Any pursuit of a “Europe-Puissance” playing up to the world at large  is compared to that basic responsibility only of minor importance. Playing geopolitics with  Turkey would greatly weaken internal European structure and cohesion Prudence and sobriety should guide our politicians. Not romantic idealism.

.. after hasty and insufficient preparations

The European deliberations around Turkey ’s candidature have been ill prepared.

…. capitulating then abjectly before Turkish persistence…

Erdogan quickly found out the weakness of his western speaking partners and mercilessly pushed for his advantage. The European leaders are unhappy about the december 2007 event in The Hague but will not speak about it in public. Erdogan came back  to Istanbul as a Conqueror, “Fatih” of Europe. In that supposed role  he was celebrated on his return home. But not by all Turkish parties.

…in disregard and in reversion of the principal question

The principal question should always have been “for what compelling reason, for what  high and commanding interest of the European Union should it invite Turkey to membership”?

In short: “Why Turkey ?”

On this question our government leaders have never in the last forty years given  their peoples a convincing public answer.

Their poverty of arguments turn into  trickery when they then turned the question around  and challenged   Turkey , why not”?

Obviously with such a reversal of the question they shift the burden of proof away from themselves. Poor statesmanship. Irreponsible guidance of their peoples.


The Haguie 2004 is just like Copenhagen (where the so-called “criteria” were invented, which as far as they go are necessary but quite insufficient) and Helsinki , a session where European leaders made a statement of their political intentions. Intentions which go beyond their true negotiation powers and which will not bind their people. Let Turkey be well aware of this

But our peoples must now speak up.

The Turkish question cannot be left to the European Commission.

The European Parliament over the years has as well demonstrated its incapacity to act with any courage and broader foresight. The recent ridiculous victory of the European Parliament over the Buttiglone case must make us aware that European nations have in their Parliamen a poor defender.

We have to find other ways

Let us work on a few questions:

ü       How can we set up a procedure of surveillance to make sure that the negotiations which may start on October 3rd do not end in Turkey ’s accession, neglecting our European needs for social cohesion?

ü       Some new proposals like the one of M Edouard Balladur in France may be helpful for the establishment of parliamentary oversight at a national level. But what about other member countries? Do they have a similar problem and can we make sure the problem is also addressed there?

ü      Could other frameworks, other forums, could some European Non Government Organization take a role in this matter? There may be highly respected bodies like the Union Pan-européenne? Are there others in view?

ü       If Denmark or Austria (or Luxemburg or any other country, think of Italy which saw an impression mass demonstration in Milan on December  18th with 100.000 participants just after the Brussels Council Meeting) could have an early referendum on the Turkish question. Could that not help setting the whole negotiation process aside as a waste of time, of effort and of political investment? With Turkey we can do better thinks like a special partnership agreement (like the German Christian Democrats and in the European Parliament Hans Poettering has argued, but he was not followed by the Dutch Christian democrats)

ü       What links exist with that other proposed referendum, the one on the European Constitution? Yet there may well be a true real internal link between the two referenda. If the Constitution makes for easier majority decisions and majority is influenced by demography, then those who object to Turkey ’s membership may have valid reasons to reject also the European Constitution. We need to analyze this and other questions further

.We shall be grateful for any suggestions from our readers and we stand ready to offer our modest contribution in any common further exploration.

Anton Smitsendonk

Gérard Hannezo,                              Paris 10 January 2005


About dutasia

Former Ambassador of the Netherlands, presently National Commissioner for Thailand and for Indonesia in the ICC, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Business Organization. Chairman of China Carbon Forum in Beijing, China.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s