The European Union's rebuff of Turkey's long-standing membership application in December is bearing bitter fruit, as Turkey threatens to sever links, turn East, and penalise European companies operating on its soil. Calling it diplomatic posturing, EU leaders insist that they will seriously consider Turkey's application when it can carry out long sought political and economic reforms. Can Turkey afford to stay away?
Turkey's relations with Europe are at their lowest point since the onset of the Cyprus invasion in 1974. Negotiations over Cyprus, the Kurds, EU membership and a host of other issues have halted. While European leaders say "the doors are wide open" for Turkey's EU membership, they insist that Turkey has to undertake a series of economic and political reforms, and take clear steps to resolve the Cyprus and Kurdish issues before membership can be seriously considered.
"Turkey has major problems," says Pauline Green, head of the European Socialists Group, the largest voting bloc in the European Parliament. She points out that Turkey is falling short on the economic and political criteria applied to all applicants for EU membership.
Green cites four political reasons "making it difficult to give a wholehearted `yes' to Turkey's EU membership application". These are: The weak state of Turkish democratic institutions; Turkey's poor human rights record; the on-going suppression of Kurdish minorities; and the failure to resolve the Cyprus question.
Many Europeans -- and not a few Turks -- point out much responsibility for the current diplomatic rift between Turkey and the EU rests with Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz himself, building public expectations which were shattered by the European rebuff in December.
Hoping to see its bid for membership in the European Union included with applicants from Eastern Europe, Turkish leaders were shocked at the EU's decision to exclude Turkey from that group. That decision carried an added sting: Among the 11 countries who were invited to start membership talks was Cyprus.
Turkey has rejected the EU counter-offer of membership in the European Conference, to which EU members and all applicants for membership belong. "It carries no importance to us," said Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz, whose government has halted all diplomatic negotiations over Cyprus.
Since then, Turkish leaders have been reviewing Turkey's options, while voicing outrage at the EU decision. "If the EU does not meet in a summit to change...