Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Two Takes on Turkey


Today's Lebanon Daily Star offers two articles that are separate tributes to soft power. The first, "The European Union: A quiet but powerful force for reform," discusses how well European quiet diplomacy has been doing in getting Turkey to institute political, social and economic reforms. It also mentions Europe's long-term efforts to cultivate good government in North Africa and the Middle East:
Apart from the framework of [Turkish] membership negotiations, the EU has also used its partnerships with various regional countries to advance the pace of political reform. The European Neighborhood Policy, which builds on the economic reform initiatives launched in the Barcelona Process, offers privileged relations with the aim of encouraging neighboring states' commitment to the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. Incentives such as aid and economic integration have been used to encourage progress on political reforms in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

Europe's subtle but significant efforts to promote reform in the region demonstrate that the EU is a powerful reformist force in the Middle East. While the European approach to promoting reform has been understated and less aggressive than that of the United States, it has proven to be equally - if not more - effective. America's efforts to promote reform are often greeted with skepticism or even hostility, while the EU, which has long been engaged in the region, has a greater degree of credibility.

I find it hard to believe that most Turks think the EU—widely thought to have racist motivations for keeping Turkey at arm's length, reluctant to intervene when Muslims were being slaughtered in the Balkans—has much credibility at all. Ankara, bruised by Austria's near-rejection of talks on full Turkish membership, is thanking the U.S. for help in getting those talks started, according to "Turkey thanks U.S. for its support for EU membership talks":

Turkish leaders have thanked the United States for intervening on Turkey's behalf during diplomatic wrangling that resulted in the European Union opening membership talks with Turkey. "The support of the U.S. to Turkey during the ... negotiation period with the EU is clear, natural and right. We are pleased about it," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Namik Tan said.

He said Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday.

The Star's editorial writer credits the Europeans, who have spent years putting off Turkish membership talks, for quiet stubbornness in the guise of pushing "reform."

Luckily the Turkish government—Turkey's Islamist government—credits the U.S. for quietly siding with Ankara for just as long.

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