Sarkozy’s visit

BY BERIL DEDEOGLU

TODAY’S ZAMAN - French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s stop in Turkey had some very important outcomes. First, everyone saw once again that leaders’ official explanations on the meanings of their visits are insignificant. Sarkozy repeated a thousand times that he didn’t make this call as the French president; but neither Turkey, nor any other country in the world, saw it from that perspective. In other words, we saw once more that perception is always more important than declaration.

The style and duration of his visit were intended to show that France doesn’t care much about Turkey. Maybe for Sarkozy Turkey is unimportant, but in a troubled time for the Middle East and while the EU is struggling with several crises, it is very unrealistic to treat Turkey like an island country lost in the Pacific Ocean. The reason for this attitude is not that Turkey’s international or regional position and importance have changed, but that the president of a country like France has big problems analyzing world events.

We have to remember that Sarkozy doesn’t deny the importance of the Turkish-French bilateral relationship, but he claims that Turkey is not worthy of becoming an EU member. He doesn’t deny that the French-Turkish relationship should be developed; he says French investments in Turkey should increase and that their cooperation in defense should be deepened, but he also adds that all this should be done without granting Turkey EU membership. In exchange, his Turkish counterparts persistently ask him one question that remains unanswered: Why would Turkey want to build closer ties with France while the latter blocks Turkey’s path to the EU?

Yet, Sarkozy’s short trip to Ankara made the EU a popular subject among the Turkish public after a long break. Maybe it was the last thing Sarkozy would like, but it’s true that people automatically think about Turkey’s accession process when they hear Sarkozy’s name. Thanks to this visit, Turks have resumed discussing Turkey’s achievements and deficiencies in the EU process, along with the EU’s ambiguous attitude toward their country. Sarkozy didn’t criticize the fact that reforms in Turkey are slowing down because he’s perfectly OK with that. However, many in Turkey engaged in self-criticism, and maybe for the first time we said, “We have much more to do,” while an EU leader said, “Stay as you are.”

During this six-hour visit, the French president insinuated that Turkey is good enough for the Middle East, but this isn’t what Turkey needs. Your expectations from your own country are sometimes higher than others’ perceptions of you. Most people in this country believe that they deserve the standard of living that exists in the EU countries. These people are also perfectly aware why they are not wanted in the EU. That’s why they feel that their perception of the developments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya differ radically from the comments made in the EU. Perhaps these conflicting perceptions are the very reason for what’s going on in the world.

As one who has always believed that France should be the greatest supporter of Turkey’s accession to the EU, I never understood why France adopted the exact opposite policy. Every enlargement wave of the EU has helped one old member to reinforce its position within the EU, and Turkey was France’s global chance. We should thank the French president because he caused us to discuss the EU issue. Nonetheless, if France doesn’t change its parameters, it will not only lose Turkey but many others, too, and unfortunately that is not good news for the global equilibrium.

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