July 29, 2010
Recently, I had to answer this question and many others, such as is Islam the main obstacle for Turkey’s EU bid, in front of a Turkish audience in this beautiful country. Happily enough, I am a journalist, so I don’t need to be diplomatic.
I started by saying that my country Bulgaria had the same hesitations about the real intentions of the EU a few years ago. Bulgarians and Romanians are predominantly Orthodox Christians, and we had an impression the some countries in the EU draw a barrier where the (Catholic) border of the Austro-Hungarian empire used to be, leaving out Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania. This impression proved to be wrong.
As to the EU being more and more demanding with every new enlargement, my country experienced that as well, as it was forced to close four nuclear reactors, of a type that is still exploited in Finland.
Regarding Turkey, the Cyprus problem appears to be a major stumbling block (I could compare it to our nuclear reactors). Besides, it would not be realistic to imagine Turkey joining a Union of which it does not recognise one of the members. But if Turkey helps the divided island to reunify, then it would be easier to answer if yes or no, some countries are just looking for an excuse to keep Turkey out.
As the Turkish audience considered that the Union had been very forthcoming with Bulgaria and Romania, I said that those two countries were so weak, that without EU membership they would have been bankrupt by now. The decision to take on board Bulgaria and Romania before they were ready to join however was a political gesture and an exception which I don’t expect will be repeated anytime soon.
As to Turkey, instead of its politicians and population constantly being focused on the EU accession pace, the best advise I could offer was that all efforts should instead be concentrated of making the economy and the society strong and successful, to the benefit of the citizens. A successful Turkey would not beg to join, it would be be kindly asked to integrate the Union.
I was also asked what should Turkey do to change the prevailing negative attitude of public opinion in the EU as a whole regarding its accession. I said: make sure more tourists from the EU visit Turkey. I am sure that a survey among those who have seen the country with their very eyes would be overwhelmingly positive.Georgi Gotev