The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Turkey: The Madness of King Jacques

The last European leader to go ga-ga over the Turks was Kaiser Wilhelm II - and one can, in the abstract [1] see the attraction. The Ottoman Empire was indeed a dagger (a sharpish stick of celery, then) pointed at the heart of the British Empire.

But Jacques Chirac's mania about the place? I've not looked into the issue from the fond hope that the lunacy will not happen.

The French public, for instance, hate the idea: in a Figaro poll, fully 67% oppose Turkish entry into the EU:
39% d'entre eux expliquent ce refus par le fait que «les droits de l'homme n'y sont toujours pas respectés» et 34% parce qu'il «y a trop de différences religieuses et culturelles».
54% des sondés sont favorables à l'ouverture des négociations d'adhésion.

The French, being natural diplomats, know the benefit of playing for time!

Even his minions in Jean-Pierre Raffarin's government are happy to call Chirac completely barking - albeit by implication:
«Ceux qui prétendent que la Turquie va inévitablement, dès demain matin, entrer dans l'Union, mentent», a ainsi déclaré le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Michel Barnier, lundi dans le quotidien Le Parisien.

The first round of the next presidential elections are in April 2007, which Chirac needs to win to preserve his presidential immunity from criminal prosecution; before then, there will be a vote on the EU Constitution.

With Stanley Holloway's little bit of luck, his colleagues may succeed in persuading him to dump his Turkish fantasy - can you say Berlin to Baghdad Railway? - in favour of a bit of party unity and a highly self-serving renewed mandate.

Napoleon, of course, had fantasies about Egypt; but, then, like Jimmy Durante's Uncle Louie, he was mad!

(Disappointingly, a cursory search lets Bonaparte off the hook. But we haven't had Uncle Louie for ages...)

Bottom line: Turkey is Asiatic, the European Union is - European. The promise of entry negotiations to the Turks in the early 1960s was made to a glorified banana republic at a time when the Cold War was in a period of some frigidity: the pols who made the offer could not remotely have expected European leaders would have to make good on it in their grandchildren's lifetime.

Precisely the sort of rash promise that diplomats are paid to find elegant ways of wriggling out of.

Fortunately, we have a back-stop: it wasn't long ago that the Mitterrand-Kohl axis thought in terms of dicatorship. Where matters had to be put to the vote in a referendum in various states, recalcitrant electorates would just have to vote and vote again until they gave the right answer.

Now both Denmark and Sweden have flipped the bird to their goverments over the Euro, and Blair has been far too frit to test the question in Britain, there's some reason to hope that common sense on the Turkish question will be supplied, if need be, by the EU's voters.

Of course, a series of vociferous interventions from Dubya and Aunt Jemima would go down a treat...

  1. It's not a period I've ever studied.

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