Exciting times ahead

TURKEY has been trying to join the EU for years. It is a full member of every major Europe-wide institution – except the European Union. This Christmas, it was finally given the go-ahead to join. The European Parliament voted ‘Yes’ by a large majority – heads of government immediately followed suit. But not everyone thinks this is a good idea.

The Germans are worried that Turkey will become the largest Member State – a position the Germans want to keep for themselves. The French are worried that, including a country as different as Turkey would undermine the concept of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ Europe – and I hope they are right. The British are worried about yet more immigration – and wonder what it is all going to cost. Nobody officially admits that a major fear is the entry of a large Muslim country into what has been a white Christian club.

Certainly, Turkey is extremely poor and would require major financial support. In fact, it would break the EU bank unless the rules were changed. That would be a major benefit of Turkish membership: the rules would definitely have to change. It is a fact that Turkey is an Islamic State, but EU entry should show that our different cultures can live and thrive together. In many countries, they already do.

The inclusion of Turkey as a full EU Member could finally return unity to Cyprus. The people want to unite, but the politicians cannot lose face. When Turkey joins Greece inside the European Union, the people’s will should prevail. But, above all, Europe needs Turkey as a stable, secular and democratic partner to tackle the many challenges of the East. Its geographic position alone is of vital strategic importance, having borders with Syria, Iraq and Iran. In turn, Turkey needs Europe to underpin its drive to become a modern country anchored to the West.

The prospect of EU membership has already changed Turkey significantly in recent years. It has brought in new laws to protect liberty, democracy, freedom of the press and human rights. There are many more changes to come, but the exciting prospects for change should be within Europe itself.

Turkey’s entry could dilute the powers of Germany and France, force a radical overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy in particular and the EU budget in general, create new job opportunities, as the single market expands, and stimulate the values of secular democracy as an example for other Muslim States.

Meanwhile, Croatia has also been given the green light to join, Romania has surprisingly elected a pro-EU government and Ukraine has had its first free democratic election with a pro-Western President installed. It has been a good Christmas, not just for Turkey.

Every good wish,

Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP