Tag Archive: European Union


ECAS PRESS RELEASE:

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ECAS Launches Hot Line for EU Citizens in Limbo

 

in the European Year of Citizens

  

 

On 10th of January 2013, the official opening day of the European year of citizens, ECAS is launching a Hotline as part of its EU Rights Clinic to overcome the visible and hidden barriers to European citizenship.

 

“20 years since Union citizenship was created with the Maastricht Treaty, awareness of rights is increasing in Europe while respect for them is deteriorating”, said Tony Venables, Director of the European Citizen Action Service.

 

The EU Rights Clinic set up by ECAS and the University of Kent in Brussels[1] will collect evidence about problematic cases, particularly in the areas of:

 

  • Barriers to the Free Movement of Young Job Seekers and Students. How difficult is it becoming for young job seekers, trainees or volunteers to move around Europe in time of economic crisis and high unemployment? The recent funding crisis over Erasmus further illustrates these difficulties.
  • Entry and Residence in the EU. How easy is it for family members or partners of EU citizens to share the same European rights to move in the EU? Problems of acquiring visas and rights to family reunion are the most frequently mentioned infringements of EU law across Member States.[2] The visible EU tensions over Schengen may be manifestations of a deeper malaise.
  • Social Security across Borders. There is real friction between European rights and pressures on national governments to combat so-called “benefit tourists”.  With citizens losing their social entitlements in their country of origin when they move across borders, but without them acquiring social rights in their country of destination, are we seeing increasing numbers of European citizens – particularly those on lower incomes – being left in limbo?

 

Citizens throughout the EU will be able to call the hotline (+32 (2) 548 04 94) or send an e-mail ( rightsclinic@ecas.org), fill in the on-line form or Skype (rights.clinic01; rights.clinic02; rights.clinic03) in order to share their personal stories, seek help and thus contribute to improvements in European policy and legislation[3].

 

The EU Rights Clinic will encourage the grouping together of complaints and requests in order to achieve greater impact and success in enforcing European rights. Cases which require solution at a national level will be handled in collaboration with our respective national partners – for example the Kent Law Clinic and the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) in the UK, the Migrants’ Information and Support Network (GISTI) in France, Accem in Spain, the Union of Citizens Advice Bureaux in Poland and the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux in Romania. Over time, a network of rights’ advisers spanning all the member states will be created to expand the reach of the EU Rights Clinic and to contribute to closing the gap between the fine principles of EU law and their implementation in practice.

 

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Below is a link courtesy of Public Service Europe-detailing a typical working week in the life of Assya Kavrakova, the Programme Manager running the European Citizen’s House project:

http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/2999/seven-days-a-week-in-the-life-of-assya-kavrakova

For anyone interested in finding out about the House itself or the person who drives the project, it’s a commendable read!

Ever the student of Irony, I thought I’d follow up a post generally advocating an eastern grouping opposing a western grouping in the Council with talking about the need for exactly this type of division to be eradicated.  The reason why what I talked about in my previous post is necessary is because the dominance of two nations over all the rest is not healthy for anyone (apart from the two nations involved).  It is not so necessary that the challenge comes from the east, but it seems as if that is the most likely place for it to come. What is more, the EU is still very divided in exactly this sense and while everyone must work to fight this, in the mean time the smaller and newer member states need to pool together their votes and influence so as not to be overran by the older and bigger members.  However this kind of confrontation will not be necessary if the East/West gap is sufficiently addressed.

The overreaching issue in EU politics at the moment is that for all the fanfare of “United in Diversity” (in which I am a complete believer btw) the reality is different. The cracks in the EU structure are legion and they are centuries old. The English mistrust the French, The French mistrust the Germans, the Germans think they are better than everyone, Everyone thinks the Italians and Greeks are lazy and everyone in the west despises and fears the states from the East. This is just a sweeping generalisation of the type of divisions, bigotries and prejudice which still haunts the EU. None is greater however than the East/West divide as it is most recent and most raw.  In the Eastern Block the older generations have spent their entire lives being indoctrinated into dismissing western society as consumerist, exploitative and broken. This kind of thing doesn’t just go away. In the west, we are still being indoctrinated whenever the subject of communism comes up with a lot of garbage which leads everyone to view Eastern Block states as stuck in the middle ages.  Both of these schools of thought must be eradicated if we are to build a cohesive European society. The way to do that is, of course, through better education.

Since the fall of Communism, eastern block countries have lifted the veil of ignorance and the younger generation has become very open to western ways of thinking and living. In fact,  perhaps they have become too open to the point of eroding their own national identity. For the purpose of this discussion however, this is a good thing. Young people in the Eastern parts of the EU are being taught comprehensive world history, as well as western ideas and ideals. One thing which can be said of Communism is that at least outside of the involvement of the Communist party they did allow the teaching of a holistic view of world history which churned out citizens who were not ignorant of the World in this sense.

The same cannot be said of the west. I can only speak of the education system in the UK,  where I studied. However, judging from attitudes displayed by politicians and low-middle level western technocrats I have encountered, prejudice is still endemic. The enemy of prejudice is of course knowledge. In many ways, while I get frustrated at what I see it is hard to blame people who don’t know any better. As Jesus said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do”. This is true in very many cases. As an example, the UK education system is woeful when it comes to teaching History. As far as the UK History curriculum is concerned, children need only be aware of the the events which involve England in one way or another-they even only learn of the Roman Empire in the small way it affects them (which leads to an inflated sense of importance of the events occurring in the Britain at that time, which were by comparison inconsequential).  It is no wander that this produces students with unshakable national confidence and extremely questionable general knowledge. This is a thread that runs uninterrupted-The Middle ages, Renaissance, the entire history of Europe is taught in England (and I believe elsewhere in Western Europe) as if Europe begins and ends with the West. Almost no mention is made of anything happening further east than Hungary, with the occasional mentions of Poland and Byzantium (usually when they somehow relate to the West).

This is, quite clearly a farce.

Anyone who has spent even a small modicum of time studying the history of our continent should be able to see that reality is much different. Let’s start with the most glaring example. The Byzantine Empire was culturally, economically, politically, militarily greater than any state in Western Europe until perhaps the colonial era. Yet it attracts so few mentions. Any telling of the story of Europe should accord at least as much time to the Byzantine Empire as to any other state and in fairness probably double that of most.  Secondly, and this is a subject of particular importance to me since I am Bulgarian, is the omission of my country from medieval and pre-medieval history.  This is a glaring hole in any textbook, rivalling the hole left by the scant discussion of Byzantium.  It is a historical truth that between the 7th and 14th centuries the two most developed nations in Europe were Byzantium and Bulgaria. This is true of Byzantium even before the 7th century (the situation only ended because both states were occupied by the Ottoman Turks). This is the case for the following reasons. Unlike western states which were feudal in nature, both Bulgaria and Byzantium were much more centralised and were arranged a lot more like a modern state. They had therefore, more developed political systems which also lead to superior quality of life and cultural achievements. Furthermore both states exercised control over the Church and not vice versa, which stopped the period known in the west as “the dark ages” from ever happening in the east. It is during this time that the Cyrillic alphabet was invented in the First Bulgarian Empire and disseminated to the Slavic world.  How many western nations can claim such cultural achievement? The two Eastern empires were also more powerful. A few examples to that effect. The battle of Tours is famous for stopping Islamic conquest of Europe, but again it is instructive that this was conquest of Western Europe. Only 20 odd years previous was the Siege of Constantinople which led to a battle between Byzantium and Bulgaria on one side and the Umayyad Caliphate on the other. The forces engaged in that battle were much greater than at Tours and the blow dealt to the Caliphate was consequently much more serious in  military terms. Yet it is almost never mentioned.  Another example is the battle of Adrianople, between Bulgaria and the Latin Empire which was a crusader kingdom temporarily usurping Byzantium and conveying western power in the east.  The battle was more akin to a slaughter, with the Latin Empire’s forces being dwarfed to the extent that Tsar Kaloyan’s army was described as innumerable by one chronicler.  This was a vivid example of the disparity between East and West at that time, only in favour of the East.

Yet, it is as if these things never happened. Of course, dig in encyclopaedias long enough and you will find these facts there, but who does? The fact is that it is easy and natural for western pupils to grow up believing people in the east are next to savages if they have not been properly educated in what is, after all, the truth.  It is not until we tackle this limited representation of history that we can start bridging the gaps in our collective, European community. I raised this point at a conference/event at the European Parliament this year (an event on tackling prejudice organised by Romanian MEPs I believe) and got some encouraging replies from the panel. Apparently work is being done on a common, European History book which should take accurate account of the history of Europe rather than the rather skewed version being currently taught. Hopefully, the project endures and does not fall victim to rampant austerity, because this project is crucial. Until we educate each other or one another’s achievements it is impossible to breed the requisite level of mutual respect which will allow the EU to function properly, rather than having populist politicians constantly falling pray to the prejudices of their voters and having to kowtow to them, since it is far too late to educate those masses.  I can speak with certainty only of my corner of the Eastern block, but I am certain that much of the achievements and history of other Eastern block states are also routinely overlooked in the same manner. This is simply unsustainable.

While the biggest problem is in the West, there is also an issue in the East. Even though the new generation is open to new, western ideas in theory, their application in practice is proving difficult. Concepts such as the Rule of Law, transparent democracy, fighting corruption are struggling to take hold. Furthermore, disillusioned by decades of communism, Eastern Bloc citizens do not see the value in civil participation and voting for example. Voter apathy is a serious problem and re-enforces the problems with corruption etc..  A lot needs to be done by right thinking politicians and by active citizens to challenge the status quo and actually absorb the beneficial experiences of western nations of which they are rightly so proud.  Both East and West then, have serious tasks ahead of them. If both are achieved we may begin to see less a distinction made between western states and eastern states and more (if distinctions must be made) between states based on their individual merits or failings. Roughly then, we could really start talking about “Europe” as if it were a united thing.

This article will be the first part of a body of work which I will write in the aim of formulating a coherent set of internal and foreign policies and ideas which will perhaps allow the EU to overcome its current troubles and prosper for the future. I am not labouring under the delusion that policymakers will read this blog and will implement my suggestions-this is written for my own benefit and if someone who has influence in these things should come upon it and think there are good ideas than so much the better.

Right now the EU is in deep crisis. The world is not doing too hot generally, but it seems that Europe is the worst hit (of course ignoring the absurd levels of debt that the USA is actually in). The Union, as an institution which is incredibly complex is also facing complex problems. While I clearly don’t hold all, if any, of the answers, at least to me some things are self evident.

The first step in tackling any problem in the political arena requires strong leadership. Unfortunately, the EU is by definition diametrically opposed to the notion of leadership in the national sense.  Such a figure would be instantly opposed by almost all involved. The alternative therefore is to fix the system of leadership which we do have currently as it appears to be deficient in several ways. Running something through a council is ineffective at the best of times but it is necessary when considered in the context of Europe’s ultra violent and divided past. But answer this one question-how is a system designed to be fair and provide decisions which everyone is at least partially happy with supposed to endure when the decision process is so skewed in favour of certain Member States? How long are the rest supposed to go along with this? The system seems to have gotten along fine for a long time, but when the chips are down, no one likes having their fate out of their own hands (and nor should that be the case), which is why the time is finally ripe to challenge Franco-German dominance of the EU.

The logic goes that France and Germany are the biggest contributors into the common pot and therefore should have the most say-this isn’t obviously institutionalised or often verbalised, however this is the thought process which prevents other heads of state from consistently challenging France and Germany over common policy proposals. Naturally, France and Germany don’t always agree and they don’t always get their own way in the Council, especially on highly emotive issues. However they do have a definite degree of dominance over other member states, even other net contributors such as the UK and the Netherlands. There is a degree of fairness to the chief contributors getting slightly more of a say, however the level of disparity is not appropriate. Lets not forget that the Council is far from being the only place where this dominance is expressed-a quick look at the top appointments in the Commission and other institutions will also demonstrate how disproportionate the situation is. Clearly, this cannot continue in the current situation-when times are hard people are a lot less likely to accept being ordered around by a ruling clique. The fact that France and Germany consistently get together to hammer out a common position before summits, with the expectation generally being that whatever they decided will then be adopted (subject to cosmetic changes after they have finishing throwing the occasional bone to Italy, the Netherlands or Spain) is both insulting to the rest of the EU 27 and makes a mockery of the EU decision process. Being the EU’s sugar daddy (especially Germany) surely affords you some perks but should it effectively lead to Europe surrendering itself to France and Germany on a platter. (The irony in Germany’s case of course being that they so recently fought such a bloody war to conquer Europe-they need not have bothered-their cheque book would have done instead).

It is heartening therefore to see something like the Visegrad group emerge. It is good that a large and strong block of member states have appeared who have the capability (if not always the need or desire) to oppose the Franco-German position on key issues. Visegrad is not quite as strong, but it is a start. I read a piece in Stratfor recently which suggested that Bulgaria and Romania should join the Visegrad Group and I for one think that is a sound idea. That will strengthen the bloc enough to ensure that France and Germany cannot steamroll over the council and will provide wavering Member States another strong grouping with which to side if they do not agree with what is being proposed.  There are two big problems with such a state of events. Firstly, a face off between France and Germany on the one side and Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary (+ Possibly Bulgaria and Romania) will rekindle the old East vs West divide. Furthermore it could lead to a constant stalemate in the council which would cripple EU decision making. This could of course be avoided if the politicians involved act in good faith and do so intelligently. However if we could trust them to do that, then we would not be where we are now in more ways than one.  To a large extent the problem with France and Germany dictating policy is that they often do not do so in good faith. Overtly, the idea is always for the benefit of the Union however it is a very naive soul who believes for a second that their individual leaders are not constantly trying to make it so their nations benefit the most. The council is not a place where the common interest takes precedence and that is why we need the Commission. How then are we to believe that any member state could be trusted to make a decision in the common interest? For my part I see that as nonsense. In order to avoid the need for Cold War mk2 in the EU council every member state must be more willing to be robust in the face of Franco-German domination. That won’t be easy, but it must become the norm. Personally I don’t think they hold that much over the rest of the EU 27 as seems to be the common fear. By that I mean, that the relationship is symbiotic. The net payers contribute the vast part of the EU budget and in return get disproportionate representation across the institutions. However, a look at the relative in/out stats for the EU 27 shows that France and Germany’s position is not that unique. While they are the two biggest contributors the difference between them and say Italy in the UK is not vast. While they provide the biggest net amount into the budget when you factor in the money they get back, they are not the most hard done by per capita-those would be the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. Should those states also not have a similar say? Moreover since their situation is such, why are they not pushing the status quo harder?

The UK’s case is unique, in the sense that it is the politically strongest member state outside of France and Germany but most “wins” it gets revolve around trying to extricate itself from the day to day life in the Union and from its obligations. Therefore, the UK, which could have been a leader of the EU and a major counterweight to the “Dictat” has instead made itself into a political non-event through its own Euro-skepticism. The way which the UK treats its EU partners means that it could never become a leader in the Union-you cannot lead those who widely despise you. A major PR drive (as well as tackling Euro-skepticism at home) is necessary if the UK is to assume a role in the EU which would benefit both it and the Union as a whole. The other closest possible rival is Italy, who however has genuinely been in agreement with the policies emanating from Paris and Berlin-or at least Silvio Berlusconi has (the two not being quite anonymous). Once he finally, mercifully, goes it may be another story and we may have a genuinely powerful member state with the appetite to have more of a say long term (provided that their economy doesn’t collapse in the mean time).

The reason this is such an issue is that we must get our political process in order before we can successfully deal with our financial problems.  In fact our political situation is possibly one of the major roadblocks to fixing the crisis. It should by now be obvious that the approach of brutal austerity and vast bail outs is not working. This is the stance taken by France and Germany and they seem unable or unwilling to consider another approach. The main strength of the EU is its many “heads”-at this stage we should use them all and come up with a better solution than the one being peddled by Paris and Berlin-they have hijacked the EU’s decision making process for too long and what is more, their solutions aren’t helping. The latest, Tobin tax idea is actually quite good but that can’t make up for everything else. Simply put we need all hands on deck to tackle the problems we have and that means Member States need to step up and bring France and Germany down to Earth one way or another.

I was moved to write on the Cyprus issue again by this article:

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-252815-turkey-warns-greek-cyprus-against-hydrocarbon-drill.html

However, this has I think moved beyond an issue about the island itself or even Turkey’s potential EU membership (my views on this are well enough documented on this blog). This is now an issue about how the EU deals with its neighbours . Considering the size of Cyprus, it seems that many people casually forget that they are a fully fledged EU member state-in other words an integral part of one whole-the EU.  What you essentially have here is an EU member state deciding to start a commercial exploration in its own waters and Turkey feels that it has a right to an opinion, and what is more a right to issue threats. The basis of their delusion is understandable, since they somehow think that the presence of Turkish Cypriots anywhere on the island of Cyprus entitles them to a say in the business of Greek Cyprus.

While indeed, the Cyprus situation is more complicated than is usual, it still is an indictment of EU foreign policy that Turkey feels strong enough relative to the Union to take up such an outrageous and belligerent stance.  The issue at this stage is that Turkish side has began to forget itself and it is high time they are reminded that the political, economic and military disparity between them and the EU as a combined force is similar to the disparity between Turkey and Cyprus. It is poor form indeed from the Union leadership to continue to allow Turkey to bully one of its member states purely because they see economic benefit in appeasing Turkey. The reality of the situation is that while Turkey is a strong trading partner, commerce works both ways. Turkey cannot “withhold trade”  without considerably harming its own economy and any concerns to that effect are misguided. Furthermore, while Turkey has so far been a key moderate ally in the region, it is moving more towards the Islamic side of its political spectrum (especially after the en bloc army resignations) and therefore Europe must be weary of assuming that Turkey will be a long term partner. Ideally, that trend will reverse and positive relations continue, however one must not blindly make plans without considering the political situation in the country as well as their historic aspirations. Turkish foreign policy in Cyprus smacks of imperialism and individual politicians in Turkey have on several occasions expressed views that it is Turkey’s right to interfere in the internal politics of countries which host Turkish minorities (presumably only smaller countries since I have not seen them work up the stones to aggravate Germany).

Simply put, it is time for the EU to reassess the way it does business with Turkey and neighbours generally. EU foreign policy is a mess, which is not helped by the ineptitude of its High Representative. In the Cyprus issue specifically, the best way to deal with the long term situation is to put serious effort into resolving the long term problems between Greek and Turkish Cyprus. However, this cannot be done before the EU begins to act like the Superpower it can be and starts applying real pressure on Turkey on this and other issues. It is high time policymakers in Brussels realised that Ankara is not Moscow-there is nothing to fear and until they realise this Turkey will walk all over them and Cyprus.

If you are someone who believes in Europe, maybe the most annoying thing you ever have to deal with is foaming at the mouth Euro-sceptics.  I read recently in another blog a very good characterisation of the three main ways one can interact with the concept of Europe.

The First is to be a Europhile – one who is a rampant federalist and furthermore feels that the EU is fine and dandy as it is right now.  I am not one of those.

The second is to be that creature most foul, the rabid Euro-sceptic who hides delusions of grandeur and xenophobia behind the facade of concern for democracy. That is not to say that there are not serious and legitimate concerns about the EU’s democratic credentials-it is only to point out that the motivations of Euro-sceptics merely use these concerns as a pretext.

The third way to interact with Europe is to be a Reformist.  That is to say, one who recognises the many deficiencies within the EU, but also one who believes in the potential of the Union and furthermore believes that Europe is a better place united. Such a person would engage with the problem and work to create the Europe that the sceptics claim they would like to see.

I can understand national pride-as someone in possession of preposterous amounts of it I can empathise with anyone who dislikes the notion of Brussels dictating policy to their National Governments. Which is why I am also not a full on federalist-I would like to see the EU take on the character of a state with its own military and singular president but not to the exclusion of those things existing at the National Level and outside of Brussels control.

To see Brussels as a dictating power is to comprehensively misunderstand the way the EU works-which is not surprising in the case of people who spend their time raving about how the EU controls the shape of cucumbers.  The Union and its legislative process is based on consensus. It involves MEPs, Commissioners, Ministers and Heads of State of all member states working together and largely trashing out a consensus which is acceptable to all. In this way, all Member States benefit and move forward.  The harsh reality of the world is that with the rise of China, India and Brazil as well as a resurgent Russia (not to mention established economic powers such as Japan and the USA) individual EU member states cannot compete on their own. If one is concerned with what is best for their nation then they should also be concerned with making the EU a stronger world power as that is the best way to advance our collective interests. No, the UK cannot compete with other world powers on its own anymore. Neither can France, not even Germany.

There is a long list of things that need to change in the EU-a clamp down on lobbying, increasing transparency in the institutions, combating corruption in Parliament, the Commission and other institutions, reducing the EU’s Byzantine levels of bureaucracy. These things can only change through positive engagement. The approach of the Conservative party, much like the approach of all Euro-sceptics is to shout and scoff from the sidelines-offering nothing of worth to the process but still demanding to be heard. For example, the Tories decision to join the CSR-a group of alleged xenophobes and racists – has turned them into a politically irrelevant rabble within the EU.  As someone who holds the Conservative party in extremely low regard, I see that as their natural place, however as a Democrat I feel that they are betraying their supporters by letting their emotions cloud their judgement and allowing themselves to be taken out of the political process in Europe almost completely.

By way of explanation, the European Parliament operates on a party system, not a national system. The main “parties” are the EPP (think moderate Conservatives), S&P (think SocDems or Labour) and ALDE (Think LibDems- but a lot more influential). The Tory MEPs however are in the European CSR group which are the  European version of UKIP and the BNP’s unholy lovechild.  They are paid about as much attention too.

To partisan minds, the very concept of political compromise is a sacrilege. This fundamentalist and simplistic viewpoint is dangerous and hopefully on its way out in Britain. The logic among much of the electorate seems to be that it doesn’t matter if you elect a bad government, as long as it’s a strong bad government.  At the risk of sounding like Nick Clegg, that is not a grown up way to do politics. It is also not the way to advance national interests or to tackle the legitimate issues with the EU.  Lifting the proverbial drawbridge and rowing Britain towards the US will serve no purpose-not only is the US a waning power but they bring the UK little tangible benefit besides that of nostalgia and are likely to cut Britain adrift the second it serves their national interest.

Rabid Euro-scepticism is pointless – Euro-reformism is the way forward for anyone who wants to improve the EU or to improve their nation’s fortunes in the long-term. The difference between the two is coincidentally much like the difference between being a mere politician or being a statesman. One is interested in cheap political point scoring and the other in getting things done for the benefit of the people-guess which one is which 😉

This post will (or might) sound like a giant truism, however maybe if enough people point out one of the EU’s main problems…someone will one day listen?

In terms of cumulative economic power, the EU is technically ahead of the US. It is the world’s biggest market, everyone’s favourite trading partner, the biggest donator of aid and has the most votes in most Intergovernmental organisations such as the WTO and UN security council since it is represented individually by its member states. And yet, all this potential does not translate into the EU dictating policy on the world stage or into it being a veritable superpower. Much though EU leaders may deny that they desire this, it is very naive to believe them or indeed to believe that this is not what is necessary. Divided European Nations can no longer call the shots on the world stage. Together, its a whole different ball game.

The biggest obstacle to the EU moving forward in this sense is that it has taken the shape of a bureaucratic Hydra with each head saying a different thing at different times and no communication in between. Post Lisbon, we have the absurd situation of the EU’s “voice” being represented by the President of the Council, President of the Commission, the High representative (or at least it would be, were Ashton doing her job) and vociferous Member State leaders (eg Sarkozy). Lets not forget that Parliament has a President too and he likes to pitch in here and there.

Clearly, Euro-skeptics abhor the notion of the EU acting as one, so they can look away now. If the EU is to be taken seriously, it needs a singular and coherent response to serious world events. This can be achieved by taking several much needed steps:

1. Firstly, there needs to be only one person with the title of “President” of the EU. While I have nothing against Van Rompuy, his position is entirely unnecessary. His functions should be given over to the President of the Commission who could quite reasonably be expected to chair Council meetings successfully. If we ever get to the position of having the Commission President be directly elected then that would lend some more democratic legitimacy to the whole system.

2. Following from point 1, the President and High Representative need to work out a way not to step on each other’s toes by following the example of how this is done at state level-the Foreign Minister (read High Rep) can respond first to ensure a timely intervention but the main, consolidated position will be laid out by the President. That way it will be clear who one should “dial when calling Europe”.

3. Individual Member State leaders should stop trying to make their policy sound like the official EU position. This has mostly been a problem since Sarkozy appeared on the scene and hopefully the problem will vanish if he is (hopefully) booted out of office in France.

If steps are taken in these directions, one can only hope that we will avoid a repeat of the EU’s shambolic response to the Middle East revolutions.

The more troublesome side effect of this Super-National level split personality disorder that the Union is suffering from is that not only do the EU’s different leaders present and disorganized front, but they are all pushing in different directions internally.  The Council President is the most neutral and so possibly the least damaging influence-though through doing nothing wrong he’s arguably causing greater harm as he should be using his position to reign in the excesses of clowns like Sarkozy who are exclusively interested in posturing in order to get re-elected.  It is of crucial importance for all of Europe that these issues are sorted out as soon as possible.

And here comes the rebuttal. My reasons for opposing Turkish membership of the EU are many-some are personal, some are general. Some emotional, some completely logical.

The first issue is practical and while it may attract accusations of prejudice I urge you to think and then jump to conclusions. The European Union is an agglomeration of European States-this much we all know. Over the centuries these states have beet at war with each other and have had (and arguably still have) bitter differences over certain issues. Yet, they come together almost seamlessly as one. How is this possible? The reason lies in the fact that as different we may be from each other, we are a lot more alike in Europe than we are different. We share joined histories, culture, religion, often habits, traditions and even many of our languages have a common root. Whether the reader would like to admit it or not, Turkey shares none of these with its European neighbours. Of what history it shares, it is almost exclusively in the form of conquest or attempts at conquest.  I will not allow this to boil down to an issue of religion (even though that invariably plays its part) as what I am seeking to establish is much further reaching than that.

What makes Europe one-a coherent body  is precisely this bond of familiarity which runs through the very fiber of European culture-a thing not shared by Turkey. To be certain, Turkey has a fascinating and rich culture of its own-but it is radically different to ours. There is nothing wrong with being different, however introducing a culture so radically different into the EU will undermine the EU’s common European voice and spirit. It would be no small introduction either-with Turkey’s population they would instantly become one of the strongest voices in Parliament, while their economic and military strength would give them similar influence in the Council. This would be like no other accession-much more similar to a hostile take over. Even though I do not feel Turkey bears any current hostility to the EU, their presence itself would corrode the EU, through no fault of their own. Considering expansion has to stop somewhere, why should the EU absorb a state which is much more similar to the Middle East than it is to Europe? Because it controls a sliver of land in Europe? A lot of important things are at stake, things not to be sacrificed at the altar of Political Correctness.

The second issue is Cyprus. A brief explanation of the facts is necessary for the uninitiated. Currently Turkey occupies a part of the sovereign nation of Cyprus, which is an EU member state-the are occupied is also known as the unrecognized “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. That the TRNC is not a recognized state is a fact, the reason for its illegal status being the manner of its creation. To cut a long story short, due to international law agreements between Greece, The British Empire and Turkey at the time of Cypriot independence, Turkey had the right to bring troops into Cyprus to maintain the conditions for Turkish Cypriots agreed at the time of Independence. During an incident, Turkey exercised that right. Their troops are yet to leave. To be certain, they have no right to be there, nor do they have the right to create a state within the borders of the republic of Cyprus, which is why the TRNC remains illegal and unrecognised. This much is legal fact and beyond contestation, much though the Turkish side still insists on disputing it. Therefore, the present situation is that Turkey illegally remains in military occupation of an EU member state.  To even contemplate allowing Turkish membership while this remains the case defies all common sense and logic. In fact, was the EU leadership not so spineless, they should have applied their collective political and military power to evict Turkey from Cyprus a long time ago, if nothing else as a pre-requisite for starting accession talks.

The final reason for opposing Turkish membership is tied into the previous and it is also influenced by personal emotion, though that should not detract all its worth, since I feel it raises a valid point-the emotion borne purely of Bulgaria’s historic experience with Turkey which most EU member states could not claim to have had. Throughout it’s history, Turkey has yet to show that it deserves to join the European bloc on the grounds of both foreign policy and morality. Not to say that EU member states are not responsible for horrific atrocities-they are. However in Turkey’s case, their repeated aggression and atrocities have been targeted at Europe itself and it is disingenuous to disregard this while considering the issue of accession. It is a historical fact that Turkey (as the Ottoman Empire) has spent the larger part of its history either occupying or attempting to occupy European states.  In fact it would not be wholly unfair to say that, business arrangements with France and Britain notwithstanding, the vast majority of interaction Turkey has had with Europe prior to WWI has been through the sights of a rifle or at the tip of a sword. That current financial convenience dictates it would be better for Turkey to join, does not mean that all this should be ignored. People seldom change, countries even less so. Given the warlike nature of European states, this could perhaps have been overlooked (if one was so minded) had it not been accompanied by atrocities carried out against European member states-most notably Greece and Bulgaria.

To be fair, were we considering German accession afresh, I would have sounded a similar caution after WWII-however it is worth noting that while Turkish crimes have not reached the sheer insanity of Nazi Germany, their horrors have come steadily through the centuries, showing not a moment of madness but rather a steady attitude of contempt for decency when foreign nations are concerned. What is more of a worry is that this attitude persists today, evidenced by Turkish treatment of the Kurds, the Armenian genocide ( for which in fact, the word was invented), as well as their attitude to the Cyprus situation. It is my view that Turkey is yet to show that it has truly moved on from its dark past and until it does, it does not belong inside the EU.

I have chosen to separate this into parts for clarity, so do not despair reader-it might not end up being that long!

The issue of Turkey’s future/possible EU membership has been a matter of interest for me for a long time. Before I delve in it would be best to come clean-as I am Bulgarian I am by no means impartial here. I also have quite a few Greek Cypriot friends which doesn’t help either.  I should also admit that presently my mind is made up-instead of discussing pro’s and cons out loud I will seek to explain in writing my opposition to Turkish EU membership, not in the least so that I may refer others to this post instead of having to explain it every time 😉

First, I will note that I see the many and serious benefits to the EU of Turkey joining the block.  Firstly, Turkey has a vibrant and growing economy which will be beneficial to the EU, with a lot of the strong MS economies currently stalling. Also in the same vein, Turkey presents a huge market to EU companies and enterprise which could be further explored after Turkey’s potential accession.

Secondly Turkey is strong in many ways. Most obviously it controls one of the largest military forces on the planet which will boost the EU’s defense capabilities and its hand in “assertive negotiations”. With the Turkish military as part of the combined EU forces (I realise that the EU is not one single force, however the collective potential remains) the Union will be able to lay a much more serious claim to the title of Superpower. In uncertain times, this is important. Turkey is strong in other ways too. Anyone who has followed the antics of Turkey’s flamboyant (and often ridiculous) chief negotiator knows that Turkey is not afraid to assert itself and say exactly what it means-something much lacking from the MO of the EU’s Western Powers.

Admitting Turkey into the EU would also send a powerful diplomatic message and be a shrewd strategic move. By admitting a moderate and secular muslim state the EU would simultaneously negate accusations of racism and show that the west can engage constructively in partnership with the Muslim world.

All these are strong motives for allowing Turkey to join the EU. However as mentioned earlier, even so I am against this. In Part 2 I will explain why…