Shrinking numbers, nevertheless majority wants Turkey in EU
Reading Zaman's sister newspaper Zaman Österreich earlier this week, I was alerted to a set of alarming numbers coming in from Austria albeit originating here in Turkey.
A recent public opinion survey had revealed that if a referendum was held tomorrow concerning Turkey's EU membership, not more than 51 percent of the Turkish electorate would say "yes," compared to a record-breaking 74.4 percent who had been asked the same question a decade ago.

Just like anywhere else in Europe, politicians and other decision makers base a fair amount of what they propose to the electorate on views gathered by means of what in the Turkish language is referred to as an "anket," or survey. However, whether mostly governing by listening to the electorate's oft-changing mood and in turn adapting (or shelving) one's own convictions all too frequently leads to better governance and whether it can be perceived as a positive development remains to be seen. It is nevertheless only logic that elected officials must check citizens' political pulses not only every four to five years but much more regularly.

Turkey has long since come of age in the procedure of survey-taking. I recall being in touch with what was then one of the only three nationwide operating polling companies/institutions in 2005 and 2006. How quickly everything has changed since then.

First published in the Turkish Vatan daily, then headlined in Austria as "EU-Beitritt: Die türkischen Bürger sagen leise 'güle güle!' ('EU accession: Turkish citizens bid farewell step-by-step" -- translation my own), on Dec. 19, 2012, summed up a survey commissioned by İstanbul's highly respected Boğaziçi University and may of course, in due time, be countered by another poll published someplace else. Yet unfortunately, a certain downward trend with regard to how many Turkish citizens wish to see their country becoming a member of the EU has by now become visible. Nevertheless, here comes the good news: As shaky as its foundations seem, Turkey's full membership in the EU is a majority concern. Turkey, as well as Europe, must build upon this very foundation as quickly as possible, as no one expects to wait forever. Today, many of those formerly EU accession aficionados argue along the lines of "why join if they do not want us?" -- a comment that is totally understandable if you examine Turkey's decades-long EU advocation. Yet we have to put Turkey's domestic reform drive into the wider framework of the nation's EU accession endeavors; Brussels acted as a much needed "anchor" for an emerging full-fledged civil democracy.

I wish this enterprising country all the best and, yes indeed, there may perhaps be a day when Turkey "no longer needs" the EU. Then one could argue that perhaps Luxembourg never "needed" the EU, either, except to attract a fair amount of leading EU institutions and thus sizeable revenue to its territory?

What's more, perceiving need as merely acting on a certain type of negative connotation is one thing; looking positively ahead is an altogether different undertaking. Regardless of how economically powerful, how technologically advanced, how democracy-aware Turkey will be, it makes absolute sense not to go it alone but in unison with the country's fellow European countries.

Few countries manage to stay unallied in today's world of cross-border alliances. Even the most powerful, like the US and China, only thrive on future welfare as long as they cleverly interact, do business with, trade with and talk to with one another and all other nations.

Turkey's EU accession process has opened up a previously all too often inward-looking nation to the outside world. Turkey does not need to copy/paste everything. But interaction and intertwining with fellow democracies both emerging and established and as in the case of Turkey being almost there, makes absolute sense. EU accession is one of those ingredients -- by now perhaps far from being the only one such ingredient, yet it has lost nothing of its relevance to Turkey and its inspiration to an aspiring people.

KLAUS JURGENS (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2012-12-22 12:00:01
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