Thursday 21 September 2017

EU needs to be pragmatic on Turkey's membership bid

'The recent deal between Turkey and the EU represents hard-headed pragmatism, nothing more nothing less'. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
'The recent deal between Turkey and the EU represents hard-headed pragmatism, nothing more nothing less'. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Brian Hayes

Turkey claims it is a European country and has long-standing ambitions to be a member of the EU. Most of Europe does not agree. Whatever about the centuries of conflict between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, there remains deep suspicion within Europe about Turkey's ultimate path towards democracy. Deep-rooted religious and ethnic tensions continue to simmer beneath the surface of the Balkans and its region.

Turkey is a major regional player, but its influence has at times been a major source of instability. The EU is suspicious of its intentions.

The shooting down by Turkey of a Russian jet fighter has further heightened tensions in an already highly volatile Middle East. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of "a stab in the back" and threatened serious consequences. Ironically, Putin and Recep Erdogan, the Turkish president, were close political allies for many years. Both, of course, are cut from the same political cloth; authoritarian, nationalistic, aggressive. Both use traditional religion to strengthen their support - Russian Orthodox in Putin's case and Islam in Erdogan's. A falling-out was inevitable once they took different sides in the Syrian civil war.

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