Sunday, 24 October 2004

The Day the Commission torpedoes the Constitution?


This coming 6 October, the European Commission will announce its verdict as to Turkey’s preparedness to begin accession negotiations with the European Union.

A Commission “yes” to Turkey – even if accompanied by a relatively meaningless “but” – would lead to a quasi-identical “yes, but” by the European Council in December. However, this would in turn translate into a “no” vote by the people in the upcoming referenda on the European Constitution.

Only several months ago, it appeared that optimism was King on the Continent and that the “yes” vote for the Constitution would win the referenda.

However, this sentiment is rapidly changing and today, taking France as an example, the “no” vote seems quite able to win the day.

Those who until recently denied that the Turkish question was important to European citizens must now acknowledge that the Turkish question is a major concern to Europeans.

Preserving Community interests

Granted, the Commission is, at least in the Turkish case, the instrument of a process launched in an era (the 1960′s) and in a world (consumed by the Cold War) that no longer exists, but the Commission is nonetheless in charge of preserving the ‘Community’s interest’.

As such, the Commission has an honest claim to the statement that it is simply following through with a decision made some 40 years ago and thus it will adhere to this decision blindly (or maybe with a hidden political vision that has neither historical nor popular support, i.e. that the EU as a “bridge between civilizations”, and evoke the famous “Copenhagen Criteria” so as to arrive at a “yes, but” for Turkey and thus – as I see it – a “no” to the Constitution.

The Commission must assume its role as the protector of the best interests of the Community and accept the reality of European politics.

Politically the Commission’s decision is limited by to the fact that Europeans are by and large opposed to the entry of Turkey in the EU and that the European institutions (notably those proposed within the Constitution) will not work if Turkey becomes the fulcrum of the European political system.

Ivory Tower

Lastly, the Commission should recognise that the Council, by a vast majority, wants only one thing, that the report on the Turkish question be mostly negative.

This would then permit a delay in negotiations and the beginning of talks on a new type of partnership with Ankara.

If the Commission’s report is heavily positive, and concludes that there are no longer major obstacles to the opening of negotiations, then the Council will follow suit because no Head of State or government can take the risk of being the “evil party” and thus see their economic and bilateral relations with Turkey fractured.

So, the Commission knows that if it says “yes” it will force the Council to follow in the same direction.

In this manner, out of weakness, the Council will share the responsibility for derailing the Constitutional referenda because none of its members has the stature of a true “European Head of State”, capable of favouring the European collective interest to national interests.

So, in conclusion, we can say on the 6 October that, because of the probable positive report on Turkey, the Commission will be responsible for “killing” the project that was the European Constitution.

The ultimate irony being that Turkey will still not enter the European Union for decades to come!

This decision will lead to a major European crisis in 2005/2006 and cast doubt as to all of the most fundamental aspects of the Community and its construction.

By Franck Biancheri

Franck Biancheri – is Director of Studies and Strategy at the foundation Europe 2020 and President of the transatlantic organisation TIESweb

This article first appeared on http://euobserver.com