Yesterday evening the Young Fabians organised an event at the Turkish Embassy entitled “Cold Turkey? Is the EU dream dead?” – details of the event here. More than 60 people came along to the immensely grand residence of the Turkish ambassador to London, and heard him give an introduction defending why Turkey’s membership of the EU would be a benefit to the country and to the EU as a whole. The other speakers broadly agreed with the Ambassador on the need for Turkish accession.
Yet it was Gordon Marsden MP, while defending accession, who caused the most controversy. He raised the inevitable question of the Armenian genocide and whether the Turkish state will accept that it happened. The Ambassador’s reaction showed just how far Turkey is going to have to go with respect to its EU accession, bristling with anger at the accusation and becoming somewhat snappy in his manner towards the serene and unflappable Marsden.
This reflects the frustrations that UK government negotiators felt in the autumn of last year when negotiations between the EU and Turkey were due to open – the ability of Turkish ministers to be a bit too confrontational, a bit too abrasive, and hence cause offence when there was no substantive disagreement. Let’s hope these corners are smoothed over the next decade as negotiations proceed.
[UPDATE – 20.07.06]
Seems that the EU’s cool attitude towards Turkey is getting the population a little hot under the collar. Not really a surprise… See comments from Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in this BBC article. One does wonder whether the Turkish population is going to have the stomach for long and protracted negotiations with the EU…