Quo Vadis Turkey in Europe?

08/04/2013, Rome

During the conference, “Quo Vadis Turkey in Europe”, organized by IAI and the Embassy of Turkey, at the University of Rome, ‘La Sapienza’, on April 8, Turkey was presented as being very proud of its economic and political progress. The confidence that Turkey has acquired through its growth in the financial sector and accumulation of wealth over the last ten years makes necessary its entrance in the European “family”, so that it can move on to a new phase of economic expansion.

Another meeting focusing on the relationship between Turkey and Europe, caught between the economic crisis and the Arab Spring, took place at IAI on the same day in the context of the Institute’s economic research program. Here too, Turkey was described as a nation that has enjoyed impressive economic growth with respect to European countries in the last 15 years, now overtaking them as far as exports are concerned. This is the “new” Turkey which, thanks to the serenity delivered by its capacity to invest in world markets and to engage in major undertakings, such as the construction of the world’s biggest airport, is hoping to earn a place for itself at the European round table.

The “Quo Vadis Turkey in Europe?” debate was moderated by Nathalie Tocci, deputy director of IAI, and introduced by Antonello Biagini, deputy rector of La Sapienza University. Various speakers took part: Hakki Akil, Turkish Ambassador to Italy; Selim Yenel, Turkish Ambassador to the EU; Lapo Pistelli, Member of Parliament, Italian Democratic Party; Michael Thumann, journalist for Die Zeit; and Marc Sémo, Editor-in-chief of “Libération”.

After Akil’s introduction, which described a Turkey determined to respect all the criteria for entry into the EU and therefore focused on its process of modernization, Yenel underlined Turkey’s European-like qualities, thanks to its successful financial and educational systems and its good infrastructures. Turkey is also working to reform its Constitution, continuing the delicate process started in 2004.

Marc Sémo started out with the problems between Turkey and France regarding recognition of the Armenian genocide, underlining the paradox and ambiguity of France’s relationship with Turkey caused by deep-seated geopolitical and historic factors. Hollande’s election to the presidency and Sarkozy’s departure allow for some hope of a relaunching of the negotiations for entry into the EU; even though such negotiations are still undermined by the ambiguous attitude of the Socialist government and the widespread skepticism of French society.

This skepticism also persists in Germany, which has the largest Turkish community in the EU: Michael Thumann says that his country fears that Turkey’s entry into the EU could cause problems for the European economy. A positive note is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent support, not shared by all political parties in the coalition, for a relaunch of the negotiations for Ankara’s membership in the EU.

Lapo Pistelli expressed his desire to support Turkey’s entry into the EU. This support, he said, should be real and efficient, in spite of the economic and political crisis, so that delicate, unresolved political issues like those in Syria and Israel can be dealt with together.

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