Tuesday, October 12, 2004

These principled Continentals

Although France has been particularly voluble in its opposition to Turkey’s entry to the EU. Germany’s Schröder has been remarkably supportive, a rather surprising stance given that the 2.5 million Turks already living in Germany are creating considerable stresses and, in a recent survey of public opinion, 57 percent opposed Turkish accession, up 6 percentage points since April.

But, as did Italy find itself enthusiastically in favour of lifting the arm embargo on Libya, with Chirac supporting China in its efforts to have its embargo lifted, so it seems that Schröder’s enthusiasm for Turkey might not be as principled as he would perhaps have us believe.

According to Deutsche Welle, barely a week after the EU commission recommended initiating membership talks with Turkey, guess what - the German government is salivating at the thought of selling several hundred of its Leopard 2 tanks, surplus to Bundeswehr requirements … to Turkey.

Somewhat giving the game away, defence minister Peter Struck said last week that the progress Turkey has made on opening negotiations to join the European Union mean arms sales should no longer be a taboo subject.

Five years ago, a proposal to sell the same tanks to Turkey provoked one of the worst conflicts within Germany's ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens.

At the time, the concern was about the oppression of the country's Kurdish minority but now, with Turkey having made such progress with its human rights, and on its way to becoming one of the family, it seems there is now little to prevent the German Army selling off its surplus kit at a handsome profit.

Doncha love these principled Continentals.

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