Thursday, September 16, 2004

Turkey – all bets off?

Following the outraged reaction to the Turkish government planning to make adultery illegal Ankara this week decided to shelve the new law, thus apparently denying Islamo-phobic Europeans the excuse to deny or delay its EU entry talks – on which a decision is due on 6 October.

What was doubly interesting about this development was the reaction this morning of the Washington Times which sees Turkish entry to the EU as being both in European and US interests.

"Inasmuch as Turkey is a cultural and geographic bridge between East and West", it wrote in its op-ed, "it can serve as a bulwark against a potential clash of civilizations".

Turkey's eventual entry into the European Union would mark a merger of predominantly Christian and Muslim worlds. This would help counter the growing concern that a large-scale clash between Christian and Muslim nations is inevitable. Also, Turkey, long a force for moderation in the Muslim world, would rise in prominence - a welcome prospect.
The paper also noted that much of Europe's criticism of the adultery law was heavy-handed, in particular charges it would lead to so-called honour killings, but considered Ankara wise to scrap the legislation. “Having done so, and given the fact that Turkey has been kept waiting at the EU altar for some time, Europe is obliged to go the extra mile to play fair”, it added.

It was always a mystery why the Turkish government sought to introduce a law which it must have known would offend the EU member states and, for as long as it was in force, rule out the Turkey’s entry to the EU. But, by so rapidly shelving the law, Ankara caught the protesters off guard, and actually enhanced its chances of getting a favourable decision in October.

Perhaps that was its intention all along, in which case we are dealing with a highly skilled player, which should not be underestimated. But there again, perhaps not. Within the last few hours, the Turkish ruling party, the AKP, has sought to revive the new law, this time re-naming "adultery" as "sexual infidelity". The U-turn has now become a roundabout remarks Turkey’s Zaman daily newspaper – in which case, all bets on early Turkish entry may be off.

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