Sunday, April 05, 2009

Obama Urges Turkish Addition to EU

Financial Times; Financial Times; Wall Street Journal

Today President Obama, while attending the G20 summit, urged European leaders to grant Turkey full EU membership status to strengthen ties to the Muslim community. France and Germany quickly rejected his pleas. As the two largest economies in the EU, a country as physically vast and populated as Turkey (70 million) could threaten their dominance of the European community. But as a secular Muslim country, Turkey’s inception into the EU could be a crucial peace-offering towards other Muslim nations. In response to Obama’s comment, EU President Sarkozy released a statement that EU matters should be governed by EU member states. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, remarked that she believed in strengthening ties with Turkey, but saw those ties as taking the form of a privileged partnership rather than affording Turkey full membership status.

Meanwhile, Turkey continues to move towards complying with EU membership conditions. It has renewed talks to open its border with Armenia, a move that will demonstrate stability and cooperation. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 to protest its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan, following a bloody ethnic war. Investigations into claims of genocide are still pending in the UN. Similarly, Turkey continues to build the Nabucco pipeline, a 3,500 km channel for gas that will be transported from the Caspian Sea and central Asia through Turkey to Europe. In January, Turkey threatened that it would withhold support for the project unless the EU relaxed their energy conditions on Turkey’s membership, but the rift has since dissipated.

Obama arrives in Ankara for a two-day stop tonight. It will be his first trip to a Muslim nation as President.

What benefits and downsides do you see to a Muslim country joining the EU? Besides inclusivity and peace, what other motives might the U.S. have in encouraging the EU to accept Turkey?

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