Friday, March 24, 2006

Bridges Trembling?

Are the bridges between Europe and Turkey starting to tremble?

It's a rainy day in Istanbul, and many of my discussions here have been on the rain that might well be ahead of us.

The European Union has yet to overcome the loss of strategic confidence that occured with the referendum defeats last year. More wrongly that rightly, these defeats were by many blamed on reluctance towards enlargement, and a result has been a substantial weakening of the political energy sustaining the enlargement process.

It still goes on, but the lack of energy is still very obvious. The oxygen supply is far from sufficient to ensure that the challenges ahead can be handled properly.

This isn't primarily related to Turkey and its accession process, but to the fact that in many countries we haven't won the debate concerning the enlargement that has already occured, not to speak about the ones that are and should be ahead of us.

In my opinion it is imperative that we address that issue and win that debate.

It's not only a question of the stability, peace and security of our part of the world, important as that is. Increasingly it should be obvious that enlargement is the injection of new dynamism that is contributing to increasing the dynamism of our different economies, thus making us better able to be winners in the great process of globalisation.

But so far that dimension has not been very prominent in the debate.

This is particularly so when we look ahead at the great debate on Turkey that will come. With growth rates of 5 - 7 % and a young, dynamic and growing population, the addition of Turkey would be a boost to the combined economy of Europe when it occurs.

It's really the choice between a stagnating and a dynamic vision of the future European economy.

This I have discussed here today both at the large conference with East Capital, at a roundtable discussion under the auspicies of the Turkish Political Quarterly and the ARI Movement bringing together different opinion-leaders, in a number of newspaper interviews and in a lengthy interview on CNN Turk that is broadcast as I'm writing this.

Tonight discussions will continue at one of the delightful restaurants down by the Bosphorous.

Tomorrow I'm heading again to a different part of Europe for a different occasion.

I'm going to Tallinn in Estonia for the funeral service of late President Lennart Meri.