Sunday, September 10, 2006

Good Debate - But Very Dangereous Position

To start with the positive, it is of course a good thing that Nicolas Sarkozy goes to Brussels and gives a major speech on his vision for Europe.

Apart from the IHT summary, there is also the complete text available in French.

Too many politicians in too many countries are too silent on the challenges on the European scene that they will face in the years to come.

So Sarkozy should be praised for this, as well as for his thoughts on how to handle the institutional issues ahead.

Much in line with what's been discussed here before, he declared the old constitutional treaty dead, and instead wants to start discussion on a more limited treaty of institutional reform.

That's a far more realistic approach, although some of his proposals might not necessarily be acceptable yet. But it's a good start to a necessary debate.

Another issue - but I leave commenting on that one until later - is whether a Britain under a Prime Minister Brown would be ready to go along with anything.

But where I profoundly disagree is his call for the suspension of membership negotiations with Turkey. He wants to restrict membership to countries on the continent of Europe, although it's not clear if he wants to expell Cyprus with its position off the coast of Lebanon.

I'm not certain how that suspension would work. France can always block any progress in the talks, but to get the Union to officially suspend the talks is another matter, and would be bitterly opposed by a number of member states. It could easily descend into a very nasty and very damaging debate.

The last few months should have demonstrated anew the geostrategic importance of Turkey. Apart from the importance of facilitating and anchoring the continued democratic and secular reform path of Turkey, I don't think Europe can afford to have a rejected, disillusioned and bitter Turkey as its neighbour.

It's also very easy to see other consequences. Cyprus is likely to be divided for ever. And efforts to handle the Kurdish issue will be far more difficult, perhaps making a slide into an open conflict, that could also start unravelling a lot of the reforms of Turkey.

And it's highly likely that a Turkey rejected by Europe will move towards more of a relationship with a Russia that will then have new geostrategic opportunities, also in blocking part of the energy diversification of Europe.

It's high time for those really caring for the strategic position of Europe in the decades ahead to speak up in the debate.

The Sarkozy position is a position taking us to conflict - inside the Union, but more importantly along some of its most critical borders.