Earlier today in Ankara, David Cameron was eager to
display a facility with the Turkish language: Tabii ki Tuerkiye - "of course, it's Turkey," in English - was the
refrain of a speech advocating Turkey's admittance to the EU. Judging from his
argument though, Cameron would have benefitted from a better acquaintance with
the Latin phrase non sequitur, or the
colloquial Americanism straw man.
There are many good reasons that Turkey should be an
EU member state. This is not one of them:
I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what
Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies it makes me
angry that your progress towards EU Membership can be frustrated in the way it
has been. My view is clear. I believe it's just wrong to say Turkey can guard
the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent."
Whatever this excerpt says about Cameron's personal integrity,
it doesn't have much purchase as a political argument. NATO and the EU are two
entirely separate entities, with different histories, different mandates and
overlapping, but different, membership rolls.
Participation in the one doesn't require, nor imply, participation in
the other; membership in NATO is supposed to be its own reward. Or is Cameron
suggesting that the United States line up alongside Turkey for EU accession,
followed shortly thereafter by Albania?
Then there's Cameron's tidy summary of the case
against Turkey. There are apparently three groups of European Turkey-skeptics:
the protectionist (who see Turkey as "an economic threat"), the polarized (who
are in thrall to a vision of a "clash of civilizations"), and the prejudiced
(who "willfully misunderstand Islam"). Cameron proceeds to show just how mistaken
those troglodytes are.
But does Cameron really think the reasons of the EU
states holding up Turkish accession fall under his categories? France's Nicolas
Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel are both on the record resisting Turkish
entry. Which are they: the polarized? Or is it the prejudiced? Or, perchance,
might they be motivated by national interest? (Wait: Might the U.K. itself be motivated
by national interest?)
There's no doubt that including Turkey would mean
changes for the EU. Those changes may be for the better - from increased soft
power, to a more dynamic internal market - but it's only prudent for each
country to evaluate those changes on its own. France is right to wonder whether
accepting Turkey into the club would put an end to its dream of a deepened EU
foreign policy, much less its annual bounty of EU agriculture subsidies. Demographic
trends being what they are, Germans should be forgiven for clinging to the EU voting
rights commensurate with their status as Europe's most populous country. They'd
also be deluded not to consider the impact of potential Turkish migration to
German cities with large numbers of Turkish immigrants.
Name-calling accomplishes little in such a fraught
enterprise. And making it all seem obvious and uncomplicated is only
The Turkish surely know this. Perhaps Cameron was
calculating that earning good graces in Ankara was worth risking scorn in
Berlin and Paris. But I wonder whether all he's done is lose credibility all
Or, most frightening of all, maybe he actually
believes this argument accurately describes European institutions and European
concerns. Even if Cameron skipped his rhetoric classes at Eton and Oxford, here's
hoping he didn't sleep through all the rest.