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Cablegate: Eu/Turkey Conference Takes Sober but Hopeful View

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

041342Z Nov 03

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ROME 005001

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR EUR/WE, EUR/ERA, EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TU IT PREL EUN
SUBJECT: EU/TURKEY CONFERENCE TAKES SOBER BUT HOPEFUL VIEW
OF ACCESSION PROCESS


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. ON OCTOBER 20-21 POLOFF ATTENDED AN
EU-TURKEY CONFERENCE SPONSORED BY THE EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY
INSTITUTE AND ASPEN INSTITUTE-ROME THAT DISCUSSED THE
CHALLENGES TURKEY FACES IN ATTAINING EU MEMBERSHIP. WHILE
NONE OF THE PARTICIPANTS APPEARED TO DOUBT TURKEY WOULD
EVENTUALLY BECOME AN EU MEMBER, THE OVERALL CONSENSUS WAS A
SOBER AND REALISTIC EXPECTATION THAT ACCESSION WOULD TAKE
YEARS AND REQUIRE MUCH MORE HARD WORK THAN ANKARA ALREADY HAS
ACCOMPLISHED. END SUMMARY.

ITALY PRAISES BUT URGES FURTHER REFORMS
---------------------------------------

2. (SBU) ITALIAN FINANCE MINISTRY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE
GIANLUIGI MAGRI, FILLING IN FOR FINANCE MINISTER GIULIO
TREMONTI, STRONGLY ENDORSED TURKEY'S CANDIDACY AND PRAISED
TURKISH PRIME MINISTER RECEP ERDOGAN'S STRONG LEADERSHIP AND
DEMONSTRATION OF TURKEY'S MULTILATERAL COOPERATION ON IRAQ.
MAGRI SAID ANKARA'S CONTINUED COMMITMENT TO STRUCTURAL
REFORMS REMAINS KEY TO ITS EU ACCESSION. AS EXPECTED,
TURKISH OFFICIALS PUT A POSITIVE SPIN ON ANKARA'S
ACHIEVEMENTS BUT ALSO ACKNOWLEDGED THAT TURKEY HAD A LONG WAY
TO GO. TURKISH SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE SECRETARIAT GENERAL
FOR EU AFFAIRS MURAT SUNGAR URGED THE EU TO SET A DEFINITE
TIMETABLE FOR ACCESSION NEGOTIATIONS, HOPEFULLY BY THE END OF
2004, SO THAT TURKEY WOULD HAVE A DEADLINE AND A ROAD MAP.
(THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL HAS PROMISED TO ASSESS AT THE END OF
2004 WHETHER TURKEY HAS COMPLIED WITH COPENHAGEN CRITERIA AND
IS READY TO BEGIN NEGOTIATIONS.) TURKISH DEPUTY PRIME
MINISTER AND MINISTER OF THE ECONOMY ALI BABACAN ADDED THAT
THE EXACT DATE OF ACCESSION WAS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS THE
REFORM PROCESS ITSELF. BABACAN ASSERTED THAT THE ACCESSION
PROCESS IS AN "ANCHOR" THAT HELPED GUARANTEE TURKEY WOULD NOT
BACKTRACK ON REFORMS.

TURKS PUT IN A PLUG FOR ERDOGAN GOVERNMENT
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) BOTH SUNGAR AND BABACAN GAVE ERDOGAN'S GOVERNMENT
HIGH MARKS FOR JUMPSTARTING REFORMS SINCE ITS ELECTION IN
2002, BUT HE ALLOWED THAT SUSTAINING THIS PROGRESS DEPENDED
ON THE CONTINUED SUPPORT OF CURRENT AND FUTURE GOVERNMENTS
AND OF POPULAR SUPPORT (AROUND 70 PERCENT, SUNGAR CLAIMED).
BABACAN SAID THE GOVERNMENT'S POLICY WAS TO BE INCLUSIVE AND
REACH CONSENSUS, IN SPITE OF ITS TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY IN
PARLIAMENT THAT TECHNICALLY WOULD ALLOW IT TO IGNORE THE
OPPOSITION. HE STRESSED THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT
INTERFERE IN RELIGIOUS ISSUES OR IMPOSE ISLAM ON TURKISH
CITIZENS. TURKISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
OF THE RULING JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY (AK) REHA DENEMEC
ECHOED BABACAN IN INSISTING THAT ERDOGAN "HAS NO INTENTION"
OF WAGING A "TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY" AND WAS WORKING HARD TO
KEEP THE PUBLIC TRUST.

VIEWS OF U.S./TURKEY RELATIONSHIP
---------------------------------

4. (SBU) SUNGAR ASSURED POLOFF THAT TURKEY'S EU ACCESSION
WOULD NOT AFFECT TURKEY'S TIES TO THE U.S. AND RELATIONS
WOULD REMAIN STRONG. OTHER PANELISTS USED THE CONFERENCE AS
AN OCCASION TO CRITICIZE THAT RELATIONSHIP. A PARTICIPANT
WITH THE ISTANBUL POLICY CENTER ATTACKED THE U.S. FOR, HE
CLAIMED, HOLDING TURKEY UP AS A PARAGON OF AN ISLAMIC
DEMOCRACY, WHEN, IN HIS OPINION, IT WAS HARDLY A WORTHY MODEL
FOR THE REGION. ANOTHER ACADEMIC WITH THE SAME INSTITUTION
BLAMED U.S. POLICY FOR INDIRECTLY IMPEDING TURKEY'S
FULFILLMENT OF ESDP BECAUSE OF ANKARA'S INTEREST IN
MAINTAINING STRONG TRANSATLANTIC TIES.

ECONOMIC PROGNOSIS: GUARDED OPTIMISM
-------------------------------------

5. (SBU) MAGRI PRAISED TURKEY'S PROGRESS IN IMPLEMENTING
THE IMF PROGRAM, REDUCING INFLATION (STILL AT ALMOST 30
PERCENT), AND LOWERING INTEREST RATES BUT ALSO CITED
UNRESOLVED PROBLEMS: A HEAVY DEBT, AN OVERVALUED CURRENCY,
AND A HIGH CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT. HE NOTED THAT TURKEY'S
PER CAPITA INCOME IS APPROXIMATELY 20 PERCENT OF THE CURRENT
EU AVERAGE. THE PANEL ON ECONOMICS POINTED OUT ANKARA'S NEED
TO PRIVATIZE ENERGY, TRANSPORTATION, AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
SECTORS, RESTRUCTURE BANKS, AND ENFORCE TAXATION ON THE
"INFORMAL" ECONOMY, WHICH CONSTITUTES ABOUT 60 PERCENT OF THE
WORK FORCE, ACCORDING TO ONE PAPER. THE PARTICIPANTS AGREED
THAT TURKEY IS A LONG WAY FROM MEETING MAASTRICHT CRITERIA.

ROME 00005001 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) MAGRI POINTED OUT THAT TURKEY'S POPULATION ROUGHLY
EQUALED THAT OF THE TEN ACCEDING COUNTRIES AND, IF
DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS CONTINUED, TURKEY WOULD HAVE A LARGER
POPULATION THAN ANY EU MEMBER STATE BY THE END OF THIS
DECADE. ONE PANELIST PREDICTED THAT TURKEY'S ACCESSION WOULD
SHIFT THE BALANCE OF POWER IN THE EU FROM NORTH TO SOUTH AND
TO THE MEDITERRANEAN AND WOULD OPEN THE WAY FOR OTHER
MEDITERRANEAN AND MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES TO JOIN. ANOTHER
ECHOED THIS SENTIMENT IN SAYING THAT, WITH TURKEY'S ENTRY
INTO THE EU, THE EU WOULD BECOME A PART OF THE MIDDLE EAST
AND BRING GREATER STABILITY TO THAT REGION.

CULTURAL FEARS IN THE BACKGROUND
--------------------------------

7. (SBU) FEW CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS SPOKE OPENLY ABOUT
EUROPEANS' DISQUIET OVER THE PROSPECT OF 70 MILLION MUSLIMS
JOINING THE EU, ALTHOUGH AT LEAST TWO EXPRESSED PRIVATELY
THEIR FEARS THAT THE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES WERE TOO GREAT AND
MUSED WHETHER TURKISH CIVIL SOCIETY WOULD BE ABLE TO MEET EU
NORMS. IN ANSWER TO A QUESTION ON THIS SUBJECT, MAGRI
STRESSED THAT EUROPEANS MUST OVERCOME ETHNIC PREJUDICE; HE
SAID EXPANSION WOULD NOT BE EASY, BUT THAT EUROPEANS "HAVE NO
ALTERNATIVES."
SEMBLER


NNNN
2003ROME05001 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

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