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Cablegate: Turkey and the Eu: Hopes and Aspirations, But

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 001624

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY AND THE EU: HOPES AND ASPIRATIONS, BUT
LINGERING SENSITIVITIES


Sensitive but Unclassified - not for internet distribution.

1. (SBU) Summary: Sessions at last week's Istanbul
conference of Europe's Green Party highlighted Turkey's hopes
and aspirations to gain a date for the beginning of accession
negotiations, but also lingering sensitivities about
perceived EU discrimination against Turkey and local
discomfort about the changes EU negotiations and membership
will bring in its wake. The centerpiece of the conference
was a joint appearance by German Foreign Minister Fischer,
Turkish Foreign Minister Gul and incoming Enlargement
Commissioner Rehn, where the two sides laid out their
positions, with Gul pressing for easing of the negotiating
conditions and Fischer arguing that they represented a
sensible middle ground that enables both sides to keep their
"eye on the goal." More heated and revealing was a debate on
Islam (which included an Alevi representative) and a
philosophical discussion on Turkey's EU prospects that
featured noted novelists Yasar Kemal and Orhan Pamuk, and
singer (and opposition deputy) Zulfi Livaneli. Environmental
and human rights panels also attracted extensive interest.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) The October 19-21 Istanbul meeting of the European
Parliament's Green/EFA Group was designed to facilitate an
"open and constructive" discussion about EU and Turkish
mutual expectations. With participation from a broad
cross-section of representatives from the Turkish political
world and civil society, the conference exposed a number of
the fault lines both between the two sides and within Turkey
itself. Designed as a pluralist forum, with representation
by all viewpoints, it quickly encountered criticism from some
for failing to include an adequate "Kemalist" representation.
Opposition gadfly Bedri Kadri charged that the inclusion of
only like-minded "second republicans" and "liberal-Islamists"
shortchanged the Kemalists, which he optimistically
(over)estimated as 60-70 percent of Turkish "intellectuals."

3. (SBU) Equal Treatment: On whether Turkey is being treated
differently, Green representatives were unapologetic. Group
President Daniel Cohn-Bendit argued that Turkey should
actively seek "special" rather than "equal" treatment, since
its integration is not comparable to that of such countries
as Malta and Bulgaria. "It will be difficult (for both)," he
argued, "but one of the most important steps we must both
take." While FM Gul echoed the government's standard
insistence on equality of treatment, Prime Minister Erdogan's
close advisor Cuneyt Zapsu picked up on Bendit's suggestion.
"We are not being treated like others, because we are
different," he argued, and "I am proud" of that fact. Given
Turkey's size and importance, he continued, "It is naive to
expect equal treatment."

4. (SBU) A Balancing Act: Both Commissioner Rehn and FM
Fischer emphasized that the Commission recommendation sets an
"end goal of full membership," adding that the special
conditions imposed were not in any sense "harsh and
punitive," but rather intended to "recognize the
difficulties" in Turkey's accession. It is not against
Turkey or a sign of skepticism, Fischer insisted, but a "work
of art" designed to open the road and give Europe time to
modernize its structures and prepare itself for Turkish
accession. In the future, Fischer optimistically predicted,
"People will change and laugh that they once wanted to say no
to Turkey." For his part, however, FM Gul did not back down
from Turkey's desire to see changes from the Commission's
report, arguing that mutual trust must be deepened and
consolidated and that Turkey's membership should not be a
"subject of internal politics (in European countries)."

5. (SBU) Historical Taboos: While the ministers reiterated
basic positions, others directly broached local taboos and
held up a mirror to challenge the EU to look more closely at
itself. Noted writer Orhan Pamuk, in particular, hit a chord
with some in the audience (and antagonized others) by
stressing that the new and freer Turkey must now face up to
questions about its past, particularly the "disappearance" of
Armenians and Greeks in the early part of the last century,
arguing that a culture where such issues can be discussed
will be one that Europe will find easier to accept.
Singer/writer/director (and Republican People's Party-- the
party of Ataturk-- deputy) Zulfu Livaneli challenged the
notion of Ataturk's supremacy by noting the contributions of
a long line of reformers who preceded him. EU
Parliamentarian Cem Ozdemir even suggested that Ataturk must
be saved from some of his admirers who sought to use him as
an "excuse to stop freedom." "Where," he asked rhetorically,
"is the modernization of Turkish education?"

6. (SBU) Religion and Identity: In a panel on Islam, after
criticizing the Turkish state for dicriminating against, and
even refusing to recognize, Alevis as a separate religious
group (note: Alevis are heterodox Muslims who account for as
much as 20 percent of the Turkish population), Alevi
representative Esat Korkmaz surprised some by remarking that
outright abolition of the Religious Affairs Directorate
(Diyanet) would be dangerous. Turkish journalist Rusen Cakir
reminded the Europeans that Turkey is not monolithically
religious and conservative, noting, for example, that it was
not only the EU that opposed Turkey's recent effort to
criminalize adultery, but also many in Turkey vocally opposed
the effort as well. On the question of borders, after one
Euro MP voiced concerns that expansion to include Turkey
might prove to be a "Trojan Horse designed to weaken Europe,"
Galatasaray University professor Ahmet Insel retorted that
much of the ongoing debate is "not about Turkey and the EU's
borders at all, but European identity and the EU's future."
Turkish identity was also a recurring theme. Zulfu Livaneli
remarked, "I felt European until I went to Europe for the
first time," and stressed that Turks are the most Eastern of
the Western societies and want to play that role.

7. (SBU) Comment: The Istanbul Green Party Conference
provided a useful opportunity for European politicians to
come together with their Turkish counterparts and with
elements of Turkey's civil society. It showcased not just
the hopes and fears that accompany the accession project, but
also the impact that process has had on Turkey, leaving
panelists free to advance arguments that a short decade ago
would have led to their arrest and imprisonment. Given the
delicacy with which local taboos were broached and the
vociferous response generated, however, it is clear that
Turkey remains in the early stages of grappling with issues
of history and identity. As for the Europeans, Nuray Mert,
columnist for the daily Radikal, questioned whether coming to
Turkey and debating, while also "acting as if Ramazan was not
going on," really creates a bridge to the Muslim world. In
addition, instead of simply viewing Turkey as the sweetener
in a cup of coffee, changing the taste but not the
appearance, she argued, Europeans need to be willing to
accept it as the creamer instead, affecting both at the same
time. Only such an approach, she suggested, will permit a
true partnership between the two sides. End Comment.
ARNETT

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