No further enlargement is necessary before the EU foreign and security policy is made more effective

Posted: 29 Jun 2006

David Logan Sir David Logan, Director of the Centre for Studies in Security and Diplomacy at Birmingham University. Among appointments during his diplomatic career: former British Ambassador to Turkey (1997-2001), Assistant Under Secretary of State for Central and Eastern European Affairs (1992-1994), and Assistant Under Secretary Of State for defence Policy (1994-1995), and Deputy Chief of Missions in Moscow (1989-1992) and Washington (1995-1997).

Interview with Sir David Logan, Edinburgh, United Kingdom First and foremost, where is the Turkey’s place in the world? Is it in Europe, is it in Asia?

Sir David Logan: Well, I think that Turks believe it is both in Europe and Asia. The opponents of Turkish membership in the European Union, the European opponents say that Turkey is not a European country. By that they usually mean that is a Muslim country and, of course, historically the Europeans think of Ottoman Empire as opponents. But I believe that on the other hand it is worth pointing out that actually the Ottoman Empire extended into Europe and that the European part of the Empire – the Balkans, Greece and so on was to a quite a large extent the power-house of the Empire. I mean it was economically successful, the Empire recruited a lot of people from your part of the world to run the administration in Istanbul. As regards the Muslim point, well, of course, there are many Muslims in the European Union already, the European Union is a secular institution and therefore the religious affiliation ought not to be important. And I think, most importantly, that a rejection on religious grounds would send a terrible message on exclusivity. During the decision-making process on whether to launch talks with Turkey on EU accession or not some rather disturbing attitudes re-emerged that fell into old historical patterns. I mean Austria, for instance. France as well made it difficult for Turkey to join by passing the law that any further enlargement, after Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia, will be decided by a referendum. What are the explanations of these fears?

Sir David Logan: I think it is a comment on Europeans as well as on the Turks. One of the EU’s problems at the moment is that it started to hold national referenda on the European Constitution and as we know the referenda rejected the Constitution in France and the Netherlands. That reflected two things in particular: first, there is a kind of disconnect between the leadership in Europe and the people of Europe. The people of Europe thought that they have problems like employment, like social services, like international crime, migration, which the leadership were not addressing it. And so, they voted “No” as a protest, if you like, against what they regarded as a move by the leadership to do things which simply did not address the concerns of the ordinary people of Europe. The second thing is that the concern about the leadership was particularly articulated in a protest against further enlargement. It is not specifically against Turkey but I think that the “old Europeans” like the Dutch and the French which have economies that in present are not doing very well. They have high unemployment, the French, in particular, have important economic problems. The French people saw a situation in which people would migrate because of the right of free movement of labour, would migrate from Poland, the Czech Republic and so on, and would take away jobs in their country. So, they would vote against that. Those two things are relevant to Turkey but they are not directed at Turkey. Well, the way the process went when the Austrians, for instance, were insisting on Croatia’s first pass to join talks and the way it was phrased was reminiscent of something like the Austrian-Hungarian Empire’s legacy I would say and therefore pointed to some rather disturbing things within the EU member-States.

Sir David Logan: Well, exactly on that occasion we could discuss why but the European Union decided to start negotiations with Croatia and Turkey at the same time… That’s true. But during the negotiations the feeling that some people had is that Austria was not that happy with Turkey’s invitation to the same talks and I think they even made a symbolic sort of gesture by inviting officially both countries on the same day, though the agreement with Turkey was reached earlier. So, even in such small things there is some sort of problem.

Sir David Logan: Yes, it’s true that Austria is opposed to Turkish accession. I think Austria, partly for historical reasons – the Turks were at the gates of Vienna, but I think the more important point is the on about enlargement. Austria is a very typical small member of the European Union which believes the world around the European Union is a dangerous place. Also, that safety and prosperity of its members, and in particular of small members, are best secured by closer integration, by, if you like, federal arrangements – in any case, it is a structure in which there is a more and more intensification of the internal relationship within the Union. On the contrary, further enlargement would weaken that. Croatia, you know, is only 5 million people or something – not important in that respect. So, this represents a fundamental difference between some European Union members and others. There are some that take the Austrian view and there are others who believe that the process of enlargement has had a tremendous beneficial effect on reform process in new Member-States but also in the old ones. And that beyond that the European Union has a role in projecting stability outwards and it should be an outward-looking institution which plays a role in the world at large, rather than an inward-looking institution which puts an umbrella saying that it will not rain on us. The secularist movement in Turkey should be supported by the European Union Member-states. However, there are some backlashes along the way, as the last month shooting of a pro-secular judge in a Court in Ankara. What do you think about the secularism chances in Turkey?

Sir David Logan: Well, it is, as you say, a very important issue in Turkey. When the Turkish Republic was established by Ataturk it was done out of the ashes of a religious Empire where there were no clear division lines between the religious and public authorities. He wanted to get rid of sharia forever and to move the country more towards the European secular legal system. Someone can see how in those days for the weak Republic that was surrounded by enemies it was extremely important to have very strong laws protecting secularism. And the result is that Turks have laws that are even stronger than French laws – you are not allowed to pray during working hours if you a governmental employee, you are not allowed to wear a headscarf at universities and at work. There are many other thing that are probably less known. For instance, if a group of 4-5 people get together to discuss religious questions they must have a license. In principle, you are not allowed to wear religious clothing , whether Christian or Muslim, outside your place of worship. So, the laws are very strong for reasons which were understandable in 1920-ies. And those laws, the strength of them, have been resented by ordinary, devout Muslim Turks. People that are not extremist, just people that just believe that Muslim women should be allowed to wear headscarf, that kind of thing. The problem is that this has become, the hair-dress, in particular, a symbol of fierce ideological differences. If you don’t wear a hair-dress, it is a symbol that you are a modern, secularist, progressive Turk. If you wear, it doesn’t mean you are an Islam fanatic. So, positions tend to polarize, as symbols do in Turkey. Achieving social cohesion is not at all easy. Along the same lines, it seems that the Turkish society is becoming more open, tolerant, and European by admitting discussions on difficult moments in history, like 1915 killings of Armenians. Do you think such a liberalization of public discourse should be carried further?

Sir David Logan: It is a very important and difficult matter that also deals with respect to secularism. Ataturk found the state on the defining principle that there were Turks only. So, you would not allowed to talk about Kurds, there were called mountainous Turks, and there is nothing in the history books about the Armenian massacres. So, that is how things stayed – the ordinary Turkish citizens told by foreigners about the terrible things that happened… Pamuk told them.

Sir David Logan: Yes, very brave people told them that. In any case, this comes as a tremendous shock because people say: this is not true – we don’t have this in history books. So, the process of accepting what happened is very difficult and sensitive. It started but there is a very, very long way to go. I myself regret that the discussion tends to turn around the word “genocide”. Was an Armenian genocide or not? Now, I think that is very difficult to say whether it was a genocide or not. It is probably possible to say so. The Turks, not surprisingly, insist that whatever happened, there was no genocide. The Armenians, on the other hand say: we can have a sensible discussion if the Turks agree there was a genocide. I think this is a problem which prevents progress because I think that Turks who know about this issue are aware that were appalling massacres of Armenians. They would say that there were appalling massacres of Turks in the late 19th Century in the countries like Greece, Bulgaria and so on which no one ever talks about. Therefore, they say there is a context to this. But there a re certainly enlightened Turks that would admit that these Armenian massacres took place. If we could have a discussion of massacres rather of genocide, I think it could be much easier. Can Europe become a truly international player without engaging more firmly through the CFSP/ESDP into the world affairs and without further enlargement?

Sir David Logan: Well, the last point on Turkey. The opponents of Turkish accession now draw the attention of what is called absorption capacity of the European Union. That is because Turkey is a country of 78 million people, comparable to the number of population in Germany. The Turkish membership will transform the nature of the European Union, therefore the issues of absorption capacity are important. On the other side, it could be argued that Turkey will bring significant assets into the European Union which will represent a great contribution.

Going back to the central point, I don’t think that further enlargement is necessary before the EU foreign and security policy is made more effective. The Europeans have a combined production about the same as the United States but clearly its military capacity is tiny in comparison to US. It’s partly because they don’t spent much money on defence but above all it’s because they don’t use their money well. So, there is a tremendous possibility fro the European Union to rationalize the way it’s spends money on defence – the member-States tend to spend money very much on a national basis. But you probably know there is a new defence Agency in Brussels whose aim is partly to do something about this. So, I don’t think the enlargement is needed before the more effective use of resources is available. I personally think that the more effective CFSP/ESDP is very important because it seems to me ridiculous that a Union of such size is unable to act with a military strength comparable to its economic and industrial one. But don’t you think that the argument about rationalizing expenses and absorption capacity might become sort of perpetuum mobile, preventing other countries from joining the EU? Couldn’t be both deepening and widening?

Sir David Logan: It could, perhaps. But I think we must do something about the absorption issue and make the military more effective before Turkey joins because otherwise it will make the life more complicated. I am a strong believer in the CFSP/ESDP. I think that the division over Iraq, for example, have been terrible. We need to be able to pursue much more effective policies because although our and American interests are often the same, sometimes they are not the same and such differences must be supported by effective policies. Thank you very much, Sir Logan.

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