William Hague, a former Conservative Party leader and close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, has called for Turkey to be given associate membership of the European Union (EU), despite warnings that the politico-economic bloc’s embrace of the country boosts calls for Brexit.
William Hague was writing for The Telegraph when he made his call for “a new framework for future ties with Turkey” that recognises its “vital strategic position”. He speaks as one who has “championed Turkey as an EU member for many years” but who must now “recognise that its authoritarian direction means that it cannot be a full member of the European Union”.
For him the new model membership could “involve Turkish membership of the single market and participation in Europe’s trade deals with the rest of the world, but without full freedom of movement of people. It could be based on co-operation in foreign affairs but no linking of criminal justice systems.”
Mr. Hague believes his proposal would “anchor a democratic Muslim nation in permanent co-operation with the West, and enlarge the single market to another 80 million people with huge potential to be a prosperous and outward-looking nation.”
Although conceding that arguing for Turkey’s full EU membership will achieve nothing in the face of opposition from other EU Member States, Mr. Hague added the phrase “for the time being at least”, suggesting that those who express concerns about the recent courting of President Erdogan’s regime will want to remain vigilant in the future.
He says that “Cyprus and France have regularly blocked the opening of new chapters of negotiations,” and that talking to German or Austrian leaders “is enough to show how far their countries are from accepting Turks at the EU table on equal terms.”
Mr. Hague could also add Belgium to that list, where prominent Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) — group allies with the British Conservative Party in the European Parliament — have lashed out at Turkey following its special summit with the EU on the migrant crisis.
Flanders News reports that N-VA MEPs Mark Demesmaeker and Sander Loones say Turkey doesn’t belong in the EU as it “always opts for an authoritarian, Middle Eastern course and is again and again dismantling civil liberties.”
Last Friday’s police raid using tear gas and water cannon to gain access to the offices of Zaman — a top-selling Turkish newspaper critical of President Erdogan’s government — and yesterday’s seizure of the allied Cihan news agency will do little to persuade Turkey’s opponents that Mr. Hague is right.
Nevertheless, Turkey was declared eligible to join the EU in 1997, and accession negotiations began in 2005. When David Cameron made his first official visit as Prime Minister to Ankara he said: “I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it.”
With demands for membership talks to be expedited in the light of its assistance with the ongoing migrant crisis, those already alarmed by what Turkey’s membership could mean for the EU will look more favourably at Brexit.