IN AN AUGUST 9 NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE–CRAIG SMITH PROFILES EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) PRESIDENT ROMANO PRODI WHO TALKS ABOUT HIS VISIONS FOR A EUROPE UNIFIED ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS–AND HOW TURKEY’S PROPOSED MEMBERSHIP COULD MAKE THE TASK DIFFICULT. HE ALSO SPEAKS OF US INDIFFERENCE–AND AT TIMES–EFFORTS TO THWART EUROPEAN UNITY.
The following are excerpts from the article "A New European Keeps a Wary Eye on America."
I CCELLINA NATIONAL PARK–Italy (New York Times)-EC President Prodi argues that his hope for European unity-already complicated by competing national interests-could be difficult to achieve in the nearer term if Europe decides to include Turkey–a Muslim country that would be one of the largest members. He says American pressure to accelerate Turkey’s application for membership-on the basis that having Turkey in the European Union will enhance regional security-overlooks the longer-term consequences of bringing the country into the union.
"When they said the process is too slow–I told them–’Look–I was born in a country where when you were a kid to describe something frightful–you said–’Mama the Turks!’" Prodi said–adding–"We have to fight against this deep prejudice."
Last year–the European Union decided that Turkey had not yet met the standards to begin formal membership talks but promised to make another assessment by the end of next year. Prodi said he would deliver a "complete–fair and objective" opinion before his term as president ended on Nov. 1–2004.
He said he accepted the strategic importance of Turkey as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East but was worried that the country’s size–the peculiarities of its political institutions and its cultural ties to the Middle East could complicate European efforts to forge a common policy. Prodi recounted listening to a group of European Parliament members discussing the challenge Turkey presented because its representatives would be the largest group in the Parliament. "It’s not a problem of being Muslim but of being so big," he said.
He said the matter of Turkey’s membership was too politically sensitive to rush into because it would require approval from all of the union’s member states-25 after the addition next year of 10 more countries. "You have to reassure Turkish public opinion but also reassure European public opinion that you have been serious–because otherwise there will be no ratification–and without ratification–the slap in the face of the Turkish people would be terrible," he said.