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No one thinks we can do this

OpinionsBy Mehmet Ali Birand

The number of Europeans who think Turkey will be able to complete the EU process is very few.
I met with many who said: “You can’t manage this. Sooner, rather than later, you will get stuck and abandon the negotiations without any legitimate reasons.”

Actually, there is some truth to what they say.

The changes we need to undergo are so huge that no amount of money or determination can succeed. Tomorrow, businessmen will be up in arms. The next day it will be the vocational associations’ turn to rise up. Then will come the unions. Each and every one of them will be complaining when their interests are under threat.
So who will support the government that is doing the negotiating?
This is the biggest hope of those who are campaigning against Turkey.
As they watch the debates going on here, their hopes and opinions are being validated. They don’t think we’ll be able to last much longer. We need to do everything we can to disappoint them.

Well, is the situation is that desperate?
Are we really going to give up this easily?
I\'ve heard this song before.
The same arguments were made in 1995 during the signing of the customs union. It was claimed that the Turkish economy was not up to it and would soon topple. They argued that Turkey would eventually back out.
Just the opposite happened.

The Turkish economy has prospered. It joined in the competition. If we just take a look at the point we have reached, we see how unfounded the EU’s fears are.
Didn’t we hear the same old song after the 1999 Helsinki summit?
Just remember. What were they saying?
We were told about the impossibility of Turkey satisfying the Copenhagen criteria. A list that included the Kurdish issue and the Cyprus question was shown to us. No matter whom I talked with in Brussels, they would explain how hard it would be for Turkey to fulfill the conditions and then would tell me: “Don’t worry. You’ll have a lot of time on you hands to contemplate what to do.”

I was there to see the amazement in people’s eyes when Turkey initiated its reform process. All, including European Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, reacted in the same way: “You surprised us.”
When they realized how fast Turkey was transforming itself, they started to say, “We also need to see these reforms implemented.” It was obvious they had seen our weak side.
Even that didn’t stop us.

Now we hear the same old tune. It may not be as loud as it was in the past, but it is still being given credence. Some groups still say: “Turkey can’t do this. It won’t be able to complete the negotiations.” On the other hand, others say: “We have come here making the same arguments. The Turks are so quick that in four or five years they may come to us, arguing that the negotiations are finished and telling us to let them in.”
Actually, everything depends on our performance.
If we want it bad enough, we can finish it all in four to five years, and the EU can\'t stop us.
Only time will tell who is right or wrong.

We don’t need to push ourselves on Cyprus

We\'re close to creating a new problem, and we\'ll do this while arguing amongst ourselves. No one expects us to do anything.
Everyone is talking about how the Cyprus issue needs to be resolved by Oct. 3, 2005. We are faced with some uninformed and angry commentators, academics and politicians who say, “Sir, we need to officially recognize Cyprus and resolve the problem by Oct. 3, 2005.”
No! There is no such thing.
The EU isn\'t linking resolution of the Cyprus problem and the Oct. 3 negotiations.
Turkey is not being asked to officially recognize the Greek Cypriots.

Turkey is not being asked to resolve the Cyprus problem by Oct. 3, 2005.
What Turkey is being asked to do is extend the customs union to Greek Cyprus by Oct. 3, 2005.
That’s all. However, we are painting ourselves into a corner. We are damaging our own interests.
Please. Don’t do this.
Turkey may start its attempts to find a solution on the island tomorrow. It may call on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to help. It may withdraw some troops. But it won’t do it to finish everything by the Oct. 3, 2005 deadline. If we behave like this, the Greek Cypriots will demand heaven and earth.
Extend the customs union protocol to Greek Cyprus and then initiate attempts to resolve the matter. Sit at the negotiating table on Oct. 3 and then make further gestures and speed up the process. But please don\'t force us to adhere to the Oct. 3 deadline.

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