This impression is of course exacerbated by Sarkozy’s agitated personal style. His remarks and attitudes are scrutinized by the Turkish press and commented on as if France was fundamentally an anti-Turkey country. Turkey’s brutal reactions to Sarkozy’s harsh comments are only reinforcing the animosity between the two countries.
However, it is unfair to think that Sarkozy is much different than his predecessors. For example, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was the first person who evoked the “privileged partnership” option for the future of Turkey-EU relations. Jacques Chirac, who is not known as an anti-Turkey politician, was in fact never too eager to support Turkey’s accession. When François Mitterand was president, too, France did not enthusiastically support Turkey’s accession to the EU; on the contrary, the headlines of the French press at the time were reserved for human rights abuses or the Kurdish issue, in other words, on everything proving that Turkey was not ready to join in. Then, why is Sarkozy perceived as the most anti-Turkish French president ever and the main opponent of Turkey’s European future? Perhaps it is because he is more talkative, or perhaps his striking anti-Turkey rhetoric is actually a screen to hide his anti-Islam and anti-immigrant feelings.
Whatever his real intentions and expectations are, it’s a fact that Sarkozy’s policies have greatly damaged Turkey-EU and Turkey-France relations for many years to come. Still, it is unjust to claim that he is the only reason for the souring relations between Turkey and Europe. In fact, the majority of the institutions, NGOs or political parties that reject the idea of Turkish accession to the EU, that are writing reports and seeking alternative ways, are not in France but in Germany. It is no secret that German Chancellor Angela Merkel still proposes “privileged partnership” instead of full membership for Turkey. The difference between Merkel and Sarkozy is that she is more discreet and more attentive, perhaps because she does not want to antagonize the up to 3 million Turks living in her country.
Moreover, the latest revelations on WikiLeaks show that a number of countries who were supposedly defending Turkey’s membership were in fact playing a double game. Turkish public opinion was sure that some EU countries were determined to support Turkey’s EU bid. To learn now that even those countries were sabotaging Turkish membership behind closed doors is quite disappointing.
One such country appears to be Sweden. Turkish authorities will probably ask their Swedish counterparts about what is being claimed in the WikiLeaks documents. It is not hard to guess what kind of official answers will be given to such claims; however, the problem is that this will nourish doubts at the official level as well as in public opinion about the real intentions of “friendly” EU countries. The list of such countries will undoubtedly include Poland, Spain and even the United Kingdom.
The EU is busy enough right now with its internal problems, but sooner or later, it will have to give its final decision about Turkey. Besides, France appears to be tired of being seen as the only “bad guy” in Turkey-EU relations. Furthermore, Turkey needs to know what every actor really thinks to make up its mind. The distrust, aggravated by ambiguities, will only worsen current tensions. What is worse is that the tensions between states have already started to turn into tensions between peoples.