Next month the European Union is likely once again to dissemble, delay and deceive Turkey about its prospects for membership. Ever since December 1999, when the EU announced that Turkey was a candidate to join, becoming part of Europe has been Turkey's national obsession. Despite the worst economic recession in a generation, despite divided and weak governments, despite a recent battle with its Kurdish minority, Turkey has undergone large-scale economic liberalization and passed three sets of path-breaking constitutional reforms along lines suggested by the European Commission. The last set, approved in August, abolished the death penalty, gave linguistic and educational rights to the Kurdish minority, and expanded the rule of law and political and press freedoms. "All the things that Turkey has been unwilling to do for decades it enacted in one day last August," says Soli Ozel, a Turkish political scientist.
And what was Europe's reaction to these historic measures? It found fault with all of them.
And that fundamentally is the issue. It is time to stop dissembling, delaying and deceiving. What is needed is good faith.
Watching Lawrence of Arabia recently, I found myself wondering why the British and French took the side of the Arabs against the Turks then, and the simplistic thought is that they have been on the wrong side every since. (Yes, I know that the Ottomans were historically the enemy of Christian Europe, but there was a point at which this ceased to be so. Certainly the Americans have done a better job of realising this than the Europeans).