Straw: Turkey is EU ‘Acid Test’

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw claims that Turkey's membership in the EU will prove that Islam and the West are not locked in an inexorable "clash of civilizations." According to Straw, liberalism's values of pluralism, tolerence, the rule of law, and human rights are universal. If Turkey meets the right criteria, Straw hopes that negotiations for EU membership will get under way. Some in Europe, like former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, believe Turkey is "not a European country." Turkey's human rights abuses and stiff penal code have been cited as reasons for exclusion in the past. Straw, however, argues that history actually reveals more commonalities between Turkey and Europe than opponents of Turkeys' EU membership are willing to admit. – YaleGlobal

Straw: Turkey is EU 'Acid Test'

Tom Happold
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Jack Straw gave a boost to Turkey's hopes of joining the EU today when he described the country's candidacy as the "acid test" of whether Europe could defeat terrorist attempts to sow division between Islam and the west.

The foreign secretary said that granting Turkey membership would prove that the EU was committed to "combating the notion that Islam and Europe are separate entities which are doomed to conflict".

In a speech in Copenhagen, Mr Straw argued that liberal, pluralist democracy, the rule of law and human rights are universal values consistent with Islam and not only confined to the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

He went on to insist that European civilisation had not developed in isolation from the Muslim world but was rather deeply indebted to it, both historically and currently.

"If we believe, as I strongly do, that Europe's strength lies not in a Judaeo-Christian club but in a diversity of traditions underpinned by common and universal values, then we must fulfil our engagements to Turkey," he said.

"We have recognised Turkey as a candidate for membership. Now we must be clear that Turkey be treated as any other EU candidate, without fear or favour.

"So I hope that, provided Turkey meets the Copenhagen criteria, the European Council this December can deliver a clear commitment to Turkey on opening negotiations for EU membership."

Mr Straw's speech comes against a background of deep opposition to Turkish membership of the EU within Europe, with many leaders sharing former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's view that Turkey is "not a European country".

The country was given hope in January, however, when the European commission president Romano Prodi said that the EU wishes to "welcome Turkey as an equal and respected member".

Mr Straw said today: "Our fight against terrorism is more than just a conflict with terrorists and their networks of support.

"It must also be a fight to defend the values which we share: the values of liberal, pluralist democracy, the rule of law and human rights which the EU has helped to spread and entrench across our continent.

"These are values which terrorists and extremists detest. The terrorists' aim is to promote division between Islam and the west and to feed the rhetoric of a 'clash of civilisations'.

"So they claim to act in the name of Islam against the west and everything we stand for. Dialogue, respect, tolerance or understanding are complete anathema to them."

He argued that extremists' rhetoric should be combated by stressing that "our values are not unique to us, but universal, and shared by peace loving people everywhere".

Celebrating the Muslim contribution to European culture he said: "Stating the facts already goes some way to combating the notion that Islam and Europe are separate entities which are doomed to conflict.

"But we need to do more, by making sure that we combine understanding with active engagement and by ensuring that that engagement is based on the universal values which we espouse."

"For me, the acid test of this is the question of Turkey's candidacy for membership of the EU."

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