I am reacting to this blog by Georgi Gotev: Will the ‘wise men’ dare to mention Turkey’s place in Europe?

” On Europe Day the EU’s ‘group of wise men’ will submit its report on the challenges facing Europe until 2030. I had the chance to gather some views from some of these men and women, who have worked in secrecy for a year and a half. A rumour says that when they were entrusted the effort, one condition was demanded by France: that they should not touch upon Turkey.
But it would be a very strange kind of report about Europe in 2030, if it doesn’t say if Turkey is in or out by then. Or why it should, or should not be. I think that if Felipe Gonzalez wants to go down in history as a great figure of EU integration, he cannot avoid the subject. A great EU figure doesn’t need to bow to a country’s president. “

Here is my own, personal view: In my recollection, it is actually France that asked for this ‘groupe de reflexion’, as Sarkozy was hoping it would in fact address the question of EU borders. Others refrained from making this part of the explicit mandate, as it would be divisive and controversial. Which of course doesn’t brush the issue of the table.

So, far from me to claim defending Sarkozy’s position on Turkey, but I think he does support an open debate on it. Contrary to those who think Turkey (one day Ukraine?) should and can be handled ‘just like the others, out of fairness’. With a ‘cut & paste’ from previous accession Treaties (I do simplify here), what I call the ‘photocopy approach’.

What some people in Paris fear, IMHO, is not the debate but part of the answers. There is a strong body of opinion in Europe in favour of Turkey’s eventual accession. Not currently a majority, but it could increase if and when the perspective becomes more likely (iterative process wish / forecast). That in turn requires a stronger debate. Which – Georgi is right – indeed Gonzales should trigger and support. Instead of keeping things behind closed doors since 18 months…

In my view, what we need is a debate, and a creative one, leading to new solutions, out of the impasse. For the moment there is very little behind the idea of a ‘strategic partnership’, so it’s not really an alternative. So, who has a better solution?

I claim to be a non-expert, and ready to be proven wrong… right here below!

Christophe Leclercq

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  1. Apart from the insider references to ‘Europe Day’ can someone explain what the Gonzalez reflection group is for?

    We have only just reached 2010 by which time the Lisbon Agenda was supposed to have transformed Europe into the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world; yet we read today that Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU and sinking in comparison with its neighbour Romania, which joined at the same time.

    So, despite the failure of Europe to achieve its self-set goal, we now have a new ten year plan emerging from the EU institutions: Europe 2020 – even the Gosplan of the Soviet Union did not have the arrogance to provide successive ten year plans.

    So how can a Reflection Group look forward 20 years to 2030? A reflection group looking forward sounds like an oxymoron to me, but perhaps they will surprise us all on Europe Day – though I am now told that this is an official holiday for Eurocrats – so can it be taken any more seriously than the Gosplans of yesteryear?

  2. Thank you Patrick.

    There may be a cultural difference here, but I don’t think that mistaken plans of the past should prevent from thinking ahead into the future.

    In fact, it’s probably easier to have a 20 year vision than a 5 year plan. The ambition of such plans was never to regulate in detail like Gosplan did.

    In fact, the Gonzalez plan have very few concrete, specific objective, unlike the former Lisbon Agenda and now Europe 2020, so perhaps it’s less likely to be proven wrong?

    The biggest shortcoming, in my view, is the absence of clear thinking, or at least different options, regarding geographic expansion. Or not, indeed, but in any case developping a view.


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