What the Turkish President and a French Minister told me encourages posting some ideas I had discussed with friends. I describe briefly the context, some practical steps, a daring vision, and next steps.

Last week, I spoke at a major French Turkish conference in Istanbul, summmarised in this article: “Turkey, France test the water before Sarkozy visit”. Behind efforts of rapprochement between both countries, and concerns about Turkey’s drifting toward the East, there is the broader issue of the continent’s future architecture. I am not talking here only of enlargement: we need to think beyond the ‘cut & paste’ approach to European integration, bringing down the ‘new Berlin wall’ between enlargement and neighbourhood.

My interview with President Gül was short but revealing. He made a good speech at a dinner event but would of course not speak freely in an interview, just at the time the country foreign policy is in the limelight. Probably like strongman Erdogan, Gül is bullish about Turkey’s attractiveness and not disclosing interest in interim half measures, for fear of renouncing full enlargement. If his likely November visit to Ankara as G-20 Chairman is to be successful, Sarkozy must offer some humility and a few great ideas.

My interview of Pierre Lellouche, and his prior speech went beyond his pro / anti enlargement dilemma and some defensiveness. Like his boss Kouchner, the French Secretary of State for European affairs is interested in geopolitics, not just in the EU mechanics. Unlike others, he does think ahead of changes in Ukraine and Russia, instead of just following the short term public opinions of France and Turkey.

I am probably more committed to enlargement than most Paris politicians or observers, based on living in EU circles since 1987, working in Russia 15 years ago, and experiencing Central Europe’s media landscape for 10 years. But I believe some people are right to debate the enlargement ‘pensée unique’. Although they could do it in a more constructive way, like the Germans. My own intervention – far from a keynote speech – was made of two points: short term practical measures, and visioning for this Century, beyond Turkey.

First, we need to build trust between Turkey and Europe via practical measures (a bit like the Schuman / Monet method, said a later speaker). Building on the existing Customs Union, we need to a) get rid of the humiliating and inefficient visas for Turkish visitors b) boost the Erasmus student exchanges to and from the country c) prepare the minds for the next stage: working permits for Turks, firstly graduates d) greatly increase communication among civil society and business circles, beyond the Institut du Bosphore and the Turkey Season in France. All these are necessary steps, not costing much money or controversy.

Secondly, one should think long term, not just replicating models of the past, but ‘inventing our futures together’ as Kemal Dervis put it at that conference. In my view, the challenges that will force change are notably: soft but influential global governance, EU enlargement & institutional fatigue (possibly after the Western Balkans), Europe 2020 failing but recovered stability, declining but European Russia, growing and assertive Turkey, reforming but torn Ukraine.

So, how could ‘Europe-beyond-EU’ look like in 10 to 20 years? My tentative concept is neither terribly original, nor controversy-free, not detailled (the Schuman declaration was shorter than this post ! 🙂 ). Here is a short vision:
– a pan-European space with all usual freedoms, including labour movement (in stages): call it ‘the new EEC’
– acquis communautaire either mandated or voluntarily adapted by Eastern countries: to gain stability and foreign investments
– few ‘hard’ institutional developments in the medium term, but ‘Europe 10’ soft governance:
. including EU’s ‘big 6’, plus Turkey, Ukraine and probably Russia (10th slot is for the EU itself: Commission or EU President, also standing for smaller countries)
. E-10 Summits before G-20 Summits and before EU Summits
. once a year,
if the Mediterranean space finally takes off, E-10 could be enlarged to key countries there?
– the question of EU enlargement remains open:
. Ukraine and Turkey may eventually join for good, if the ‘missing bits’ outweigh at that time the cost of full compliance, including sovereignty limitations
. Integrating and negotiating EU legislation chapters does make sense anyway, and should not block progress in parallel.

Could the EU make this happen, without smaller Member States trying to block, in alliance with the Commission and Parliament ? No, the pan-European renewal dynamic must be initiated by a few country leaders. In a fait accompli without any treaty backing, like the start of EU Summits and G-7 in the seventies, and G-20 recently. Once the momentum exists, then one can talk about the Commission being the natural secretariat, and the Parliament debating with Eastern parliamentarians, or even integrating them as observers.

After this glimpse of visioning, now I land back in Istanbul: how does this all fit with Turkey’s expectations? I believe the country needs four things, that can be delivered faster than enlargement: be recognized as the regional power it was, fulfilling the EEC promise made in 1963, delivering benefits for its people, and keeping the eventual enlargement question open.

Now, are there next steps after this mere blog post? Clearly, the ‘big politics’ ball is in the camp of French and German governments, but they won’t be the most credible in Turkey’s eyes. It is Europe as whole that needs to think hard about its future. In an innovative way that the consensus-driven Gonzales group did not achieve. And I’m saying Europe, not just the EU, but also Turkey, Ukraine… and – let’s leave old fears aside – Russia also.

Let’s think pan-Europe together!

Christophe Leclercq

In practice, at my modest level: like several others, I have more ideas – and questions – on these topics. Fiction or real policies, the future will tell. And first of all some informal reality checks: I may trigger a ‘stakeholder workshop’ with other people who think beyond their country expertise and day job. Readers who are interested – you already read that far! – may react below publicly, and/ or contact me personally:
my email is at the bottom of my profile here.

I also take an interest in Ukraine and interviewed a few politicians from both the previous and current government, see:
Context of interviewing (previous) Deputy Prime Minister Nemirya
Interview with (current) Deputy Foreign Minsiter Yelisieiev

Notes from a Krynica Forum panel on Ukraine at which I spoke, with former PM Miller and Ukrainian politicians

Author :


  1. I am not hostile to ideas in favour of strategic dialogue, and I too am fascinated by potential international security architectures. However, too many Europeans have been ill served in past centuries by the sort of Great Power entente that is adumbrated here, over and above the heads of smaller peoples. If the EU is to remain an exporter rather an importer of values, then it may be better to pursue 1-on-1 meetings with Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and any others, than to provide such large and resourceful states with a forum for concerting efforts against the EU, especially if the EU has not decided first what it seeks for itself. The main issues in broad visions are political engineering and institution-building. Le diable se cache dans les détails.

    If this sort of warning seems far-fetched, merely consider the Russia-Turkey entente verging on alliance regarding common energy policy vis-à-vis Europe, discussed in my early-March blog posts Europe Focuses on Southern Energy Corridor and Turkey and Azerbaijan Move towards Agreement on Shah Deniz Gas. For my historically-based conceptual analysis of the trends in evolution of international affairs in Eurasia during the first half of the 21st century, see my 1999 article The Complex Evolution of International Orders and the Current International Transition, which I find yet little reason to modify in its broad outlines.

    There are so many profound matters hinted at in your blog post, that any fuller treatment of them would not necessarily appear so summarily pessimistic. You are, after all, in fact proposing several research programs at once! The answers should be practical and grounded in the evolution of present circumstances, which desideratum does not not mean that they will automatically contradict broader vision. Yet it is difficult to sustain the argument on a normative basis, and especially in regard of the norms of which the EU portrays itself the exporter, that not all Europeans should have a seat at the table in preparing any initial démarche made in the name, whether sooner or later, of the EU as a whole. You will, after all, have to reckon with the European Parliament in its new form and with its new responsibilities.

  2. Author’s brief notes on democracry, which connects both: a) Cem’s Turkish regrets, understandable and b) Robert Cutler’s doubts about big power politics, reasonnable.

    Cem, thank you for your supporting words (on one point, you seem to regret situations which are already overcome. Turkish students do go on Erasmus- even in Greece! – now it’s a question of numbers)

    One more important nuance: I wrote that EEC membership was ‘promised’ in 1963, not to the EU as it is today, but to the EEC as is was then (aiming for full comon market in 1968). From a legal & diplomatic viewpoint, this interpretation could be argued. From a moral & political angle, I believe it makes sense to see the EEC – the full EEC including labour freedom – as a major step.

    I recall some Turkish friends complaining in 2004 about Europe’s unfairness, given that Malta and Cyprus had joined. They were right, but I recall stating: ‘This is not about fairness, but about democracy – democracy inside the EU. If the Constitution is not passed, it will be a mess, and Turkey won’t be able to join’ (in the foreseeable future, I meant). Unfortunately, we are in this scenario.

    Which brings us to b) Robert’s argument on democracy versus big power deals in the back of smaller people. I read with interest your references about the old ‘crowed order’, the next ‘international order’, and your Blogactiv posts about pan-European energy policy.

    As Kissinger wrote in his meisterwerk ‘Diplomacy’, big power games can be very effective in bringing peace (Vienna Congress), or very poor (post-WWI, Versailles & société des nations etc), or mediocre (Yalta).

    Anyway, the world has changed, you are right to point to democracy and parliaments. I would claim it has changed also with regard to public scrutiny via the media. Look, you reacted to my ideas within a few hours, what would happen on the internet and then in public opinion if it was Merkel, Putin and Polish President Komorowski making a strange deal against Hungarian or Serb interests? There are few backroom deals any more, various Summits increasingly lead the world and educate policy makers.

    I realise that some small Member States diplomats would protest. Probably not strongly, and not supported by public opinions: was there an uproar against the G-20? In Europe, only in Spain and to a lesser extent in the Netherlands. Same thing with the Euro-Summit at l’Elysee, at the beginning of the financial crisis: it was outside the institutionnal frame… and it made sense! I also think that involving three large non-EU countries at the same time will balance fears and wishes. Eg Central Europe is afraid of Russia but wants to involve Ukraine.

    I am not questionning the ‘méthode communautaire’, one of the best human endeavours ever. I am suggesting to keep and strengthen it, by adding a non-binding top layer to brain storm common economic policies, and then let our institutions decide for themselves, with ca 30 countries and say 900 MEPS. This would re-unite the continent, bringing three great people closer to Europe, and integrating in one process several countries’ aspirations and several global governance trends.

    I am honoured to read that my hypothesis would take lots of research to debate in depth. Such debates on various alternatives need INHO to happen faster. Because politics is more than ever so far behind economic developement and people’s aspirations.

    Let’s continue this exchange?

    Christophe Leclercq

  3. I am just coming back from a week-end in Istanbul, and I was amazed by the dynamism of this city. Walking through Istiqlal street, I saw a crowd I had never seen anywhere else in Europe – a huge crowd, young, cheering, thriving.
    Talking to business leaders, I felt how “désenchanté” about Europe they were. As if they felt they did not need to join the EU anymore.

  4. Merci Jean Christophe, j’ai eu le même sentiment au même endroit.
    As tu visité – sur la même rue Istiqlal – le siège de ‘Istanbul capitale culturelle de l’Europe’ ?
    Superbe batiment XVIIIième siècle, où le sultan venait se distraire…
    On m’y a expliqué la scène artistique vibrante de la ville: pas uniquement le passé, comme à Rome, mais de la création, qui attire beaucoup d’artistes d’autres pays.

    Cela explique aussi ce que le Président Gül me disait concernant l’attractivité du pays, contrairement à l’idée d’une invasion de ‘Gasttarbeiters’ turcs en Europe.


  5. Ari, I like your focus on people’s needs, as opposed to the wishes of some elite.

    One problem with the ‘privileged partnership’ is that it is… not privileged. But seen in Turkey as what it is: something LESS than enlargement. Not rewarding the country’s long drive to the West.

    That is why I think of offering MORE : participate in the new architecture for the continent, alongside the other major regional powers (‘Europe 10’). And in parallel to meeting people’s needs, as you write, and also business needs (which I call ‘EEC’).

    I hear some experts and politicians are starting to think more in such directions… Any further thougths welcome.

    Christophe Leclercq

  6. Your ideas give much mezze for thought ! Some out-of-the-box thinking is needed to find a clear, agreed strategy. Your proposals require huge institutional and treaty change; which are no-goers in the foreseeable future.

    We must reach agreement how to work with Turkey, which is becoming a key geopolitical player and can affect, positively or negatively, a whole range of issues. Although, we have to intensify our long-term thinking about our Eastern partnership, Turkey should be treated as a separate case.

    We need a short-term programme to build trust – visa freedom, Erasmus, civil society exchanges are important stages to be completed in the next 3-5 years. .

    Unfortunately, we cannot’ turn the clock back. I’ve always believed that the solution for Turkey and other countries is a European Neighbourhood Area (ENA) based on the EEA. The ENA would contain countries that one day will join the EU and others that may not: the EU would be a member. This solution meets your four needs.

    Ukraine must fundamentally change their governance, including legal and judicial. The first step should be an association agreement which Ukraine wants and which is also in the EU’s interest. Again a more liberal visa regime is desirable, but .the mafias and organised crime have to be controlled.

    The Caucasus – even Georgia – will not be ready for many years.

    But before we can make progress with any of these ideas, the EU must get it’s own act together externally. I would support a ‘stakeholder workshop’ provided you can identify a small number of people who think strategically and can think outside the box.

    Stanley Crossick

  7. Stanley, your comments are encouraging. Is my suggestion really requiring a Treaty soon?

    If you can’t climb the moutain, go around it…

    Indeed, we have institution fatigue, negociating an EEC Treaty woudld be a nightmare. BUt I’m not sure that ‘my proposal’ requires much institutionnal change for many years, in addition to what’s done or cooking already:
    – Turkey: Customs Union will need to add visa freedom soon, and some day an ad hoc labour agreement anyway
    – Ukraine: will get its association agreement in 2011 (and even really start implementing it!)
    – Russia: I would go for voluntary approximation, nothing binding for a long time, then update the EU-Russia Treaty. This fits its modernisation agenda.
    – Europe 10 Summits could be ‘informal’ (and they are the most controversial part of my idea, but also a way of getting acceptance from the ‘non-EU 3’)

    It ‘s the integration of it all, as EEC for EU + 3, in the long run, that would require a Treaty indeed.

    Just like the ENA you suggest, not entirely dissimilar.
    Unlike enlargement, ending with the Treaty, not starting with institutionnal negotiations.

    I think the énarques would like your ENA :-). Perhaps Turks and Ukrainians also.
    I found your mention of it on Blogactiv, already in 2009: worth expanding?

    I will continue the exchange of ideas with interested parties, here but also offline.

    Christophe Leclercq

  8. 1.
    David Black
    Comment by David Black | 2010/07/07 at 21:52:25 |e

    My name is David Black and I work at the World Policy Journal. Our upcoming Summer 2010 issue contains an article written by the editor, David Andelman, concerning the current status of Turkey’s relationship to Europe and its efforts towards accession into the EU.

    The article can be found at the following link:

    And our website is:

    Please do not hesitate to contact me or Ryan Bradley, managing editor of the Journal, if you have questions, comments, or requests.

  9. As things stand, it is difficult for Turkish policy makers to contemplate the establishment of a framework of strategic dialogue with the EU. The fear is that this would turn into the much maligned alternative of the “privileged partnership”. Therefore if such an endeavor is to be initiated, it is indispensable that a reassurance that such a framework will not be used or construed as an alternative to EU membership has to be provided to the Turkish side. There are on the other hand objective reasons for supporting such an idea. The two sides have plenty to gain from a strengthened collaboration in many policy fields energy, CFSP, ESDP, JHA, visas, trade, climate change just to name a few. In addition such a structure can also be useful from the membership objective by a- disspelling the mistrust generated bythe stalled process of membership, b-dedramatizing Turkey’s eventual membership.

  10. This idea is good, nevertheless, we should be extremely cautious at the way it would be received in smaller member states and distinguish between countries.

    – For Turkey, the problem comes from the bigger MS than from the smaller ones.
    – For Russia, – apart from the polish-russian relationship ( – which is a problem per se, Eastern small member states will be the main obstacle.

    So I guess, it’s more complicated than just a forum for big states. One idea can be to invite systematically these 3 states for lunch at the European Council and to extend programs like Erasmus, etc to them.

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