Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 25 July 2004

France, Turkey and the EU (and the US-psyche)

There is an interesting article in Newsweek about a supposed change in the policy of President Chirac, therefore presumably France, toward the accession of Turkey to the European Union. France has until now been firmly opposed to this, but the article suggests that Chirac's position has changed and that he will now support an application by Turkey to join the EU. It is suggested this flows from commitments by Turkey to purchase Airbus aircraft and suggestions Turkey may seek to acquire French nuclear [power-generation] technology.

The article also discusses the rivalry which has developed between Chirac and French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who remains firmly opposed to Turkey joining the EU.

Whilst all this is very interesting, and to some degree enlightening, it is also clear that the current running through this article is one I have touched on before; the basic opposition in the US toward further EU expansion and integration; the US seems to believe that an enlarged and more integrated EU, specially one dominated by France and/or Germany, will be a 'rival' to the US itself.

It is true that the EU is probably the only potential rival, economically, to the US. Whether it is a potential military or political rival is far less clear. And in any case I think it shows [regrettably typically-American] naivete to have its world-view limited by what seems to be a blind loathing of all things French, to the extent that it is a point of serious discussion in certain quarters that one of the rivals in the forthcoming US Presidential election is "too French-looking", or renaming "French Fries" as "Freedom Fries" - of course, we Britons call the latter "Chips" anyway, a name Americans reserve for what we in the UK call "Crisps". Now, apart from this detour into some of what separates two major forms of English (British, the original and best [that's a joke, by the way, just to irritate], and American), this American obsession with France is bizarre. It smacks, frankly, of some kind of inferiority complex amongst some Americans. The US is the most powerful nation on earth, what do they (or should they) care what France thinks? Apart from the normal courtesies of relations between civilised countries the answer should probably be 'not much', once you get over the trade links between the two of them, which I expect are reasonably significant. The fact, however, that there is such an obsessive negative view of France from a pretty important segment of the US population speaks volumes - they really do care, but seem to hate themselves for caring, what France thinks and does.

Just a final couple of points. I used to read Newsweek regularly, indeed I subscribed to it for many years (mainly when I lived in the Middle and Far East) and I always considered it a vastly superior publication to its main US rival, Time, although neither compare in quality to The Economist. How Newsweek and Time compare nowadays I can't really say as I now read neither very frequently. However, when the writer of the article in Newsweek can say "The admission of a populous, nationalistic, Muslim Turkey (with the most votes in the Union) would certainly dilute Paris's influence.", all I can say in response is that the writer really does need to check his facts - Germany, with a population of 90 or so millions, is vastly larger than Turkey with about 65 or so millions today. Of course,to be fair to Newsweek, it may be alluding to the very different demographics of Turkey and most of the present EU member states who have ageing populations, as in many industrialised countries. Turkey has a very different demography with over 60% less than 30 years old (in 1997, the latest figures I have). I got the Newsweek link from Andrew Sullivan - that really says it all, so far as obsessive anti-EU(ism) - to coin a word - is concerned.

But so what? We in the UK favour the entry of Turkey into the EU, just as we favoured the entry of the ten countries which joined in May this year. Scare stories about a "nationalistic, Muslim Turkey" might wash in the US mid-west, but frankly they don't wash here.

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