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12/6/02 - TURKEY AND THE E-U - 2002-12-06

A meeting of the fifteen members of the European Union will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 12th. One question is whether they will agree on a date to begin negotiations on Turkey’s application for E-U membership. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said, “The decision on E-U membership is, of course, Europe’s to make. But history suggests that a European Union that welcomes Turkey will be even stronger, safer, and more richly diverse than it is today.”

Through the forty years of the Cold War, Turkey was a key NATO ally. In 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Turkey played a critical role in the Gulf War. After Iraq’s defeat, Turkey supported Operation Provide Comfort, enabling hundreds of thousands of Kurdish refugees to return to their homes in northern Iraq.

When terrorists struck the U.S. on September 11, 2001, Turkey offered its unconditional support, including bases, over-flight rights and the deployment of ground forces in Afghanistan. Later, Turkey took over the leadership of the international force that is providing security in and around the Afghan capital, Kabul.

“And Turkey,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, “offers a valuable model for Muslim majority countries, striving to realize the goals of freedom, secularism and democracy.” Turkey is a country, said Mr. Wolfowitz, “that believes in freedom and that changes its leaders at the ballot box.” Turkey has also undertaken constitutional reforms, as suggested by the European Commission. Turkey has strengthened the protections for a free press.

Turkey’s newly elected Justice and Development Party, the A-K, has expressed clear support for Turkey’s tradition of secular government. “In this election Turks were casting their votes for the concept of responsible and accountable representation,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz. “They were not, as some might fear, seeking to politicize religion. The A-K Party, which is best known for its Muslim identity...has also strongly declared its belief in a Turkish destiny in Europe, and the government it has formed has demonstrated that since coming into office. It has repeatedly expressed its support for the separation of religion and state, which is the basis of Turkish democracy.

If it carries through with its stated positions,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, “there is no more reason to fear this party than religious-based parties in Europe and elsewhere in the world that combine religious faith with belief in tolerance and religious freedom and the separation of church and state.”

“Turkey’s success,” said Mr. Wolfowitz, “could demonstrate to the world’s one-billion-two-hundred-million Muslims that there is a far better path than the path of destruction and despair offered by the terrorists and demonstrate that the benefits of free and prosperous and open societies are available equally to Muslims as to everyone.”