Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 120 - 132)



Mr Hamilton

  120. I wanted to ask you whether in your opinion you think Turkey will eventually accede to the European Union and become a member, or is it still something that is largely open to debate within Turkey?
  (Mr Barchard) The desire to do it is very strong and it is not going to go away, and it is particularly strong among young people who increasingly know what they are missing so, barring some cataclysmic collapse inside Turkey (and despite all its upheavals and reversals of fortune Turkey has always managed to avoid that). I think that pressure is going to be there, and refusing them essentially on grounds of ethnic prejudice or cultural difference or something of that sort will be unacceptable. We come therefore to the question of Cyprus. It seems fairly clear to me that if southern Cyprus, the Republic of Cyprus, is admitted into the European Union in 2003-2004 before negotiations are opened with Turkey, it will certainly use a vote of veto for the foreseeable future to prevent Turkish negotiations being opened. If that happens of course the question would recede into the indefinite future and there would be a climate of extreme bitterness and confrontation. If we can deal with that future issue, I would have thought that it is inevitable that at some point in the future Turkey will be a member.

  121. It is just that there seem to be some mixed views in the evidence we have received that would suggest that while there is this pressure within Turkey to join the EU, there are certain voices within Turkey that say, "Well, they do not really want us. The European Union is half-hearted about us. Look at the way the eastern European countries have overtaken us. Fifteen years ago they were Communist countries. We started applying for membership in 1959 and we are still applying, and yet Poland and Hungary and so on will join long before us." There is a sort of bitterness among certain circles within Turkey. Is that something you have found?
  (Mr Barchard) There is undoubtedly bitterness. There is a great resentment of the European Union in many ways among young Turks, particularly on the issues of visas and things of that sort. One could see a whole generation of radical anti-European politicians merging in Turkey in the future as a result of this bitterness, but as long as there is any chance of getting into the European Union—(and can I just slightly correct you there: it was actually April 1987 that the first formal application was made although the first expression of interest came in 1959)—but since Turkey applied in 1987 and it was not until 1999 that its application was taken up, I think they have a certain right to feel aggrieved because many of the countries which are now applying were not in any way democratic at the time when Turkey applied.

  122. Would you say that the decisions we make now as a European Union to encourage Turkey, and especially one of the issues you have highlighted about visas does cause some bitterness, are going to be critical to our future relations? It is a daft thing to ask perhaps, but I suppose what I am trying to get at is that if we make some of the wrong decisions now and further encourage that bitterness, we might find Turkey veering away from us and saying, "We do not actually want to join you"?
  (Mr Barchard) It is possible. There are those in Turkey who believe that some sort of pan-Turkic confederation or union with Azerbaijan would give them autonomy combined with a very strong bilateral relation with the United States. I do not think the majority of people believe that. I think that they see themselves as living at the culmination of a process which has been going on for 200 years of integration with Europe. It should not be forgotten when we are talking about the Holy Roman Empire and so forth that many places in Turkey are actually historical parts of the European heritage and the people who live there are themselves well aware of that, so in a sense it is a re-integration, not a first time integration.

Ms Stuart

  123. From some evidence which we have had, particularly in relation to the United States, we were beginning to get an impression that certainly a section of the United States was very much supporting Turkey's EU application as permanent recognition for the military support they have been given post-September 11, whereas there is insistence on our part and on the European Union part that such things as human rights simply have to be addressed and there is not a kind of quid pro quo that just because you have been supportive on the military side we will close our eyes to the various issues on human rights. What is the attitude to the role of the United States within Turkey as far as you can see?
  (Mr Barchard) Anti-Americanism is a much less powerful force in Turkey than it is, for example, in some of its neighbours, such as Greece. The reason for that is in part that there is a different spirit to Turkish/American relations than there is to Turkish/European relations. The kind of historical prejudices which I mentioned in my paper, quite surprisingly, are much less strongly felt. If you go to Washington you will find that of course people agree entirely with you on the question of human rights and the need for progress on that and cultural minorities and all those things because Americans believe in them every bit as strongly as we do, but the spirit of their relationship with Turkey is a spirit of friendship and mutual confidence which I do not think is anything like as strong here. I was very surprised in Washington that Turkish offices and airlines and cultural associations and that sort of thing do not have to be strongly guarded. If you go out and try and buy a Turkish Airlines ticket here you enter an institution under a state of siege. It points to quite a deep phenomenon going beyond the military alliance with the United States.

  124. You mentioned the danger of anti-European feeling if accession is too much delayed. Is there a danger that this anti-European feeling will become very pro-Islamic? Is there a perception that it will turn to fundamentalist Islamic countries?
  (Mr Barchard) It is very difficult to predict these things but I would have not thought so this side of an enormous political upheaval and realignment in Turkish politics. Most people in Turkey believe themselves entitled to play a part in the new Europe because they are leading a European lifestyle and they can see themselves as Europeans, and when they look MTV or whatever it is they think, "That is us".


  125. Is there any serious alternative to the European vocation of Turkey?
  (Mr Barchard) In my view no, not this side of some enormous catastrophe. There are analysts who argue that Turkey should return to its Islamic roots and perhaps draw closer to the Arabs and things of that sort and the people who argue that are trying to suggest things which are not a viable option.

Mr Chidgey

  126. Can you explain, Mr Barchard, why it is then that the pro-Islamic parties have been seen to be more popular in the opinion polls?
  (Mr Barchard) They are popular in the countryside. There is a regional basis to it. They are also popular in the east of the country and they are popular among people from the countryside living in the large towns. They are by and large not popular with the urban working class and the middle class and the metropolitan areas. One must remember that although a majority of Turkey now lives in the towns there is still a very large population in the countryside and 44 per cent of the population is still employed in agriculture.

  127. Yes, but the point I am making is, notwithstanding the imbalance in the population, they still manage to get support in the opinion polls for the Islamic parties was still far greater than for any other party.
  (Mr Barchard) Traditionally they have not done that and actually I expected in the 1997 election and earlier ones the Islamic parties to make a rather stronger showing than they did. We are talking about 21 per cent, I think, was the figure you quoted. That is not an overwhelming majority. We are dealing at the moment with an unprecedented situation in Turkish politics where there was an extraordinary economic disaster last year.

  128. So it is literally a knee-jerk reaction to that situation?
  (Mr Barchard) No. It shows that they have a strong rump of support in rural society which at the moment is holding up better than the other groups because the other groups have lost prestige.

  129. My point is, 21 per cent overall, and the urban populations are predominantly in favour of the secular political parties.
  (Mr Barchard) That is not quite the case because the large cities, Istanbul and Ankara, are actually under Islamist mayors, one must not forget. They are capable in this situation of extracting a plurality from the divisions of the other parties.

  130. What I am suggesting, and I would like you to comment on it, is that because of the shift in population into the urban areas the fact that the overall pro-Islamic parties have gained 21 per cent of support in the polls would infer that in the rural areas their support is far higher than 21 per cent. Is that the case?
  (Mr Barchard) It depends on the rural area, but yes, in the centre and the east of the country I think one could broadly speaking—

  131. They have got a majority?
  (Mr Barchard) In some areas, certainly, yes.


  132. The job of the Foreign Affairs Committee is to monitor the Foreign Office, to suggest recommendations. If you were in this seat, where do you think that the British Government can assist Turkey along the path to its chosen vocation in Europe? What are we failing to do that we should be doing in terms of engaging with Turkey?
  (Mr Barchard) I think we want to create some much more broadly based dialogue with all sections of Turkish society, beginning by trying to have more Turkish students in the UK and perhaps making it easier for Turkish students, who will, one assumes, some day be citizens of the European Union, to study in British universities. One wants to have a much wider range of contacts between Britain and other European Union countries and Turkish professionals at all levels. One also wants to expand many of the contacts that already exist, for example the training of civil servants and the training of the police. There has been some sort of programme, I think, since the mid-1990s between reformist elements, as one might call them, in the Turkish police academies and other areas trying to create a new police technology and a new culture, and British and other European police. One wants to expand those sorts of things. Most important of all is that the political messages should be ones that do not alarm the Turks, that do not say that we are supporting your Christian neighbours against you; but that demonising you is over, and that we regard you as the Americans do, as partners with whom we have to build an ongoing practical relationship, not as people we think should be excluded from Europe.

  Chairman: That is a good note on which to finish. Thank you very much, Mr Barchard.

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