As we approach the 100 day mark for the Obama Administration, the desire of European political parties, public interest groups, think tanks and media to analyze its impact on Europe continues unabated. On the whole, the verdict is that the election of Barack Obama was a good thing for the United States, but also for Europe.
There is a lingering resentment, however, over one thing: President Obama's April 6 speech in Ankara supporting Turkish candidacy for membership in the European Union. (Photo of EU and Turkish flags from Wikimedia Commons).
"We speak not as members of the EU, but as close friends of both Turkey and Europe," said the President. After listening to European reaction by informed EU citizens, let me say that I speak as an Obama supporter and American with strong European ties when I say that the US Government needs to, in the words of Dutch MP Hans van Baalen, "mind its own business" on Turkish-EU matters.
We know, of course, that Barack Obama is not the first American President to weigh in on behalf of Turkey's European ambitions. Nevertheless, at a time when fence-mending across the Atlantic is so important, and concerted action on a number of fronts with European allies is essential (NATO in Afghanistan, a unified approach in the G-20 on economics, energy, and climate), the US need not raise hackles in this sensitive area.
In any case, Turkey has to make its own case, and appearing like a US client is not a good means of having one's EU application favorably reviewed by a Europe still smarting from smart-ass Donald Rumsfeld's division of the continent into "Old" and "New" (pro-American) halves.
Turkey, as President Obama underlined, has made remarkable strides in matters of democracy, industry, and international stature. Its credentials need to be seen in that light, and not in a knee-jerk rejection of its application simply because its citizens are primarily Muslim. If Europe rejects Turkey because of religion, then why would Turkey want to join the EU anyway?