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Dutch News
“Europe needs Turkey” 2/21/2007
20 February 2007

AMSTERDAM – “In the long term Turkey not only needs Europe, but Europe needs Turkey. If we forget about Turkey, all hell will break loose,” says Geert Mak, journalist and non-fiction writer.

Mak’s most recent book De Brug (The Bridge), set in Istanbul, is being given away free at bookshops during this year’s Book Week (14 -24 March). Mak makes these comments in the booklet Boekenweek CV 2007, which appears in March and contains excerpts from Mak’s work as well as a reader’s quiz.

Turkey’s accession to the EU is on the agenda in the Netherlands once again because of Queen Beatrix’s state visit to the country planned for next week.

Mak writes in the booklet: “It is already of strategic importance that a bridge be built to the Middle East via Turkey. A modern Turkey will also function as a beacon of modernisation for the Islamic world within a few decades. If we let Turkey go, on the other hand, all hell will break loose. There is a good chance that the country will fall prey to fundamentalism and become an unguided missile in this sensitive region,” Mak say.

More than 40 representatives from the Dutch media have signed up to report on Beatrix’s visit to Turkey. The country has featured prominently in the news over the past few months because of its prospective EU membership, dubious record when it comes to human rights and the (denial of the) Armenian genocide in 1915.

It does not look as if these thorny issues will be broached during the state visit. “The visit should accentuate and strengthen the historically good relations between the two countries,” says the Government Information Service.

Turkey expert Professor Erik-Jan Zürcher said on Monday that the genocide is not a question that should be stirred up publicly, like Liberal VVD MP Hans van Baalen would like to do.

“Intervention like that is not wise. In doing so you certainly don’t help out the Turks who are willing to enter the debate. These people cannot afford to be labelled a mouthpiece for Europe.” The debate on the genocide has been opened, Zürcher says, but by a ‘small intellectual elite.’

Zürcher says that in the meantime enthusiasm among Turks for entering the EU is waning. “For a whole generation at least 70 percent said ‘yes’ to the EU, now it is only 50 percent in some opinion polls.”

Still Turkey cannot be expected to ever entirely abandon its hopes to join. “Europe serves as an example, they want to join, but they have some reservations. It is widely thought that Europe does not have the best intentions for Turkey, that it is also a force that could threaten unity.”

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