Thursday, September 08, 2005

Shift Europe's Boundary

Jack Straw, The British Foreign Secretary
International Herald Tribune
September 8, 2005
LONDON Twenty-two months ago I stood in the rubble of what had once been the fine perimeter buildings and courtyard of Pera House, the British consulate-general building in Istanbul. A few hours before, it had been blown up by Al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers. Sixteen people were killed - three British and 13 Turkish citizens.

Alongside me that somber evening was the governor of Istanbul and my friend, Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister. I had many emotions, but one was of the reassuring, uncompromising solidarity I was offered by the Turkish government and people; the other of how familiar - yes, European - Istanbul felt; how close together we were despite the efforts of the terrorists to divide us.

I've often thought of that day during our many discussions about Turkey's longstanding application to join the European Union. As the Oct. 3 date set for the start of negotiations toward full membership approaches, it is worth underlining Turkey's strategic importance and the momentous consequences that will follow from that decision.

In school I was taught that the boundary between Europe and Asia went straight down the Bosporus, through the middle of Istanbul. Of course, "Asian" influences in Turkey are strong, just as "North African" influences are in Spain or Italy.

But we in Europe long ago decided where we wanted Turkey to be anchored. In 1952, we - the United States, Germany, Britain, France and others - invited Turkey to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1963, Turkey signed an association agreement that led to a Customs Union with the European Union...

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