Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

The key to global power

The Daily Telegraph - 17 December 2004

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Advocates of the European Union as a fully fledged superpower predicted yesterday that the addition of Turkey's military might would make it a true global player.

Ankara's forces are greater than those of France and Britain combined, with 514,000 men under arms and 380,000 in reserve, plus a robust air force with American fighters.

A Nato official described the forces as "very experienced and well-trained", hardened by years of battles against Kurdish guerrillas.

Turkey would extend EU territory deep into Asia, ultimately transforming Europe into the dominant regional power in the Middle East.

Andrew Duff, a Liberal-Democrat MEP, said Turkish entry would be "a very significant change".

It would help to secure energy supplies from central Asia and the Middle East, lessening EU dependence on Russia.

It is a nation of 71 million people, many of them young, which would help to offset the EU's acute ageing crisis. With Balkan states expected to join in coming years, it would raise the EU's population to about 570 million, twice that of the United States.

The Turkish government has been fully aware that, after decades of waiting, its chances of joining the club improved dramatically when the EU launched its defence and foreign policy drive with the 1999 Amsterdam Treaty.

The new geopolitical calculations turned Turkey from likely burden to potential asset almost overnight.

Lt Gen Çevik Bir, its former deputy chief of staff, said Turkey was central to the EU's drive for global status, given Europe's bloated welfare states and lack of brawn.

"Everybody knows this, so Turkey's military force is imperative," he said. "The idea of the EU becoming a superpower without Turkey's integration is a pipe dream."

Charles Tannock, MEP, the Tory foreign affairs spokesman, said respect for Turkey's size and military strength was a key to why so many Euro-MPs backed its entry.

"They see its huge army and land mass as a counter-weight to America," he said. "They see Turkey as being so useful for the anti-American, anti-Israel agenda that they are willing to sweep all the allegations of human rights abuses under the carpet."

Washington has been a keen supporter of Turkey's EU entry, regarding it as a reward for a loyal Nato ally and a model Muslim democracy.

The assumption has been that Turkey would remain pro-American.

But a recent survey for the German Marshall Fund found that most Turks were far less friendly to America than the French. They were also deeply hostile to Israel, shattering the myth that Turks see the Middle East through western eyes.

The pro-Washington Turkish military has kept popular feelings in check for years, by harsh means if necessary. But it has now had to step back from political life as a condition for joining the EU.

Andrew Duff said Washington was at last waking up to the risk that its strategy could backfire. "Neo-conservatives are beginning to see Turkish integration into the EU as a threat to American interests," he said.