A “very talented Mr Ripley” at the EU Commission ?

There is probably a “very talented Mr. Ripley” in EU Commissioner Fule’s entourage misleading him in his communication with the Turkish public.

Or, maybe he is very naive.

Or he is at the service of the Turkish religious sect of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Stefan Fule, a Czech national serving as the member of the Brussels-based European Commission, is in charge of the European Union’s enlargement to new states.  One of his major dossiers is Turkey.

The Commission is the executive arm of the European Union. In its last report on Turkey, the Commission emphasizes very significant democratic deficits among which the undemocratic manipulation of this country’s judiciary system and the police force is a particularly dark episode. Fethullah Gulen’s Islamic sect is suspected by a wide public as the obscure force behind this. (see for example: Der Spiegel: The Shadowy World of the Islamic Gülen Movement, International Herald Tribune: Quite imam casting long shadow in Turkey )

However Commissioner Fule has been very active in participating to the meetings of this sect’s diverse organizations such as a business network called Tuscon.

Moreover, on the day of publication of the Turkey report, Stefan Fule published an article in the Zaman newspaper belonging to Fethullah Gulen sect, trying to explain to the Turkish public the content of the report.

The Zaman daily is a good paper in many terms and has very decent journalists working for it.  Articles by the political officials can be published in Zaman. There is nothing wrong with this choice unless the same political officials respect also Turkey’s political and social diversity and publish their message in other newspapers addressing to other segments of the Turkish society.

Why does Stefan Fule privilege a newspaper and ignore systematically all others which represent the majority of the Turkish society’s political sensibilities? He could have opted for a simultaneous publication in several newspapers representing various trends such as liberals, socialists, ecologists, nationalists, center left and right,  different religious groups, political preferences and socio-economic groups.


Maybe he is very naive, preferably.


Beyond all these concerns, it is a good article, congratulations Mr Füle and congratulations to Zaman for publishing it.

Turkey and the EU: Common Challenges, Common Future


In a recent press interview, Orhan Pamuk said that Turkey’s EU project ‘has fallen apart’. These words, coming from a Nobel-prize winner and a writer whose books I admire, made a big impression on me. As European Commissioner responsible for enlargement policy I deal on a daily basis with the various aspects of EU-Turkey relations and I can certainly say that our joint project has not been abandoned; on the contrary, important recent initiatives have injected new energy and new hope. But I do think that Pamuk’s words reflect the mood often felt on both sides and that they come at the right moment. I see them as a wake-up call at a time when the EU and Turkey are both at a crossroads and need to take decisive steps forward on their common path.

That our path is common, few seem to question. When I ask my Turkish partners where they see Turkey in five, ten or twenty years from now, they all say ”anchored in Europe”. When I put the same question to my interlocutors and politicians in the EU, the answer is the same: they see Turkey’s future as a modern European state. We should not forget all that unites us, or let the current problems overshadow it.

There are problems in the EU-Turkey relationship, there’s no point denying it. Some soul searching needs to be done on both sides. Sometimes contradictory messages from Europe regarding Turkey’s accession may be confusing. On the other hand many in the EU have grown impatient over Turkey’s slow pace of reforms, of worrying set-backs regarding human rights issues and about Turkey’s reluctance to open its ports and airports to all EU member states.

Why then does my faith in Turkey’s EU project remain intact?

A simple look at the daily news confirms the magnitude of our common challenges and the range of reasons why the EU’s and Turkey’s futures are bound together: the economic slowdown, energy security, environment, dialogue between civilisations, enforcement of democracy, human rights and the rule of law and, last but not least, the stability of our joint neighbourhood in the context of the Arab spring and the dramatic developments in Syria. The EU and Turkey need to work hand in hand to successfully tackle all these challenges.

This is why we have launched the positive agenda: It is not an alternative to the accession process – on the contrary, its aim is to revive it after a period of stagnation. To allow the EU to continue to be the benchmark for reforms in Turkey. And we are succeeding; only five months after its launch we have already achieved results: most of the joint working groups on alignment with EU laws and standards in various areas have all come together for their first meeting. The EU committed to take steps towards visa liberalization in parallel with the signature of the Readmission Agreement between Turkey and the EU. We decided to enhance cooperation on a number of important energy issues, such as market integration for gas and electricity or renewable energy and energy efficiency. We intensified our dialogue on foreign policy issues, including Syria.

So while there are stumbling blocks in our relationship, there is also a lot that is going in the right direction. This allows me to say today, just as I said when I first came to Turkey as EU Commissioner nearly three years ago: I believe Turkey can become a member of the European Union. We have a joint commitment toward this goal.

Štefan Füle
Commissioner for Enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy

This article is published on the occasion of the publication by the European Commission of its progress report on Turkey, on 10 October 2012. The article was published in Zaman daily on the same day.

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