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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Turkey's EU hopes drift amid financial uncertainty

If a project has no deadline, is it really a project? What do you call a negotiation process in which the partners can't talk about key issues? These are existential times for Turkey's campaign to join the European Union -- an ambitious vision that has become increasingly ambiguous.

At a time when Greece's survival in the eurozone is in jeopardy, it seems academic to debate a Turkish entry to European ranks that some Turks feel won't happen in their lifetime, if at all. The more pressing question is whether the suitors should, as with any soured romance, call it quits or rekindle the flame.

When accession talks began in 2005, the idea was that Turkey's Muslim population would enrich the continent, culturally and economically, with Turkey itself destined to become a European-style democracy that could serve as an east-west bridge. More than six years later, doubt haunts hope. Economic troubles mean that Europe, where skepticism toward the Turkish bid was already building, has little energy to expand, while in Turkey reform efforts have slowed and the nation has sought to carve out a leadership role in the Middle East.

"Without a deadline, without a final aim, there is no process," said Cengiz Aktar, a political science professor at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul. "There can't be an endless project."

For more: EU-DIGEST: Turkey's EU hopes drift amid financial uncertainty