MADRID – Just five months ago, Osama bin Laden was alive, Hosni Mubarak was firmly in control in Egypt, and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia with an iron hand. Today, popular rebellion and political change have spread throughout the region. We have witnessed brutal repression of protests in Syria and Yemen, Saudi troops crossing into Bahrain, and an ongoing battle for Libya.
For Europe, the “Arab Spring” should refocus attention on an issue largely ignored in recent months: the benefits of Turkey’s full membership in the European Union. Given the tremendous opportunities present in the current circumstances, the advantages for Europe of Turkey’s accession should be obvious.
With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan now elected to another term as Turkey’s prime minister, and with Poland, a country well acquainted with the importance of Europe’s strategic position in the world, assuming the EU presidency at the end of the month, now is a time for the Union and Turkey to “reset” their negotiations over Turkish membership.
The good that Turkey can bring to Europe was visible even before the “Arab Spring.” Europe is, by definition, culturally diverse, so diversity is the EU’s destiny. And, if Europe is to become an active global player, rather than a museum, it needs the fresh perspective and energy of the people of Turkey.