Turkey desperately wants to join the European Union. And it’s been playing different hands of cards to make it happen. Some say that the recent cancelling of the Israel Air Force in the NATO air drill with Turkey was a way for Turkey to assert itself in the East, in fading hopes that it would join the EU any time soon. Turkey wanted to show the EU and the West that if they don’t play nice with Turkey, Turkey will be friends with less than rational characters like those leading Syria and Iran’s regimes. (Don’t get me wrong – I like Syrians and Iranians. It’s their dictators that scare me.)
As we see from the media frenzy at Copenhagen’s COP15 climate event with 5,000 plus journalists and bloggers at the event (some with questionable press creds), the environment has become a pretty hot and trendy topic. Green Prophet has known this for years already, otherwise we wouldn’t be Green Prophets, would we? Now, according to the EU Observer Turkey plans on paying a lot more attention to its environmental issues in a bid to get acceptance in the European Union (hey EU they’ve already banned 74 pesticides!). This past Monday it opened an environment chapter in order to join the EU bloc.
According to the online magazine, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, said Ankara had now moved on to a harder level in talks. “We have taken the decision to open the (negotiating) chapter on the environment. It means Turkey is taking a qualitative step towards a more demanding stage in the negotiations,” he said.
Turkey has a number of serious environmental problems, such as high levels of chemical and detergent pollution in its water, and a heavily polluted Black Sea. Urban air quality is considered very poor since people burn lignite (brown coal) at home to keep warm; while mass transit is underdeveloped and private car ownership skyrocketing. The EU journal also says that Turkish industries in metals, cement, fertilizer and sugar lack filtration technology, and that about 70% of its land surface is eroded.
More from the EU article:
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the government first started to take environmental protection seriously with the establishment of an environment ministry in 1991. The potential for EU membership was a major driver of this shift, although since 2003 enforcement has suffered.
Despite changes, Turkey is not favoured by all EU members:
France, Germany and Austria have led the charge against the majority Muslim country joining the bloc, while the UK, Scandinavia and some eastern European countries favour Turkey’s eventual entry.
Turkey is feeling stiffed because it’s not getting a quick acceptance to the EU bloc, while newcomers such as Macedonia have gotten free entry visas before Turkey. If Turkey uses the environment card to gain favour and status among EU nations, then I say this kind of political pressure is good for environmental change. Turkey’s desire to up its standards is also a good opportunity for other countries in the region working in the area of clean tech to help Turkey clean up. Think of all the green jobs that could be developed in Turkey.
Turkey has a foot in the West (Istanbul is in Europe) with a body in the East (Asia). This moderate country could be a force of change and environmental remediation for the rest of the Middle East to follow.
More on Turkey and the environment:
Turkey Lands World Bank Smart Grid Project
Turkey Unsure to Look East or West for Renewable Energy
Turkey Bans 74 Pesticides for the EU
Image via carbonnyc