May 31, 2005

JOHN O’SULLIVAN ON TURKEY AND THE E.U.

All three crises are extremely dangerous. Yet most European and Turkish politicians are sleepwalking into them behind the banner “There is no Plan B” — Plan A being Turkey’s EU admission. And Washington echoes the same slogan because it strongly supports the Turkish application.

In reality there is always a Plan B, even if the politicians avoid considering it until Plan A has collapsed. Under this particular Plan B, the United States would rescue Turkey and the EU from their joint crises while also advancing U.S. interests in transatlantic integration.

It would work as follows:

First, the EU and the United States (together with its partners in NAFTA) would merge their markets to form TAFTA — or a transatlantic free trade area.

Second, they would invite all the existing European countries not in the EU, including Turkey, Norway and Switzerland, to join this enlarged TAFTA. (Ukraine, Russia and Latin American countries outside NATFA would be eligible to join once they met criteria similar to those required for EU entry.)

Third, this TAFTA would establish joint procedures for harmonizing existing and new regulations between NAFTA, the EU and non-EU states,.

Fourth, free movement of labor would not be a provision in TAFTA, but there would be preferential immigration rules between members.

Laid out in this way, such a Plan B inevitably sounds utopian. Many of its individual features, however, have been widely discussed for years. Indeed, a full-scale EU-U.S. free trade area almost came about a decade ago.

At the time it was vetoed by the French. But Europeans might now see the value of a program for economic integration that does not involve free immigration — but that would offer Turkey a solid substitute for EU membership, mollify the Islamic world, and build an long-term economic bridge to Russia, North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

And in their currently shaken state, even the French might be prepared to accept American leadership out of the crisis — so, Condi, act quickly.

Read the whole thing.