How the press got the UK Home Affairs Committee report wrong

Published by Today's Zaman, 4 August 2011

The UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee released an important report titled “Implications for the Justice and Home Affairs area of the accession of Turkey to the European Union” on Monday.

Within the same day, the international press picked up on various themes in the report and by and large used sensationalist captions highlighting the report’s concerns. The Jerusalem Post stated, “UK lawmakers say Turkey must improve border security.” AFP was more dramatic with, “MPs warn over security risks if Turkey joins EU.” The BBC reflected the ever-present panic attacks over migration in Britain stating, “MPs warn over Turkey migrant risk.” Bloomberg echoed a similar alarm, “Turkey joining EU would pose border risks.” And the part of the UK with the lowest migrant population, Northern Ireland, had “Illegal immigrants fear over Turkey’s EU move,” on the Belfast Telegraph’s pages.

This was a superb chance for the UK Independence Party’s bewildered and insignificant leader, Nigel Farage, to declare that “Turkey should not be allowed to join the EU.” In a hearty dose of paradox, Farage represents an anti-EU party with seats in the European Parliament.

The titles and content of all of the press articles seem to suggest that the Home Affairs Committee’s report was asking for an end to Turkish accession talks. Yet the truth is far from it. The report does acknowledge serious patterns of organized crime and human trafficking that both Turkey and Greece get tangled in, as both countries serve as the main entrance route to the “old continent.”

What the press omitted, however, was the strong case the report makes for Turkish integration into the EU.

Paragraph 38 in the report’s recommendations suggests: “Turkish accession would be unlikely to lead to an increase of narcotics into the EU market, given that the major factors influencing drug flows into the EU appear to be production levels in the source countries and domestic demand in the EU Member States, neither of which would be affected. Furthermore, accession will bring opportunities for greater cooperation between Turkish and EU law enforcement agencies, which could bring about a more robust response to drug trafficking”

Paragraph 44 makes similarly strong findings. It states that in the long-term, “the risks that Turkish accession poses for organised crime in the EU are considerably outweighed by the potential benefits” and that “there is a risk that, if Turkey is not permitted to join the EU, the Turkish authorities may lose their incentive to prioritise tackling criminality which affects EU Member States to a far greater extent than their own population (Turkey does not have a big domestic drug market and most immigrants transiting the country do not intend to stay). … It is clear that the Turkish authorities are proving more effective than some of the authorities that lie within the EU border, such as Greece, and that bilateral arrangements -- for example, between SOCA and the Turkish authorities -- are maturing well.”

Paragraph 45 of the report even urges the EU to incorporate Turkey into European bodies such as Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction “prior to” and “irrespective of full membership.” The report says that “not to admit Turkey to membership of those bodies would be to cut off the European nose to spite our face…”

Interestingly, in paragraph 106 the report shows a counter-trend, which is rarely raised in the European press: “We accept that both legal and clandestine migration from Turkey to the EU have declined in recent years to a combined annual figure of below 50,000, and that there is also evidence of negative migration from the EU to Turkey, particularly from Germany.”

The report also notes legitimate concerns over the expansion of EU borders to countries such as Syria and Iran, which have visa waiver agreements with Turkey. Yet the report’s tone is optimistic, and sees a robust and willing Turkish state, which will meet these challenges with the EU’s support.

In other terms, the newspaper captions have been misleading, telling us more about Europe itself then the findings of the report or the UK’s steadfast support of Turkish membership.