Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe

David Cameron’s stance on Europe and the European Union seems to have turned on its head in recent weeks; earlier this week, he used his meeting with the Turkish prime minister to state Turkey’s case for EU membership – a crucially important issue for both Turkey and the future of the EU.

David Cameron’s stance on Europe and the European Union seems to have turned on its head in recent weeks. In his leadership bid he secured the support of many of his party’s ultra-eurosceptics by promising to remove the Tory MEPs from the EPP on the grounds that the centre-right EPP was ‘too federalist’. Then he appeared to delay on that promise once elected, only establishing the weak ECR group following the 2009 European elections.

Meanwhile, he offered strident opposition to the Lisbon Treaty – he and William Hague seemed set to hold a post-ratification referendum until November 2009; then, when Lisbon was ratified, he pledged to claim back the UK opt-out on EU social policy legislation, and a referendum on all future treaties.

In government he seems to have changed, in part because of the Coalition agreement which reversed Tory policy on EU social policy legislation, and is showing pragmatism and, dare I say it, conviction.

Following the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone which revealed gaping flaws in Europe’s economic governance, Cameron has not attacked the euro (unlike his eurosceptics and much of the right-wing press) and seems open to the prospect of new EU supervision and surveillance of its Member States’ public finances.

In a clever piece of diplomacy, his first state visit was to meet with France’s Nikolas Sarkozy, and following his first meeting last week with President Obama, he visited India with a view to creating a ‘special relationship’ between Britain and India. This makes political sense – Britain has long ignored the importance of its relationships with countries other than the US – and economic sense, since the US is not going be taking British exports any time soon.

And earlier this week, he used his meeting with the Turkish prime minister to state Turkey’s case for EU membership – a crucially important issue for both Turkey and the future of the EU.

Admittedly, Cameron may be indulging in a spot of political ‘kite flying’, since EU membership talks have stalled over the situation in divided Cyprus. As Sarkozy is opposed to Turkish membership, and factions of Angela Merkel’s CDU are opposed to Turkish membership on the spurious grounds that the EU is a ‘Christian’ club – conveniently ignoring the millions of European Muslims and the long history of European Islam – Turkey is unlikely to be joining the EU soon.

Nonetheless, Cameron has made a strong case for Turkey and, bravely in my view, stated that the EU is a ‘secular organisation’. This will put him at odds with many Christian Democrats in Europe, and with many in his own party, who are split on enlargement in general and Turkey in particular. Many Tory MEPs oppose Turkish EU membership, while this survey of their MEP candidates reveals a party divided on the issue.

It’s still early days, but Cameron may have been an ultra-sceptic in opposition, so much so that Merkel and Sarkozy were worried at the prospect of his election, but in government he is proving much more of a McMillan or Heath than a Thatcher.

The question is: how he will square that with a Tory party that is more eurosceptic than ever before?

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14 Responses to “Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe”

  1. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe: http://bit.ly/bImrzQ

  2. Philip Cane

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe: http://bit.ly/bImrzQ

  3. Ali Unwin

    Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe: http://bit.ly/bImrzQ /via @leftfootfwd

  4. Democratic Society

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe http://bit.ly/bImrzQ

  5. Matthew Taylor (MTPT)

    Cameron’s pragmatism on this issue also involves being pragmatic about Turkey’s human rights record, which – French and Belgian niqab and burqa-mania aside – falls well short of European norms.

    Instead of getting hung up on this being a religious question – which, whether you are for or against Muslim states joining, is at best a red herring and at worst deeply troubling – perhaps we could talk about whether Turkey actually meets the standards expected of an EU member state?

  6. Simon

    Does this serve to improve Turkey’s abysmal human rights record or to sweep it under the carpet?

  7. Andy Wasley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe http://bit.ly/bImrzQ

  8. Get Labour Out

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe: http://bit.ly/bImrzQ

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Matthew Taylor – I’m with you here dude – leaving human rights aside what about Cyprus?

    It’s hard to believe a Conservative Prime Minister hasn’t considered it…

  10. Kevin

    I am afraid I am at odds on this issue as I see Britain’s place outside of European influence rather than being dragged further into it.
    There are so many aspects of the Lisbon treaty which will harm British rights to govern itself in the future that far from re-negotiation of opt out clauses we should be looking at opting out all together.
    What use a commerce agreement with India when we will still have to import or export goods via European ports to add more cost. As for Gideon calling on India to relax its laws on Insurance deals to allow British companies greater access…more money for his friends?

  11. Terry

    not so popular amongst greek cypriots in north london

  12. Tweetminster

    Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe http://bit.ly/8ZSo1g – Left Foot Forward.

  13. Donagh

    RT @tweetminster: Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe http://bit.ly/8ZSo1g – Left Foot Forward.

  14. Caitlin

    RT @tweetminster: Cameron is showing refreshing pragmatism on Turkey and Europe http://bit.ly/8ZSo1g – Left Foot Forward.

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