- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world:

Financial Times

Tensions in Turkey

LONDON — Last week’s murder of a prominent Turkish judge, ostensibly by an Islamist aggrieved at his court’s ruling on the headscarf controversy, throws a worrying spotlight on the growing rift between the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with its roots in political Islam, and the secular establishment, militant defenders of the legacy of Kemal Ataturk. This division is being magnified by the standoffishness — real or perceived — of the European Union toward Turkey’s accession ambitions. That is a potentially poisonous combination.

Turkey’s powerful military and Kemalist bureaucracy has always been profoundly suspicious of Mr. Erdogan and his Justice and Development party (AKP), built from the rubble of more overtly Islamist parties and broadened into a Muslim democrat movement analogous to Christian Democracy. While both sides engage with each other in a wary pas de deux, each occasionally puts its foot in it.

The government’s attempt to criminalise adultery, and the state’s attempt to prosecute Orhan Pamuk, the world-renowned novelist, for denouncing the mass murder of Armenians in the late Ottoman empire, are memorable examples of such blunders. But they were recognised as such and withdrawn.

The Erdogan administration tried recently to impose an Islamic banker — who eschews interest as usury — as head of the central bank, which sets interest rates. But it reconsidered.

Meanwhile, Turkish perceptions of EU bad faith are encouraging popular disillusion with Europe and proving a godsend to the nationalist right and hardline Islamists. Ankara formally started membership talks last autumn, a process always expected to last a good decade. Its requirements, in minority, human and democratic rights as well as adopting the acquis of EU rules, were always going to guarantee a bumpy ride. But in the backwash of last year’s French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitution, hostility to Turkish membership has hardened. To Turks, alert to every slight, the EU often seems to be conducting a moral inventory rather than a negotiation.

Europe is not only the engine of reform but the glue of political cohesion in Turkey. EU membership is a national project shared by the people, business and the army, and embraced by the AKP as a shield against the generals. The European perspective, in other words, is a good part of the explanation of why this Muslim democracy and secular republic works, despite its unresolved contradictions. …

Jordan Times

Montenegro’s independence

AMMAN — As Jordan prepared to mark the 60th anniversary of its independence Thursday, another country, not so far away, just became independent.

The announcement that the majority of Montenegrins chose to break away from Serbia in a referendum that registered a record turnout over the weekend offers an opportunity to reflect on what independence signifies to people who just achieved it and to those who have enjoyed it for so long.

With the independence of Montenegro, the breakup of former Yugoslavia is completed, Europe gets a new state and the EU possibly a new candidate member; and the world gets its 193rd country.

Montenegrins will now face the difficult task of building a state, though they have long had their own laws and currency, and can rely for that on amazingly rich history, culture and traditions.

Jordanians gained independence from the League of Nations mandate under British administration on May 25, 1946, in what highly respected historians portray as London’s show of appreciation for Amman’s loyalty in World War II. …

Still, we have a long way ahead.

For Montenegro, the newly gained independence will, in a certain sense, largely translate in efforts to join the EU and NATO. What about Jordan?

We have been independent for so long, but we are still called upon to defend our independence every day. In this polarized world, true political independence is something governments need to fight and often pay dearly for.


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