I had restrained myself when Obama gave his support to Turkish membership of the EU. Sure, it's diplomatically impolite, but I tried not to take much notice. However, while flicking around news channels, I saw a discussion on CNBC (which is about finance, so I've never watched it before) about Turkish-American relations and Turkish entry to the EU.
Verdict? Europe was being to stubborn and unreasonable - and there seemed to be an almost complete ignorance of what the EU actually is.
The question was [paraphrasing from memory] "now that Obama has pushed for Turkey to be admitted, or at least called for Turkey to be admitted, into the European Union, will that increase Turkey's chances of joining?". There was no reference made to the French or German reactions to Obama's - well, I'd like to call it a gaffe, but has there been any recognition to this outside of Europe?
Turkish membership was discussed purely as a way of "reaching out" to the Islamic world. I'm a big supporter of Turkish entry, but I wouldn't support it if it was just a gesture of "reaching out". It was never said, but the discussion and the questions gave me the sense that Europe was being obstructionist; Turkey was co-operating; would Europe risk endangering the success of Obama's reaching out?; can't Europe see how good it would be to reach out to Turkey and the Islamic world?
First of all, why is EU membership being spoken of as a US foreign policy tool? It seems so obvious that to point it out is almost idiotic, but it seems that it has to be done - the US is not an EU member. Though it would make more difference if I told them...
Second, membership is not a token gesture awarded to countries to make them feel better (in fact, how could an empty gesture make much difference in international diplomacy?): EU membership means a high degree of economic integration, along with elements of political and cultural integration (Turkey would probably make the "big 3" a "big 4"). Membership is a huge step, and it should only be granted when the candidate country is able and willing to take on the obligations as well as the rights - it's not something dreamt up to be used purely for some touchy-feely exercise of "reaching out".
And I'm surprised at this. I don't hold American journalism in particularly high esteem (why watch CNN when you can watch the news?), but America has been the source of a lot of literature on the EU/Europe, both academic and popular, and the American public generally reads more books on China, Europe, geopolitics, etc. than European publics. And you would think that a financial news programme would be aware of the workings of the EU, and how political decisions can impact on economic ones.
They did have a French political analyst, who just kept insisting that it was a "sensitive issue" in Europe, without explaining the significance of membership. Still, a casual knowledge of the EU would help if you're going to report on it. Must do better.