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Europe’s Turkish question

Turkey's 1999 earthquake shook up the European landscape. Thawing relations with Greece and a ceasefire with the Kurds have finally opened the way to Turkish entry into the EU. The geopolitical implications are enormous.

By Martin Walker   February 2001

Earthquakes are usually unrelieved calamities. But the deaths of some 18,000 Turks on 17th August 1999, may be remembered as a calamity which inspired a kind of miracle. The quake devastated the grim but bustling industrial city of Izmit and the tenements around the naval base of Golcuk. The miracle occurred when Turkey’s tragedy inspired an outpouring of sympathy and official aid from its neighbour and long-time nemesis, Greece. This was swiftly reciprocated by Turkey when Greece lost 120 lives in its own earthquake three weeks later. The aid also shifted something fundamental in the power politics of Europe. “All…

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