Helping the Euro With an Eastern Infusion • Facebook’s Other Founder

Let Turkey Progress Toward EU Membership

Francois Hollande should add an item to his daunting list of priorities: End France’s block on Turkey’s talks to join the European Union, and do it soon.

That may seem eccentric in light of everything Hollande already faces, what with the euro area’s economic meltdown. But it isn’t. EU leaders need to show direction and create momentum for the bloc in areas where they can reaffirm its purpose and values, even as the economy sputters.

Turkey’s a good place to start. Unblocking its membership process would end the widespread impression that the EU discriminates against Muslims at a time when xenophobia, anti-immigrant feelings, and isolationism are rising within the mainly Christian nations of Europe.

In 2004, the EU agreed to give Turkey the chance to join the bloc, if it could show it had adopted the required 100,000-plus pages of EU legislation and other conditions of membership. Since then, 19 of the 35 negotiating chapters that are involved in this process have been blocked. Turkey is the only country in the EU’s history to have its membership bid frozen in this way.

There are several causes for this, including a dispute over Cyprus, an EU member that Turkey doesn’t recognize. In 2007, French President Nicolas Sarkozy unilaterally blocked five chapters that relate to Turkey’s ultimate membership, and so long as that decision remains, Turkey has little cause to compromise on Cyprus. Sarkozy made his reasoning clear: namely, that Turkey wasn’t part of Europe geographically and doesn’t belong in it.

Removing the French veto would inject new life not only into the European project but also into its economic fortunes. Turkey grew by 8.5 percent last year and has a population with a median age of about 28, compared with 45 in Germany. Slow growing and demographically challenged as it is, the EU needs the fresh blood and energy that Turkey has to offer. The two economies are already closely tied. They have a customs union and trade heavily. More than $11 billion of the $16 billion of foreign direct investment made in Turkey last year came from the EU.

Turkey today is very different from 20, or even two, years ago. It has the kind of reach and soft power in the Middle East that the ex-colonial powers of Europe, including France, now lack. It has more troops than France and the U.K. combined. And it has learned, after a few years of hubris, that its anchorage in Western alliances is critical to its influence and security elsewhere.

It’s highly uncertain that Turks would vote to join Europe if they were eventually to fulfill all the conditions. But the past few years have shown that without the active pull of the EU negotiations, Turkey’s development as a free democracy has stalled or even reversed in some areas, including free speech and the rule of law. A stable, democratic Turkey is very much in the interests of the EU.

Hollande’s victory was celebrated as much in Turkey as anywhere in Europe. Sarkozy’s policy panders to segments of French popular opinion, but it reversed one set by President Jacques Chirac, and it can — and should — be reversed again.

Singapore Sling: The Eduardo Saverin Story

Once upon a time there was a young man who fled his homeland of Brazil because his life was in danger from kidnappers. Like so many before him, he came to the U.S., and in the safety of the freest country on earth, he got a superb education at Harvard, the opportunity to exercise his entrepreneurial zeal at Facebook — and the protections of the U.S. legal system to safeguard the fruits of his labor.

That man is Eduardo Saverin, 30, a founder of Facebook and someone who stands to be worth almost $3 billion when company shares are loosed on the world. He’s also someone who renounced his U.S. citizenship last fall in exchange for a passport from Singapore.

Singapore has much to commend it. Superb food. Clean streets. Lush plant life. And it doesn’t tax capital gains, whereas the U.S. takes a 15 percent cut.

It’s fair to ask if Saverin switched national allegiances to avoid taxes. His spokesperson demurs. And we take him at his word. But the timing of the news at least raises questions: Saverin’s renunciation came “around September” of last year, just when talk of a possible Facebook IPO was reaching a steady hum.

One can believe in free markets, open borders, and the need for goods and capital, human and otherwise, to flow across them with ease, and still feel mildly unsettled by Saverin’s decision — just as it’s discomfiting when U.S. corporations contort themselves to seek out overseas tax havens. A debt is owed to the country you call home, whether you were born here or arrived under duress. That debt is deepened if the freedoms your country afforded you helped create the conditions for your success.

Whatever you want to say about U.S. tax rates, they are “our” tax rates, the ones our balky democracy has put in place. And whatever you want to say about Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s boss, he made the choice to pay his taxes in California — his golden, struggling, adopted state, whose coffers he is sure to enrich.

It would have been nice if Saverin had made a similar choice. Since he didn’t, perhaps the best we can wish for him now is a longer than normal wait at U.S. Customs.

To read Noah Feldman on mainstreaming Mormonism and William D. Cohan on the lost luster of a Wall Street career, go to:


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