Turkish Delights

The chaotic naval battle of Lepanto

An excellent entry on Nanne’s blog reminded me I haven’t had a chance of making my views on Turkey known to the wider world yet. Surely the world wants to know, so here they are. In a sentence: I firmly believe Turkey should be allowed into the EU, as soon as possible, and without this ridiculous pantomime that’s on daily display between the Thames and the Bosphorus. If this doesn’t suffice, keep on reading.

First of all, it’s worth remembering that – no matter how much EUrocrats keep on reminding us that this is a political project – the EU’s real mantra was once spelled out with utter clarity by Clinton: it’s the economy, stupid. And with an ageing polulation and pitiful growth rates, the exclusive members-only club for super-rich risks turning into an old-people’s home, with fading wallpaper falling off the freezing rooms of the once-glorious building, because there ain’t enough money to pay Ivan’s hefty heating bill.

With a quarter of the population under 14 years of age, 9 % GDP growth in 2004 and inflation falling below 7.7% in 2005 – a 30-year low – Turkey would clearly bring to the EU the strength and dynamism that are so painfully missing at the heart of its economies these days. We would all benefit from an enlarged market, younger workforce and the strategic position of Turkey at the crossroads of the Eurasian transport and communication systems. For these reasons alone, Turkey should be allowed into the EU. After all, this is an economic union, and what really matters when it comes to accession is what the Finance Ministries – not the public – think. After all, I don’t recall any of us being asked whether we wanted Bulgaria in the club. So it’s settled, Turkey should be allowed in, n’est pas?

Not quite. I am told there is the Muslim issue. Apparently, Turkey’s religion, combined with its weak democratic traditions, is just too bitter a medicine to swallow for the sensitive member states’ palate (er… didn’t the entire Eastern Europe join straight after 40 years of Communism, which hardly classifies as democratic tradition?! Can’t compare, apparently…). Turkey could join the club provided it conforms to our standards and behavioural norms – as Margot Wallström is all too quick to remind us:

The EU cannot compromise on basic values. Turkey has made a lot of progress but still has much to do and I acknowledge that it will take time. The issues where Turkey needs to make more progress include freedom of expression and freedom of religion, economic and social rights, women‘s rights, trade union rights and civilian control of the military.

I’d be really interested to know why the Commissioner is being so strict about Turkey, while turning a blind eye to Poland’s disgusting homophobia or Italy’s unacceptable toxic mix of politics and media control. In fact, there’s hardly a member state that has its house in order when it comes to many of the above ‘freedoms’. Still, once you’re in entry rules don’t matter any more.

So why all the fuss? It really has to be about religion. Indeed, many have started expressing their fears that Europe might soon turn into a Christian club. There are already many disturbing signs of a vocal radicalisation of its Christian groupings and of a progressive marginalisation of its traditional secularism. As Damon Linker pointed out, Pope Ratzinger’s Regensburg lecture appeared primarily to challenge Islam, while it was in fact attacking the bastions of European secularism:

Read in light of Joseph Ratzinger’s ecclesiastical career, the Regensburg address looks less like an attack on Islam and more like an attack on secular Europe. Pope John Paul II often spoke of the new millennium as a “springtime of evangelization” – an age during which the Vatican would seek to win over skeptics around the world and especially in the secular West. In Regensburg, Benedict showed that he intends to continue John Paul’s effort to turn back the advance of secularism.

The strategy of demonizing the opponent so people won’t complain when their freedom is being curtailed is not infrequent in history, and is being used by EU politicians and commentators alike to back a return to a set of supposed ‘common values’, which we are all meant to conform to. Just what exactly these values should be, no one really knows, since Europe is as culturally diverse as it is linguistically, yet one thing seems to be above discussion: these values are clearly incompatible with Turkey’s Islamic identity.

Conversely, the alleged Islamization of Europe has now become a dominant discourse in many European capitals, and one which sends shivers down my spine, because I fear Christian fundamentalism far more than any other one. So far, Christian nations have in fact displayed a remarkable tendency to commit the worst crimes in history, from the 30 Years War to the Holocaust, via colonialism and Hiroshima. Muslim fundamentalism pales in comparison.

In conclusion, much more than Turkey’s entry is at stake here: Europe’s future secularism. The entry of Turkey would add an important counterbalance to those voices inside the EU which are ready to take advantage of the heightened tensions between the West and Islam to push their Christian agendas forward. While Turkey’s relationship with Islam is at present more or less as (un)healthy as Italy’s with Catholicism, a suspension of its accession would have far more serious consequences:

In its short-sightedness, the EU risks creating the very thing it purports to fear: a Turkey orientated towards Mecca rather than Brussels; a spurned, snarling state on its doorstep.

Most importantly, Turkey’s rejection would reinforce those inside the EU who truly think this should be an exclusive Christian club. We would all end up by paying a heavy price for this mistake.

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4 responses to “Turkish Delights

  1. I agree with you. Well put.

    Only take issue I take on this one is with you fearing Christian fundamentalism “far more” than Islamic fundamentalism. I have been thinking lately that because of way Bush has turned terrorism into a silly and totally non-intellectual debate, we fail to understand the damage and danger of radical religion, Christian and Islamic.

    Bring Turkey in! I never met a Turk I didn’t like.

  2. Agreed on certain points, but you do not take into account the principal counter-argument to your “it’s the economy, stupid!” reasoning. Turkey, like Norway or Switzerland, is part of the EU Economic Area (EEA – you’ll have to explain to me the difference with the EFTA one day). Moreover the EU can in the coming years relax the stringent immigration rules to benefit from a younger Turkish labour force. Thus the economic argument (market and labour) does not necessarily have to be solved through EU integration.

    This is not to say that I’m against Turkey’s accession. It’s just that being French I’m wary of anything the US government is in favor of (quote of President Bush: “I made it very clear to the Prime Minister (Erdogan) I think it’s in the United States’ interests that Turkey join the European Union.” found on http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/or/73433.htm)

  3. OMG LOL!!! You’re quoting that song from They Might Be Giants!!!

    Ain’t Turkey Asian? At least Anatolia is, which is like 98% of Turkey. Give eastern Thrace to the Greeks and it’s all settled.

    You know, the Turks wanted Europe soooo bad, and now you wanna open the borders to Europe’s longtime enemy. The Turks would be happy to know that there are fools like you flushing away the efforts of Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Leo the Isaurian, Nikephoros Phocas, Basil II, Vlad Tepes, the Knights of St. John, John of Austria, the Catholic Kings, Jan III Sobieski and many others that fought to preserve their culture.

    I think your fears of Christian fundamentalism are unfounded since the very own Guardian of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI, prayed in the Blue Mosque whilst facing Mecca during his visit to Turkey, asking the Muslims for help against secularism, channeling John Kantakouzenos with his disastrous plea for help to the Ottomans who settled in Gallipoli, the first Turkish settlement in Europe, and thus dooming the Byzantine Empire.

    Either you live in the redneck countryside where they want to stone stubborn children, or I’m wrong and there are no separation of Church and State, is that what you fear? Am I wrong and Islam is not a complete system of life, dictating country policies and regulating each aspect of Muslims’ lives? Do you really prefer Sharia to be installed instead of your country’s Constitution? Would you feel comfortable living in a country styled like Saudi Arabia, with no religious freedom, no secularism, death penalty for apostates, honor killings, cutting of hands and feet for petty thieves?

    Ah sure, the Turks have a peaceful history of tolerance evidenced by their bloody campaigns in Armenia, Anatolia, Constantinople, Serbia, Albania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Rhodes, Vienna, abducting Christian children for the Janissary Corps, using Christian slave labor, the Hamidian Massacres, the Armenian Genocide, etc, etc.

    How foolish of you to think that the Turks will bring labor to support Europe’s obscene social security. Ain’t enough Muslim immigrants in Europe already? Torching 300 cars a night in France and Belgium? Rioting over cartoons? Harassing and raping girls for not wearing hijab? Staining the streets with sheep blood during the Eid? Receiving tax money for every new little Shahid they bring into this world? I’d like to see you, european übermenschen, deal with the “jeunes” and “asians” when they become the religious/ethnic majority in Eurotopia. Will there be another holocaust? Or will you hand your own sorry asses to them in submission to Islam? I think the frogs will be the first to submit, remember Osirak (graciously provided by Jacques Chirac) Oh, how stupid of me! it’s the economy, stupid.

  4. Impressed by your selective memory of European history and contemporary events, Iago, not by your Islamophobia which reminds me of how the Nazi spoke about the Jews.

    And as you know – being the enlightened historian that you are – it didn’t end well, for the Nazi and for the Jews alike.

    PS: I live in London, which is why I don’t believe in Fox News.

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