Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Turkey's Sour Grapes

Prime Minister Erdogan has complained to the Turkish parliament that his country has been treated unfairly in the EU process.


When Yugoslavia decided to adopt the techniques used by Turkey in combating its Kurdish insurgency in dealing with Kosovo, they got a NATO intervention.

I understand many Turks are frustrated by what appears to be a slow process. And decades of Europeans not leveling with Turkey about the real challenges are partly to blame. But to say Turkey has been treated "unfairly" is a bit of a stretch. Turkey has been granted the benefit of the doubt on so many points to keep the process moving forward.

Perhaps the Turks should have taken a page out of the Russian playbook. The Russians decided not to move forward with a bid for EU membership, in part because they did not want the interference in their internal affairs, and partly because they felt that compliance with EU regulations would compromise Russian sovereignty and freedom of action. Moscow, as a result, has concentrated on partnership relations both with the EU but more importantly with key EU countries.

Turkey, on the other hand, made it clear it wanted full membership. But that comes at a price.

Ankara cannot get around the fact that Cyprus is a EU member and that the government of the Republic is recognized as the government of the entire island. The Cypriot government has been as accommodating as it can be--not blocking the opening of accession talks and in its public statements supporting Turkey's bid--unlike some other EU states.

But there is a principle here that the EU is supposed to operate on the basis of rules. Perhaps one reason why the Euroskeptics are pushing the Turkish bid forward even when Ankara still does not want to deal with Cyprus is the hope that if the EU can be shown to be ineffective in enforcing its own rules, the seeds of its dissolution have been planted.

One final note: Ankara could have been much more flexible and won a good deal of sympathy if it was prepared to be more accommodating. If Turkey is really concerned for the welfare of the Turkish Cypriots, then why not ask for a NATO peacekeeping mission to keep the peace and patrol the de facto separation lines--a mission NATO has carried out in Bosnia? Then Turkey could have made a big show of withdrawing its forces. Plus the EU does a good job of enforcing rules to protect the rights of minorities.

It seems Ankara doesn't want to choose between exercising a protectorate over 1/3 of Cyprus or joining the EU. That inability to choose has caught up with Turkey--but it isn't a sign of unfairness.

I think that both Turkish nationalism and her Islamic culture are barriers for her joining EU as a full member.

Can you imagine an EU gathering in which the Turkish Prime Minister shows up with his three wives - all of them his first cousins?
Yes and the Dutch PM will be there with the "Partner" (his/hers).
Whether someone is married to someone of the same gender, a cousin or has multiple spouses is not the issue. The issue is whether what is essentially a second world economy and 80 million+ people who do not share basic cultural values with the larger European entity can be successfully integrated.

Privileged partnership was the best solution because it provided for a number of key benefits without taxing the Union or using anti-democratic means to get Turkey in over the sustained and vocal opposition of many of Europe's citizens. That path was rejected--in large part due to pressure from the Americans, who I do think want to use Turkey as a wedge to break apart the Union or at least make it much less effective.

You contradict yourself: "people who do not share basic cultural values with the larger European entity" which was precisely the point I was hoping to make.

It is easier for a European to accept homosexual unions than it is to accept polygamy. Likewise, it is impossible (yes, impossible) for a Turk to accept homosexual unions.

I do not think that you and I are that far apart - I agree with you that the Privileged partnership would have been the best approach.

Also, as Turkey learns from the EU, the other 9 members of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) could emulate what works in Turkey.

That would go along way towards creation of a common peace interest in that part of the world - and teh eventual emergence of a Concert of Middle East - Central Asia.

But you are right: fat chance of teh Americans supporting that.

I would disagree with your emphasis and say that even if Turkey was more developed, even if they all converted to some form of secular non-practicing Christianity, the point is not culture but rule of law, as Nick noted in his original post. Whether Turkey is Muslim is less important than Turkey is occupying the territory of an EU-member state and feels it can pick and choose which rules to follow. Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania all have had EU rules they didn't want to follow and they did; Bulgaria and Romania have even agreed that they don't get full access to the European labor market for their citizens. I think all this talk about Turkey's Muslim identity as the reason obscures the real reason for the problems which is a Turkish government that doesn't want to accept the rules of the club.
Anonymous 11:16

I disagree. The Church has been against EU membership for Turkey exactly because of Islam. Large majorities in France, Italy, Spain, Hungry, Poland, and Germany do not want Turkey and Turkish people in the European Union.

If Muslims and Christians could live peacefully together in a common polity we would not have had the Holy Wars of Early Islam, the Crusades, the Spanish Reconquest, the Siege of Vienna, Greek Independence War, Armenian Massacre, Expulsion of Pontic Greeks by Atta Turk, Civil Wars of Lebeanon, Civil Wars of Yugoslavia, and Chechen Rebellion.

You guys better wake-up and smell the coffee - religion has a lot to do with this - lower-middle classes and lower classes (the majority of human kind) are much more attached to their religions than commentators of this weblog are willing to credit.

In fact, this is a feature that you have in common with the so-called neo-cons: when it comes to religion and its importance in human affairs you are as blind as a bat (or just in denial).
No matter what happens, the U.S. needs to stay out of the EU-Turkey process. This is no longer any of Washington's business.
The fact of the matter, is that both from a historical and a geographic point of view, Turkey is not, and has never been a part of Europe. It is a matter both of the differential of the economy, and, equally important the cultural differences. Or as Rudyard Kipling said: 'East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet'.

Under the circumstances the best that Ankara should hope for is the
'strategic partnership' option that
most responsible EU politicians like Deutsch Kanzler Angela Merkel are pushing for. To hope for more than that is merely eyewash and nothing more. Pur et simple.
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