Almost all the unsuccessful politicians in many of the EU countries have recently been talking about the issue of Turkey’s full membership to the EU. Whatever the agenda is, they blame Turkey and the Muslims aspiring to enter the EU. The politicians in the EU are trying to conceal their inabilities and failures by criticizing Turkey. They are misleading their constituencies by fostering grudge and hatred against Turkey, which they believe belongs to another civilization. French Minister Sarkozy is one of the typical examples: In the words of Katrin Bennhold and Dan Bilefsky from the International Herald Tribune, “Nicolas Sarkozy, his eyes firmly set on France’s presidency, might have thought more about French voters than about geopolitics when he said that Turkey should never become a member of the European Union.”(1) In contrast to a politician having vision, Sarkozy capitalized on the prejudices of the French against the Turks and the Muslims. However, with this behavior, he not only eroded the Turks’ credit towards the EU and the French, but also the Muslims’ towards the world and the West.
As known, Turkey’s full membership to the EU is supported by all the Muslim countries. Many Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt and Palestine, have openly expressed their enthusiasm to see Turkey as a full member of the EU. Even countries like Syria and Iran, which are seen as “enemy” by the West, have stated that they would be pleased to be neighbor with the EU with Turkey’s membership, and that they supported Turkey in the membership process. Even Saudi Arabia, which is relatively far from Turkey, have declared that Turkey’s EU membership is strategically important for itself.(2) The support of the Muslim world for Turkey’s EU membership has a considerable meaning:
The Muslims see Turkey’s membership as a breaking point in the vicious circle in the relations with the West. Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Bosnia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Afghanistan, Lebanon and other problems have led to great despair among the Muslims towards the West. The Muslims mostly don’t believe the West is sincere and fair. The people on the streets of Muslim countries think that they are always deceived, their cities are bombarded, their natural resources are usurped, and their governments are serving to the West. Within this dark picture, Turkey’s full membership on equal terms to one of the most important institutions of the Western world, the EU, is seen as a miracle by the Muslim world. Turkey’s full membership will end the despair and prove that fair and equal relations with the West are possible.
In addition to these, Turkey is the best proof that secular governance, democracy and liberal economy do not contradict with Islam. While the Turks can be more devout than the Iranians in their daily lives, they are also democrat, secular and liberal. They have the world’s 17th biggest economy even though they are Muslims. Although they don’t have considerable natural gas and oil resources, they are competing with the West by training their manpower. Their mentality of Islam is not based on revenge or hatred but cooperation and tolerance. Turkey is one of the exceptional Muslim countries where al-Qaeda has no serious roots. For Turks, Osama bin Laden is a terrorist and al-Qaeda commits terrorism. They hold the idea that they can go to the heaven not by killing others but by helping people live. In short, Turkey represents just the opposite of what al-Qaeda represents. Of course, Turkey’s model is not perfect. However, it is the only model at hand. It is the only model to be used against al-Qaeda apart from using violence and force. Many presidents in the Muslim world, including the presidents of Algeria, Palestine, Indonesia and Pakistan, have openly stated that they see Turkey as a model. Because they want to be like Turkey and consolidation of Turkish model will also consolidate the hopes of the Muslim countries.
The third reason for the support of the Muslim countries to Turkey’s EU membership has to do with the current balance of power. The US’ and Israel’s influence, even monopoly, dominate the course of the problems in the Middle East. The EU doesn’t have sufficient influence in the region. With Turkey’s membership, the EU will have to play a more active role in the region and this will erode the unilateral policies of other powers.
Fourth, Turkey is seen as a natural representative of the Muslim world in the EU. Although most of the global problems emerge in the Middle East, there are no legitimate representatives from the Middle East in global governance. There are no Muslim representatives in the G-8 or among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. To put it short, there are serious representation deficiencies in global governance. This, in turn, causes lack of proper communication and misunderstandings between the West and the Muslims. This is the most significant reason of the clash of civilizations. Turkey’s accession to the EU will considerably contribute to the elimination of this deficiency.
In fact, the lack of representation is a problem not only between the West and the Middle East. There is an imbalance within Europe as well. There are more than 100 million Muslims living in Europe. However, none of them are represented within their states nor the EU institutions. Turkey, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Albania, Azerbaijan and Bosnia are still not part of the EU. And nearly 15 million Muslims living in countries such as Germany and England and holding EU citizenship don’t think that their host countries represent them. The terrorist attacks in England were carried out by the Muslim English citizens and this clearly proves how lack of representation nurtures terror and radicalism. Hence, Turkey’s membership will contribute to the overcoming of lack of representation in Europe.
In short, Turkey’s full membership to the EU is not an ordinary enlargement. It also means the setting up a sound bridge between the West and the East.
From Valery Giscard d’Estaing, a former French president and chief architect of the failed European constitution, to Chancellor Angela of Germany, several high-profile Europeans have voiced their opposition to Turkish membership in recent years.(3) Many top European personalities, including the Pope, have asserted that Turkey is not European, because it is not a Christian country. According to this view, the sine qua non value of Europeanness is still Christianity. In this regard, there must be no resentment to al-Qaeda which sees the world as two camps, the Muslims and the others. For the only value for them is their faith as well.
Turkey has been undergoing a rapid democratization process incomparable to the past. Many reforms have been implemented in a short while. There is also a rapid economic growth. It is possible to talk of unique successes in almost every area from the Kurdish problem to human rights. Turkey is no more the most-sued country in the European Court of Human Rights. The social harmonization in the country has been progressing in an admirable way. What is important is that it was not thanks to the EU that Turkey has achieved this progress. What is more, as many examples show, Turkey has come to this point despite the EU. In other words, the decision to exclude Turkey from the EU will not be the end of the world for Turkey. Moreover, a Turkey enjoying special relations with the EU but not restricted by its institutions might be a new China for the EU. However, it is hard to argue the same thing for the EU and the Middle East. EU’s rejection of Turkey on the ground that it is a Muslim country and reconstruction of the EU on the basis of Christian fanaticism will turn the much-expected miracle into impossibility, and in a sense, will justify how right the extremities such as al-Qaeda are. In this case, it will be a mere dream to think that the conflicts will be confined to Beirut, Baghdad or Ramallah. The entire Europe from London to Berlin will be under risk because the Middle East and the Muslims are not as far as Sarkozy has said. The Muslims will continue to live in the middle of Europe regardless of Turkey’s full membership, and it will be more difficult to live together without Turkey’s full membership to the Western family.
14 September 2006
Trns. by Noyan OZKAYA, USAK
NOTES(1) “Sarkozy May Cause Global Ripple”, International Herald Tribune, 10 September 2006.
(2) “Turkey’s EU Membership is Strategically Important for Arab World”, Journal of Turkish Weekly, 19 August 2006.
(3) “Sarkozy May Cause Global Ripple”.
Sedat Laciner is the Director of the USAK (International Strategic Research Organization), Ankara (Turkey) & World Economic Forum YGL Young Global Leader 2006. BA (Ankara), MA (Sheffield, UK), PhD (King’s College, University of London)