OPINION

Dark shadow over Turkey

Turkey’s prospects of joining the European Union were built upon the rationale that Europe needs to cease being a Christian club that has enshrined the principles of the Greek-Roman civilization and the Enlightenment, and to incorporate a people with different, Islamic cultural traditions into a broad secular entity. A number of people, notably British PM Tony Blair, promote such developments which would benefit the international system as it would demolish the barrier between Christians and members of other creeds, lending the EU a multifaith, multicultural dimension. The precondition is Turkey’s adaption to the EU’s secular values as entrenched in its constitution, which does not mention any principles beyond those of the Enlightenment, so as to broaden the community’s base. But recent events in France have undermined the theory elaborated by the supporters of Turkey’s EU accession, since the young Muslim vandals who have terrorized some French cities were educated, as were their parents, according to Enlightenment principles and are deemed to be French citizens. This long-term coexistence, however, has not led to integration but rebellion, since economic stagnation and recession have sidelined French citizens, regardless of religion or political background. It does not require special intelligence to see what the consequences of Turkey’s accession to the EU would be in about 15 years. Especially when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, like a new caliph, alleged that the violence in France was due in part to the French government’s ban on schoolgirls’ covering their heads. The situation in France, and the risk of it spreading to other EU countries, is most grave, and liberal sloganeering must give way to a thorough examination of the problem of EU-Turkish relations. Turkey has been part of Europe’s political scene in one way or another for centuries. But political connections are one thing and the incorporation of 80 million people into the everyday life of the European states is another. The fact that there is frequent dialogue – which is often very productive – with the Turkish elite means nothing, because relationships on that interracial, interfaith level always existed. But the everyday coexistence of different ethnic groups presupposes more substantive common ground, or a very powerful ideological incentive. The former Soviet Union and the communist regimes had an ideological incentive, but coexistence was imposed by the most severe military and police methods. In the United States, people of different ethnic groups and religions do coexist, but they are people who migrated to a new world in search of new experiences and freedom from the rules that applied in their countries of origin. By contrast, the EU is a historical and political peculiarity, and if it accepted its uniqueness it would respect the singularity of others and would not try to mimic or change ethnic groups of different cultural backgrounds. The events in France have cast a heavy shadow over EU-Turkish relations. Even if the strict terms of the European Commission’s report on Turkey are met, it will not result in Turkey’s incorporation into Europe. Just as Turkish migrants who have lived for decades in European states have not become integrated.