June 20, 2004


THE SPECTER THAT IS HAUNTING EUROPE (Amir Taheri, June 16, 2004, Arab News)

The official arguments advanced against admitting Turkey into the European Union are well known.

Turkey, we are told, has a large peasantry that could bankrupt the union by demanding subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). But that argument fades when we note that the CPA has already reached a dead-end with the admission of new members from Central and Eastern Europe and mounting pressure for the removal of farm subsidies as the last impediment to global free trade.

Another argument is that Turkey is not democratic enough to enter the union. This is true. It may take Turkey many more decades before it can be regarded as a mature democracy. But one must also note that membership of the European Union could accelerate the process of democratization as it did in Portugal and Greece and is doing in the formerly Communist states.

Turkey made its first moves toward Europe in the 1970s and started its pursuit of full membership in the 1980s. The Europeans reacted by demanding massive economic, political and social reforms as a means of delaying serious negotiations about the Turkish application. Over the past two decades the Turks have patiently worked on a package of reforms, starting with a large dose of economic liberalization under Turgot Ozal. Under the previous center-left coalition government, Turkey started constitutional reforms designed to reduce the influence of the military in politics, and to improve human rights. The process has continued under the current center-right government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan with even greater determination.

And yet Turkey's compliance with European demands, including some that were hard to swallow, appear to have had little effect on those who are determined to block its membership.

This is because those who oppose Turkey's membership do so for ideological rather than political or economic reasons.

I raised the issue with Helmut Kohl, Germany's former Chancellor at a breakfast in Paris just over a year ago. Kohl has been a consistent opponent of Turkey's membership since the 1980s.

The fact that his son has married a Turkish lady has not changed his position.

Kohl asserted that the European Union was "an association of nations with a Christian heritage" and that Turkey, a nation with "an Islamic heritage", had no place in it.

Slightly later I heard a similar argument from Valery Giscard d'Estaing, a French former president after a session of the European constitution committee in London. "Turkey belongs to a different civilization," Giscard asserted. "As a Muslim society, Turkey will not be at home in Europe."

I admire Kohl and Giscard for having the courage to speak their minds, even though doing so when one is out of power is that much easier.

They are saying aloud what most European leaders think in silence. Turkey means Islam and Islam is the code word for ancestral fears in Europe.

This the same EU that won't mention its Christian heritage in its new constitution, which presumably will have some provision to toss France and Germany out of the Union when they become majority Muslim in a few decades?

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 20, 2004 5:01 PM

If Europe won't have them, why don't we make them a State? Along with Kurdistan?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at June 21, 2004 10:48 AM