Monday, June 24, 2013


"Reuters) - Turkey warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday not to play politics with its European Union ambitions as Berlin blocked moves to open a new chapter in Ankara's EU membership talks next week. Turkey said failure to open the chapter would be a major setback in Ankara's relations with the bloc and one senior Turkish official said it would "draw a strong reaction". Many EU capitals want to take the long-awaited step on Turkey's path towards the EU next Wednesday, arguing Europe should capitalize on Ankara's rising influence in the Middle East. But Germany has criticized Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's heavy-handed response to weeks of anti-government protests and refuses to agree to open a new negotiation area, potentially the first such step in three years. Germany blocked the opening of the new chapter, dealing with regional funding issues, at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday, EU diplomats said."
Nick Tattersall & Justyna Pawlak, "Turkey warns Germany as Berlin obstructs its EU path." Reuters. 20 June 2013, in
Plans to resurrect Turkey’s moribund EU accession negotiations next week seem to have fallen victim to the way Recep Tayyip Erdogan has treated this month’s national outburst of anger against what his critics see as his authoritarian whims. His government has overreacted to protests triggered by its high-handed plans to bulldoze a rare bit of green space near Taksim Square in central Istanbul. Apart from an interlude while Mr Erdogan was out of the country, riot police have been given their head to put down predominantly peaceful demonstrations. The prime minister, the towering figure of modern Turkey who has won three straight elections with an increased share of a rising vote, detects an internationally orchestrated conspiracy to bring to power discredited secular elites that cannot beat him and his neo-Islamist Justice and Development party (AKP) at the polls. He is staging mass rallies to make the point, stridently and with more than a hint of menace. The EU has to tread a fine line: addressing Mr Erdogan’s paranoid and intolerant behaviour; but somehow engaging with this civic blossoming of urban Turkey, with its diverse vitality that is democratic and, well, European. But for all its vaunted claims to act as one in European and world affairs, the EU seems culturally incapable of dealing with Turkey. France had softened its opposition to Turkish entry into the EU, clearing the way, after a three-year hiatus, for negotiations to resume next week on regional policy, one of the 35 chapters of the acquis communautaire, the club rules prospective new members must adopt. Germany, however, remains resolutely opposed and on Thursday blocked opening this new chapter. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, appears especially angry that police attacked the German hospital and tear-gassed a hotel near Taksim where leaders of the German Greens were staying. But Ms Merkel has always rejected Turkish entry and her Christian Democrat party’s draft manifesto for this autumn’s general election says “the country does not meet the criteria for joining the EU”. The stage has been set for a collision between an inward-looking, German-led Europe and a willful Turkish prime minister threatening to suspend relations with the EU, while boasting that he is still around while European leaders that blocked him – such as Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president – have fallen by the wayside. There are other ways of looking at this, however. Without the EU, Mr Erdogan would most probably not have been able to take office a decade ago, such was the hostility of the secularist establishment. Without the shield of EU club rules, he could not have broken the power of the army, the final arbiter of Turkish politics before Europe entered the picture. Europe was transformative, for Mr Erdogan and Turkey. This engine of reform and renewal sputtered the moment preachy EU leaders started raising the bar to entry, and the democratic life of Turkey visibly coarsened. Mr Erdogan has started reaching for control of almost every social sphere, from food and drink to science and sport. Turks have become disillusioned with the idea of Europe, which has little leverage left. At the same time, Mr Erdogan and the AKP’s signal success in building a larger, more prosperous middle class has opened the way to greater democratic activism with which they seem unable so far to cope. They keep repeating they won 50 per cent of the vote, as though entitled to ignore the 50 per cent who did not vote for them. Marc Pierini, EU ambassador to Turkey until 2011 and now at the Carnegie Endowment in Brussels, says the latter “are the 50 per cent who understood what EU values are about and want to apply them in Turkey” '.
David Gardner, "Global Insight: EU betrays cultural blind spot in handling Turkey." The Financial Times. 20 June 2013, in
The cultural blind spot of the bien-pensant David Gardner of the Financial Times, is typical of course of our post-enlightenment, liberal-bourgeois semi-intelligentsia as it relates to matters Turkish and Islamic. The fact of the matter is that the reasoning behind Mr. Gardner's commentary is erroneous in the extreme. First, whatever Turkey's previous 'European' aspirations are or were, the fact is that no one could seriously posit that it was the key or the main motivation for Turkey's modernization of the past fifteen years or so. The (admittedly substantial) changes that Turkey has undergone can only have been the result of a long-term, evolution in Turkish society (a provincial embourgeoisment, allied to a semi-Islamization of parts of civil society especially in urban and semi-urban areas), can only have resulted from deep within the same. In some ways of course, this evolution has been favorable to European values: the withdrawal of the military from political life and back to the barracks, attempts to settle the Kurdish Question in a peaceful way, and a genuine Democratization of political life at the most basic level. In other ways it has not been: the Islamization of parts of civil society and the State apparatus, and an open repression of the media, and a dangerous nostalgia for the horrid, Ottoman Empire. The latter emerging in questionable ways in aspects of Turkish, regional diplomacy. With all that being said, the idea that Turkey's not being admitted will inevitably result in the negative trends (as enumerated above) increasing, seems to me highly questionable. For example the manner in which the Erdogan government has dealt with the demonstrations of the past few weeks, are indeed somewhat questionable and should be opposed on a diplomatic level by allied and friendly states. The idea though that this repression, such as it is, would not have occurred if Turkey were already a member of the European Union betrays a fundamental ignorance of the evolutions of society. In such matters, it is primat der Innenpolitik which overrides almost everything else. Particularly with such a political animal as Erdogan. As for the concept that the European Union had much to gain by Turkey's joining the EU, the mere idea, once raised is surely enough to highlight how questionable the concept is. If, and only if, the European Union was something akin to a machtstaat, would its expansion to the border of such hot spots as Persia, Iraq and Syria make the slightest possible sense, since in that instance, the EU would be use, Turkish membership as a springboard to projecting is power and influence in various parts of the Near East and the Levant. By definition though, that is the very last thing that the contemporary European Union has any stomach for. Perhaps, no, it is a fact that this was and is unfortunate evolutionary turn in European society of the last fifty plus years: its navel-gazing and renunciation of any interest in engaging in Great Power politics in the traditional sense. Regardless, one cannot gainsay the fact that Turkey both in its incarnation of a regional Near and Middle East power with some ambitions, as well as a relatively poor and worst of all, Muslim state, is as far a a good fit for the European Union as say Central America or Mexico would be for the USA. Or as the great late-Victorian, early Edwardian poet, Rudyard Kipling, once put it:
'East is east and West is west, and never the twain shall meet!'


Post a Comment

<< Home