On the crossroads: East and West

Turkey’s entrance in the EU is the single most important desicion European Union has to make in its 50 year history. In contrast with other accessions, Turkey’s one represents a radical paradigm shift in the way Europe views itself and the world as well.

European mentality in comparison with the American worldview has always been far more conservative. The American optimism is far less rooted in the old war that tends to view developments by assesing the negative aspects thoroughly and always keep a close eye in the details of every initiative. For instance the optimism on the current USA Administration in relation to the war in Iraq was not shared by Europeans that clearly pointed out the disadvantages of such a grand move -Namely war on Iraq-, and for the time being they have been proved right in most respect.

In Turkey now, the Europeans rightly assume that a country that has developed on a different political and social path than the Continent; would be difficult to adjust in a united European Commonwealth. Despite the recent modifications of the Turkish law -On issues of human rights protection- and the various “Bon gestures” by Erdogan’s goverment, there are several issues that clearly provide the framework for a deadlock betweeen Turkey-EU.

Firstly the unique role of the Turkish Army in the internal politics and the societal balance in Turkey. The European tradition influenced by the WW2 and the general sentiment against militarization, does not comprehend easily the fact that political decisions and initiatives in Turkey have to be in par with the Army’s decisions.

A second aspect between EU – Turkish relations, is the fact that Turkey is the only state applying for membership; that has an armed uprising in its teritory, namely the Kurdish insurgents. Despite the fact that Europe has or had, member states that suffered ethnic tensions or terrorism (UK-N. Ireland, Spain-Basques etc), no uprising to the scale Turkey is experiencing has been created. That ofcourse would be a burden to European policy in case Turkey becomes a member because the Kurdish issue would automatically become a pan-European problem, a fact not acceptable in Brussels or in any other European capital.

A third topic of concern would be the relations between Turkey and the Middle East. Up to now the European states -And the EU as a whole-, were used in dealing with the M. Eastern affairs under the USA influence or in the case of France and the UK, by judging their own national interests at stake. With a possible Turkish accession, the Middle East becomes a European border area and the explosive problems of the region will add to the daily European agenda in Brussels. It is a possibility that at least for the time being is not bearable by the EU that still does not have a real common foreign and security policy and in addittion is always conservative and unwilling to involve itself to the M. Eastern political mayhem.

On overall, the aspects of the Turkish membership in the EU, deals with the hardcore of European current political behaviour. It is unlikely however that Europe of the 25 member states will change its mentality in order to accept Turkey. On the other hand it might be disastrous should Europe tries to impose a radical change in the internal Turkish political scene. That most surely would create instability in the country and would also put in peril the regional balance of power.
Therefore a compromise is needed-At least for a generation or so- that will take into consideration the real needs of both parties. Some European officials have suggested a kind of “Special relationship” between EU-Turkey. Despite the fact that this proposal has many advantages it has the minus of creating a lower status for Turkey that might proove to be a leverage of Turkish nationalists against the “hypocricy” and the “superiority complex” of Europeans.
A proposal that would best satisfy European and Turkish interests would be the creation of a “parallel union” on the European bordeland. Turkey along with Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Jordan could create under European and American assistance a regional trade bloc that would also coordinate in a political level as well. In parallel, the EU could gradually get closer with this group so as to coordinate activities in the wider M. Eastern region and therefore be able progressively to spread the ideals of peace and prosperity along the much furstrated M.East area. It might be a far-fetched plan, note however that the original conception of the EU back in the early 50’s was also a “grand plan”, as well as, the expansion of NATO in the ex Soviet Bloc states.
The main concern of Europe-and USA- nowadays is the stabilization of the Middle East and not the accession of Turkey. If this area is not being brought in the democracy – prosperity path, it will most certainly spill its misfurtunes to Turkey and thereafter to Europe as well. So the real challenge for both the EU and Turkey is to cooperate in the Middle Eastern affairs. In case this is not achieved Turkey’s accession would be nothing more than a progression of Europe into the Middle East minefield, thus creating the necessary framework where Turkey would be blamed for the misdeeds of the Muslim world for generations to come.

To paraphrase a great historical leader “Europe’s soft underbelly is the Middle East of the 21st century”.

Posted by: Ioannis Michaletos | December 13, 2006 06:31 AM

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