My Computer Sucks, But Turkey Could Join the EU
First of all, I’d like to say that my computer sucks. I’ve had to reinstall Windows something like five times since I bought the goddamn thing. It’s enough to make a diplomat cry all over his memos.
In between bouts of hysteria, I’ve been thinking about Turkey a lot. Naturally, our readers will be aware that Turkey recently received a green light to begin accession talks with the EU, starting next year. While Tayyip Erdogan has received some criticism back home for some of the provisions of the accession agreement, notably over Cyprus, generally speaking, he has done well to get an agreement out of the EU.
Ultimately I think both parties stand to gain tremendously from this arrangement, and I have to take my hat off to the EU for stepping to the plate. Various readers, familiar with the tone of this site and, to a greater extent, that of our colleagues at the Diplomad, may well gag at the thought of this, but I have to give credit where credit is due. While Europe is culpable on many fronts for many things, the EU deserves credit for having the spine to take on the Turkish question.
Ultimately, I think both entities are going to grow out of this. Turkey will do well because in the process of meeting accession goals it will have to, as has already begun to do, continue to adapt its legislation and culture to various aspects of Western culture that the West believes are universal. It will need to continue to progress on human rights issues, including with the Kurds, and it will need to begin increasing tolerance of the Orthodox Christian minority that lives within its borders. In all likelihood, it will have to make some kind of accommodation with the EU regarding the massacre of Armenians in Eastern Turkey between 1915-1923. In short, Turkey will continue along the trajectory on which Ataturk put it when he founded the Turkish Republic in 1923.
For the United States, all of this is good news. While it still has room to grow, Turkey is one of two democratic countries in the Middle East (Israel is the other). It is also predominantly Muslim. Countries like Turkey prove that the soft racism implicit in the notion that Muslims can’t handle democracy is simply wrong. The more a nation like Turkey shows that it can be progressive and democratic while still containing a majority of Muslims, the more hope there is for other Islamic countries that there is a way forward.
Europe has a lot to gain from this as well. European countries have for centuries been relatively homogenous. Only recently has Europe begun to show a more multi cultural hue. European civil society has not been as accepting of this new situation; rather than accept the growing reality that Europe is going to be less white as time goes on, much of Europe has decided to ignore the problem. Thus, new immigrants from Africa and the Arab world have had a harder time assimilating into European culture.
This might have worked for a while, particularly when Europeans were able to sneer at America for things like the Jim Crow, segregation, and Rodney King. What many Europeans failed to understand is that such dirty laundry is aired so publicly in the United States as a result of America’s civil society, which openly struggles with such issues, causing debate and moving forward, albeit in a herky-jerky fashion, from the grassroots up.
Europe (I know I’m generalizing here) has no such mechanism - civil society in Europe is still based on elites dictating the agenda to the grass roots, rather than vice versa. This is why, in the UK for instance, rather than tackle the threatening behavior of some Muslims when they perceive an insult to their religion, the government is considering outlawing criticism of religion. Instead of standing up for the human right of free speech, the government limits it. Rather than generate a dialogue at the community level between various aspects of British civil society, including muslims and across a wide range of society, the government wants to take the path of least resistance and embolden the radical element in the Muslim community.
It is in this area where I believe that the gradual integration of Turkey can be of benefit to Europe. Europe’s future is now tied up, to a certain extent, with Turkey. No doubt some, if not all, European polities will want to have a say on Turkey’s EU accession. It is my hope that a strong debate on the nature of an EU with Turkey and, by extension, an acknowledgment of the reality that Europe is no longer just white Christians, will ensue.