Why not Turkey in the EU?
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December 1st, 2009
LONDON - Enlargement of the European Union to bring in Turkey was never meant to be so tense an affair. When the Berlin Wall came down opinion makers in Western Europe were breathless before the quite unexpected overthrow of tyranny and were falling over themselves in their attempt to wave broadly stretched arms of welcome to those who could join the historic mission of making Europe one. In the event the incorporation of these nations into NATO (where Turkey has long been an unquestioned member) was easier to pull off than economic integration into the EU. It needn't have been. It wasn't the economics of the argument. It was the politics: in the military arena politicians simply have more independent room for manoeuvre. And anyway Bill Clinton, when president, was pushing for it for his own internal political reasons- he needed the east European ethnic vote.
Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former president of France and the president of the conference that wrote the constitution of a united Europe, wrote an acidic article in Le Monde saying, "It will be end of the European Union" if Muslim Turkey is allowed to join.
This takes us back to a famous BBC broadcast to a defeated Germany in 1945 by the poet T.S. Eliot. "I do not believe", he said, "that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith". Otherwise, one can say, what is Europe but a peninsular of Asia?
Even non-believers like me have no trouble in seeing that much of Europe's rich literature, art, architecture and music are grounded in the Christian faith, not to speak of its morality, even the twisted morality of the utopian beliefs of Marxism and Nazism that led to the worst wars the world has ever experienced. Indeed, what is good in Christian Europe is breathtakingly beautiful and wonderful, not just in artistic forms but in say the creation of Scandinavia's national health services, Spain's lack of racism, Italy's refusal to bear a historical grudge or the British sense of tolerance and fair play. Yet what has been bad has come from the same sources. The Germans (and their Austrian cousins) are second to none in their creation and love of all artistic forms since the days of the Enlightenment, not least in music, but their politics has been despicable and evil. The Germans, it should be underlined, were influenced at the time of their worst mistakes by nothing from outside Christian Europe.
The European Union, founded by Germany and France, was also a Christian creation. The early engine drivers were Christian Democrats and Socialists. This was their inspired answer how to end future wars in Europe, by binding the various peoples of Europe so closely that war could never be a practical or necessary proposition.
Now the European Union can look back on six decades of its evolution to being the broadest political and economic alliance in world history that has developed almost unwittingly an anti-war culture.
Thus Europe has changed, and in many other ways too. It has given itself more personal freedoms, in sexual behaviour and artistic freedom not least, and has put such a stress on human rights that the rest of the world finds itself almost bowled over by Europe's enthusiasm.
Thus, as the frontiers of Europe are pushed outward in social and economic waves, why shouldn't they be in political matters too? Are we Europeans really so self-consciously "Christian" these days that we can't take in a neighbour if they share the same values? Turkey has become so westernised that even its fundamentalists are rather less fundamentalist than some of those in Western Europe and North America- look at the important role of women in Turkish politics.
The carrots which have the last few years been substituted for the stick by the European Union have worked wonders. Under the present government human rights standards have been ratcheted up and the attitude towards Kurdish self-expression has begun to seriously change.
It is clear from everything that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that this process will be speeded up. It will accelerate even further if European leaders don't go around uttering the kind of anachronisms spoken by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. If Orthodox Greece, not so long ago Turkey's bitter enemy, can become the first to champion Turkish entry it shouldn't be too hard for Catholic and Protestant Europe.
Copyright © 2009 Jonathan
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