Racism and Turkey's EU Bid, Episode VLXVII

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 1/03/2013 07:49:00 AM
In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man
Now I've reached that age, I've tried to do all those things the best I can
No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam 

Good times, bad times, Turkey's had its share alike Led Zeppelin. When it comes to its prospects for joining the single market, though, its been mostly bad times. Unbeknownst to many, there are still several nations wishing to join the EU despite its economic crises on the periphery. After all, one doesn't have to be in the European Monetary Union (EMU) to be in the EU. What's more, it will probably be much harder to fake macroeconomic data from now on to get into the EMU. Famously among the current aspirants to EU-hood are two steps forward (surrendering war criminals), one step back (rolling back central bank independence) Serbia and the ever-nettlesome Turkey [1, 2].

A considerable amount of the opposition in the recent years has stemmed from French and German leaders' disdain for Turkish EU membership. Turkish negotiatior Egemen Bagis was rightly appalled by the half-baked offer of a "privileged partnership" as opposed to full-fledged membership. Still, even half of the Merkozy Franco-German Islamophobic heart of the EU--adieu, Sarko--is still enough to frustrate an honest appraisal of Turkey's efforts to comply with the pitifully few accession chapters open to it.

Alike Led Zeppelin, no matter how Turkey tries to meet stipulations in the accession chapters open to it, the EU pooh-poohs its efforts. Hence Mr. Bagis' latest complaint--to paraphrase a certain leader no longer on the world stage--about the hard bigotry of no expectations:
Turkey began accession talks in 2005 but the process has ground to a halt due to an intractable dispute over Cyprus, the divided island state which Turkey does not recognize, and opposition from core EU members France and Germany..."

We observed that this year's Turkey Progress Report was overshadowed by more subjective, biased, unwarranted and bigoted attitudes," Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said in a statement accompanying Turkey's own 270-page report. Bagis said it was unacceptable that the European Commission report released in October had ignored Turkey's "courageous" reforms over the last year and that this undermined the EU's trustworthiness in the eyes of the Turkish public.

The minister previously voiced his disappointment with the report in October, saying it failed to be objective, ignored the expansion of rights for religious minorities and had criticized the judiciary too sweepingly [...] Ankara has completed only one of the 35 policy "chapters" every candidate must conclude to join the EU. All but 13 of those chapters are blocked by France, Cyprus and the European Commission. Talks have also been blocked by the Commission which says Turkey does not yet meet required standards on human rights, freedom of speech and religion.
The EU is every bit as fond of human rights jibba-jabba as the United States, but thankfully does not condone drone strikes or Guantanamo Ghraibing among other things. That said, it is a favourite cudgel which it wields against Turkey despite it becoming more progressive--especially in the economic realm with its bond yields falling below those of Greece, Portugal, or even Romania.

Despite its fondness for asking Turkey to allow more religious tolerance, however, the core irony is that EU leaders do not welcome it because it is obviously predominantly Islamic. That is, Turkey would do wonders for making the EU indeed more religiously diverse. Yet, the "othering" in academic-speak of Turkey continues: it should not be part of the EU because they are not predominantly Christian is the classic Islamophobe's line of reasoning. My objection here is that religion--Christianity in particular--is becoming an irrelevancy in the lives of Europeans.

Still, hope springs anew in 2013. With French President Francois Hollande set to visit Ankara soon, there is a distinct possibility that he will unblock a number of chapters to accession designated by his predecessor...
The progress report prepared by Turkey, released on the website of its EU Affairs Ministry, cited the passage of reforms in the areas of the judiciary, education and workers rights as examples of progress over the year. Bagis told Reuters in Dublin earlier this month Turkey was hopeful France will unblock talks over EU membership on at least two policy chapters in the coming months ahead of a visit by President Francois Hollande. While Hollande has stopped short of endorsing Turkey's EU candidacy, he has said it should be judged on political and economic criteria - a contrast to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy's position that Turkey did not form part of Europe.
I am fairly certain that most impartial observers would attribute stalled Turkish accession more to EU member intransigence than to Turkey's lack of progress in meeting the very few accession chapters available to it. Like the man said, the EU tends to harp on individual (outlier) cases while overlooking the broad-based advances Turkey has made. Even the matter of Cyprus is not insoluble if the EU really willed itself to resolve that matter among others.

To me, there never was a question of whether Turkey is in "Europe"--an artificial geographic construct like any other. It's a pity that several of those who think otherwise are the EU's movers and shakers.