SEMİH İDİZ > Turkish-style self-gratification

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What do you do if you are Turkey and do not like the EU Commission’s Progress Report, the annual “report card” for candidates that shows where they stand in their bid for membership in the union?

Well, first you get your minister in charge of the whole affair to treat this report as a worthless piece of paper. Then you get a key jurist from the governing party to symbolically throw it in the garbage on live television.

Finally, you prepare your own immaculate “Progress Report,” full of self-praise, and start blowing raspberries at Europe by pointing out how wonderfully Turkey’s democracy is progressing at the same time that the EU is in such a state of dissolution that it can only be saved by Turkish membership.

This is what the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government did last week, getting its EU minister and chief negotiator, Egeman Bağış, to announce Turkey’s own Progress Report, which supposedly tells the world what the situation in Turkey really is. If this is not “Turkish-style self-gratification,” then what is?

Of course, no one can claim that the EU has behaved completely decently toward Turkey. There is also truth in what Bağış says when referring to bigotry in certain European countries and quarters toward Turkey. It is also true that the EU is not what it used to be, having lost much of its charm for many Europeans, let alone Turks.

It is also true that there are many European politicians and strategists looking at Europe’s long-term economic and strategic interests, and admonishing as “dangerously shortsighted” those who have been opposing Turkish membership on civilizational grounds.

As has been frequently repeated in this column, however, it is the powers-that-be in Europe, when the time comes, who will decide if Turkey becomes a member or not, and not the man on the street. This was also the way it happened for Turkey’s Council of Europe and NATO memberships.

Both were initially resisted – although not on civilizational but political grounds – but both happened in the end because the way of the world, with Soviet expansionism turning into a nightmare for the West, required it.

If Europeans naïvely believe they will have a say in Turkish EU membership when the chips are really down, then they should consider just how much say they have today in what their leaders are doing to get Europe out of its economic crisis.

One does not see any referenda on whether the current austerity measures – which are making life much more unbearable than Turkish membership probably would – should be implemented or not. All the deeply disappointed average European can do today is to take to the streets in futile protest.

To return to Turkey, though, the point is that Ankara’s own progress report can be taken as the latest reflection of the government’s reluctance when it comes to reforms which are required for EU membership, but much more importantly, are also vitally important for this country’s own sake. This self-gratifying report is no more than a smokescreen, enhanced by meaningless demagoguery, which is designed to shroud what the Erdoğan government has not done.

But railing at the EU and debunking its Progress Report – which most democratic and liberal Turks would endorse, despite some technical mistakes – does not do away with the problems this country faces daily in the areas of democracy, human rights, press freedoms and others.

One really has to have selective eyesight not to see the objective truths contained in the EU’s Progress Report, and to swallow hook, line and sinker what the Erdoğan government’s subjective Progress Report claims are Turkey’s grand successes.

All of this shows that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is less interested in EU membership today, and more interested in its popular image, which it believes is being willfully tarnished by a bigoted Europe.

Other than that, Ankara’s “Progress Report” is a meaningless exercise.

Note: I learned with sadness the untimely and tragic death of Ümit Enginsoy, a long-time colleague and dear friend, in an unfortunate accident. He was a committed journalist and a truly fine fellow who will be sorely missed by those that loved him and cherished his friendship. May he rest in peace.


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Notice on comments

Ozgur Erhan

1/3/2013 10:06:51 PM

Mr Vargen, of course I agree that Turks should try and improve themselves. And I also think they have lost many opportunities sadly. But if you look closely at the history -- and indeed at current events in our time -- you see that dislike of Turkey, lack of concern for it -- and also all sorts of racist demonising -- have played a repeated part and caused Turkey to be isolated. The Turkish failure to see the European point of view comes mostly from this isolation.

Jorge Cortez

1/3/2013 6:43:47 PM

You mean self-aggrandizing...

mara mcglothin

1/3/2013 4:15:07 PM

I think everyone is missing the point. By going through the process for membership to the EU, it will only make Turkey a more democratic country than before, and much stronger in their place in the World. The actual joining of the EU is a decision only Turkey can make and I don't really know what is best, but i can say that bringing Turkish standards in line with EU will only leave Turkey stronger and isn't that what we all want?

Optimist 23

1/3/2013 4:13:42 PM

If Turkey does its homework and corrects its human rights deficit, but formost finds a solution to its kurdish issue, then it will be most welcome in the EU club. Ah, there is one more point, its the great leader, if he continues his path, who wants to deal with him.

Agnes Smith

1/3/2013 3:47:06 PM

Ozgur & Vargen - you are both right. It will take a long time for the Turks to shake off their shackles and fit into any catagory other than their own (I am generalizing). The ones that move to Europe are generally the ones that don't integrate and give the Turks an unhealthy persona. Meanwhile the ones who stay around are the ones who are fabulous and care....the diaspora are the eternal nomads - Turks looking for a deal and not happy to find a homeland.


1/3/2013 3:29:13 PM

Semih Bey is mising the point. This is actually a Karagoz-Hacivat play we have organized for the benefit of depressed and unhappy EU citizens. Can't you tell who Karagoz is? In any case, fine writing and analysis. Why Turks have such a desperate need to be liked I have no idea, and this is what it is about for millions of us. It is also true that so many rude, crude and provincial Turkish immigrants in Europe have left a bad taste that is hard to ignore for many Europeans.

Vargen Vargen

1/3/2013 2:28:15 PM

Ozgur. I also have the habbit of not always blame "the other" for everything. Turkey and the Turks, just like other people, are fully responcielb for their actions and behaviour. The attitude "I am always right and the rest of the world is wrong and tries to hurt me" is not helpful since it prevents a self critical analysis of why one always gets in to trouble. If your son has problems with all his class mates and teachers and everybody else, he has to change his behaviour, not blame others.

Ozgur Erhan

1/3/2013 1:58:14 PM

Great piece Semih! Mr Vargen, yes I take your point about the 'un-European' behaviour. It is foolish and embarrassing but...don't let's get racist. Turks are not born different from French men and women or Latvian. They are trapped in an undemocratic culture which exists to a large extent because we are isolated and demonised in Europe. And most European politicians could not care about Turkish democracy. You treated us as 'the other' and made us exactly that.

Vargen Vargen

1/3/2013 10:02:40 AM

It would have been fun to see the reversed, i.e. that a top polititian from Europe takes Turkeys application and drop it in the paper bin. I wonder how Erdogan would have reacted....................

Vargen Vargen

1/3/2013 9:58:37 AM

I dont conside myself naive, but when I see how Bagis and Erdogan and Davatoglu are acting, the enormous cultural differences between Turkey and Europe become very clear. It also becomes very clear when we see Turkish immigrants in Europe. I am not saying that one is better than the other, but the differences and the problems of getting along are huge.
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