A ‘transactional’ EU membership?

A ‘transactional’ EU membership?

Good news! New chapters may soon open in Turkey’s looming membership in the European Union. The news came as spy/terrorist-journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül finished their 11th day in their prison cells. But why not speed up the membership process? If Turkish courts decide to arrest a few dozen more journalists on charges of prostitution, drug trafficking, not loving their country enough, not loving their leaders enough, not being pro-government enough, coming from Russian ancestry, or of just being friends with spy/terrorists Messrs. Dündar and Gül, a dozen more chapters could open imminently. 

Take, for instance, the photo (accompanying the good news about new chapters opening soon) showing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker passionately hugging each other. And remember to imagine speech balloons, too. Mr Juncker: “You did a great job by arresting those spies. Congratulations, Ahmet!” Mr. Davutoğlu: “They are not just spies. They are also terrorists. With the permission of God, we’ll catch more spy/terrorists.” Mr. Juncker: “Bravissimo! You are an ideal European partner.” 

Shortly before the spy/terrorist-journalists Dündar and Gül were arrested and put behind bars, a study revealed that about 8 percent of Turks (more than 6 million) said they sympathize with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). That must be the democratic culture and, more specifically, the freedom of speech that the EU expects Turkey to achieve: Individuals can freely express their opinions without fearing prosecution!  

But the EU is not altogether indifferent to the systematic violations of human rights in Turkey. Brussels will soon be bringing films to Turkey apparently to increase awareness about human rights. A splendid idea! Perhaps the European Commission in Ankara could arrange private screenings of some of the films in the cells the spy/terrorist-journalists are being held in. If so, they could learn a thing or two about respecting human rights and repent for their spy/terrorist careers. 

Turkey’s relations with the EU are turning increasingly transactional – which is not too bad, apart from weakening the Old Continent’s claim to the throne of universal democratic values. With a bit of luck, the “privileged partnership” Europe’s heavyweights have been promising to Turkey could come in the form of a “transactional membership.” Good news: We shall all be living happily in the same building; but you, in the basement apartment, Mr. Doorman. Everyone will be happy: Turkey for having been admitted into the building with the word describing the relationship as “member” even as it elects to ignore the “transactional” part. The EU will be happy at having escaped the necessity of truly sharing the same building with a man who does not quite suit the place, even as it suffers the consequences of the “nuisance value” with which he threatens the inhabitants of the building. It’s a nice win-win situation.  

On the other hand, Turkish liberals may be a bit too unfair when they criticize the EU for not being tough enough on the Turkish government about its systematic persecution machinery that creates new victims every day. There are a number of reasons for that.  

First, as much as Turkey (and other nations or blocs of nations) wants to maximize its “interests,” the EU may be trying to do the same. The intellectual criticism about the “European hypocrisy” may fall short of the transactional gains. Second, the EU has evidently lost most of its leverage on Turkey and further pressure may not work at all. Third, and most importantly, why should the EU care so crazily much about Turkey’s widening democratic deficiencies when a majority of Turks themselves evidently do not care at all?  

Do the Turks, after all, not vote to elect a government notorious for its persecution of dissidents, knowing that these persecutions exist all too visibly?