Forget ‘Merkozy,’ start thinking about ‘Merkonti’

Forget ‘Merkozy,’ start thinking about ‘Merkonti’

As we carefully balance on snowy streets and shovel off our doorsteps, we can at least take comfort that spring is not so far away.

Soon it will be time to pack up the overcoats, clean out the closets, paint the kitchen and move a few other paradigms around. Or “shift” in the jargon of paradigm-speak.
We can start with the operative paradigm for the European Union, “Merkozy.” How many times have you seen that hybridized shorthand for all of Turkey’s EU problems in a headline. 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pushes his populist re-election bid, constructed atop the now-infamous legislation to criminalize discussion of Turkish-Armenian history: “Merkozy.” The German Chancellor tells us in Latin she welcomes Turkey’s EU membership (pacta sunt servanda) but says in German to forget it. “Merkozy.”

Roads west inevitably encounter the washed out bridge of German-French solidarity in opposition to Turkey’s aspirations. “Merkozy” indeed. And then we have listen to Americans gripe that “Turkey is turning eastward.”

So how about this for a spring paradigm shift: “Merkonti.” This new shorthand for the leadership of Europe was apparently inspired by a Tweet from a journalist at the Economist magazine. I learned about this new journalistic effort at paradigm shifting from a dispatch (translated thankfully) forwarded by a colleague that was in Jan. 31’s centrist La Stampa, based in Turin. “It is ‘Merkonti Time’ ” read the headline in part.

I have to say I like the ring. Mind you I understand that Mario Monti is not really the prime minister of Italy. The appointed technocrat is really the new German High Commissioner in Rome. His marching orders are essentially the same as those of his German colleague appointed in Athens, Lucas Papademos: Deutschland Über Alles.

But still, Monti strikes me as the kind of guy to insert a new perspective on Turkey as part of the new duo in charge of the future of Europe. As the La Stampa article noted, it was Monti walking most tall at this week’s 25-nation EU summit to ratify the new fiscal compact. 

“Yesterday Monti showed up at the Brussels summit at his strongest ever since he took over at the helm of the Italian government,” wrote La Stampa. “While he garnered both the admiring and the opportunistic encouragement of every European leader over the past two months, the Anglo-Saxon press has been positively gushing with praise for him in the past week, coining metaphors and adjectives unusual on their lips, the kind of thing they usually reserve for great leaders.”

Turkey and Italy have had a rough patch or two in their histories. But we don’t need to dwell on the Battle of Lepanto when the Turkish navy took a drubbing at Italian hands. The French may be a Mediterranean power as well, but they are not “Mediterraneo” in quite the same way as Turkey and Italy.

Let’s get EU Minister Egemen Bağış over to Rome for pasta carbonara with Monti. Let’s remember that Turkey did not start its European integration project in 1963 as commonly understood. It began in earnest in 1453. Back then, the Genoese were quick to rush the keys to their Galata Tower to Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. It’s another set of keys we need now. Italy might oblige again.