The cost of losing a European perspective

The cost of losing a European perspective

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said yesterday that the neo-Nazi murders revealed during investigations into the murders of eight Turks and a Greek in Germany might grow into a bigger scandal.

The comment was a reference to German intelligence’s efforts to observe the activities of violent, right-wing organizations through infiltration along with their corresponding inability to prevent the violence.

German authorities started a reinvestigation of all (nearly 200, at the moment) cold cases on the suspicion that neo-Nazis might have committed them. The German state will pay compensation in all related cases, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced with exemplary self-criticism.

It is exemplary because while Western political cultures can conduct such activities when faced with the naked truth of the past, Eastern political cultures stick with the cliché of the past until problems simply disappear. Those in transition, like Turkey, know what is the right thing to do, but still struggle with the habits of the old regime of denial.

Although nearly every party in Parliament now favors the investigation of unsolved murders from the 1990s that are mostly related to the Kurdish problem, neither a parliamentary nor a judicial investigation has been started yet. There has been a lot of debate about reopening the files on the 1977 May Day, 1938 Dersim and 1915 Armenian cases, but barely anything has been done.

That’s why the prompt German government reaction to the wrongdoings of state officers in the murder of people on German soil should be an example for all developing democracies as the capacity of the system to regenerate itself and regain its people’s trust.

In that framework, one has to see that the governmental changes in Greece and Italy, and now probably Spain and Portugal as well because of the economic crisis, is a sign that European democracies and economies have the capacity to regenerate themselves. Nobody knows whether the measures will work, but at least the principle of resigning when necessary works, unlike the case of Libya and now probably in Syria.

The policy of denying failure and loading the cost onto the shoulders of the people is bound to go down together with their practitioners in today’s world.

Turkey showed a developing regeneration capacity during the 2001 economic crisis and 2002 elections by changing those who failed to govern with new figures through democratic means. Thanks to that, Turkey made important steps in ending the era of military interventions into politics, yet there is still a ways to go in the fields of the rule of law, freedom of expression and press and fairer representation in politics.

Turkey has problems with the European Union. It has the right to complain that it is treated unfairly. But as President Abdullah Gül mentioned as he was departing for Britain yesterday, the EU is still a strong anchor for Turkey to keep up with the work on the right track for a better democracy. The cost of Turkey losing a European perspective could be higher than expected