Europe’s problem is not Turkey

Europe’s problem is not Turkey

Opposing Turkey’s European Union bid has been a rallying call for Europe’s right wing, whether “moderate” or “extreme.” The election results in France, however, indicate that Europe’s problem is not Turkey, but itself. Even the unexpectedly strong showing of the Greek Nazi party the Golden Dawn in the recent elections is a reflection of this. 

The remarks by the party’s leader Nikos Michaloliakos in which he cast doubt on the Holocaust and the existence of Auschwitz, points to a European crisis which has nothing to do with Turkey. Under normal circumstances this party should be trying to score points with anti-Turkish taunts.

It is interesting to note that in this environment there are influential quarters in the West calling now for a revival of the Turkish-EU negotiations. One would have thought that Turkey would be the last thing on their minds given the deep crisis in Europe. 

The EU is certainly the furthest thing from Turkish minds presently. Until, that is, some idiotic security people in Amsterdam’s Schipol airport hound one of Turkey’s leading folk musicians, and a former deputy to boot, in which case Europe is remembered negatively. 

It appears that the EU’s economic woes will be here to stay for some time. The situation in Greece is sending shivers up financial spines across the board. British Prime Minister David Cameron is warning that if things continue to go this way the Euro will have to break up.

In the meantime Francois Hollande’s election in France and the thrashing Chancellor Angela Merkel got in last weekend’s regional elections in North-Rhine Westphalia are indications that the average European is seeking a new way out, which puts man – and not financial institutions – at the center of things.
One of the influential quarters calling for Turkish-EU relations to be revived is Bloomberg, the leader in global and financial information. In an editorial comment this week it called on President Hollande to lift his country’s block on Ankara’s EU bid. 

Bloomberg’s call is not an altruistic attempt to help Turkey, as those who read it will know. 
It says plainly that “the European project as a whole is faltering under the political strain of the crisis. EU leaders need to show direction and create momentum for the bloc, in areas where they can reaffirm its purpose and values, even as the economy sputters. Turkey’s a good place to start.”

Turkey’s economy is of course not free from trouble. But it has a potential which cannot be overlooked by European investors and government’s seeking to create jobs at home. The added political value of Turkey’s being a predominantly Muslim country with a parliamentary democracy, and a liberal economy also continues to have importance for the West.

Meanwhile, the Arab Spring has woken up Turkish Islamist calling for an economic union among Islamic states with a political dimension too. It will take years for the Middle East to pull itself together politically and economically before it can present a viable option to the West. The truth is that Turkey’s economic dependence on the EU continues. 

The EU also remains the main source of leverage for continued reforms. The caveat here is that Turkey’s EU membership is not something that is on the horizon yet. It is clear that a Europe in crisis and which has lost its direction can not absorb Turkey. It is equally doubtful that Turkey would want to join a “sick Europe” and import unwanted problems.

What is required here is merely an active engagement that will bring concrete benefits to both sides as the Turkish-EU negotiations unfold. The process is important here, rather than early membership for Turkey. That still is still in the future, and will only happen if and when Europe and Turkey feel the time is ripe. 

Wiser European politicians have a better chance now to convince their publics that the right wing is using Turkey as a political scarecrow. As we said, Europe’s problem is not Turkey, but itself.