Turkey, Europe in troubled waters

Turkey, Europe in troubled waters

Past generations spoke with experience and the knowledge that comes with age. Otherwise, how could they wisely stress that “he who gets up in anger, sits down with loss?” Similarly, past generations have whispered into our ears that “strong vinegar first harms its jar.”

Turkey’s ruling Islamists and opportunists have been waging a war with Europe in the hopes of winning a few percent more in the upcoming April 16 vote on a set of constitutional amendments the tall, bold, bald and ever-angry tenant of the extravagant palace hopes will carry him to the seat of super-president and make him the sole decision maker in Turkey. Short-sighted European politicians failed to grasp the cheeky plan behind this intentional escalation of tension by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The tougher the tall man speaks, the more Turkish ministers engage in backstage maneuvers as if their European counterparts cannot realize such greedy tactics, causing tensions to escalate between Turkey and Europe. Engaging in a futile discussion of who was right and who was wrong in the escalation of tension with the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Germany or other European countries can help no one. In the Dutch case, for example, Ankara has the legitimate right to complain that an allied country did not allow it to explain to the Turks living in the country what they will be voting for on April 16. The Dutch as well have the legitimate right to prevent Turkish ministers from engaging in actions that might endanger public security in Dutch cities just ahead of the Netherlands’ own crucial vote.

The problem, as in the “strong vinegar” or “getting up in anger” idioms, was probably related more to style than content. Was there any meaning in accusing today’s Dutch, Austrian, Danish and German rulers of being remnants of the Nazis? Were Turkish leaders not aware of the recent history of Europe and the degree of disgust Europeans might feel against anyone who would dare compare modern-day politicians to the heinous political criminals of yesterday?

Were such statements taken seriously by European politicians? Did Turkey and Turkish politicians become the laughing stock of Europe with such oddities? The real fallback, unfortunately, has started to be felt by the millions of Turks living in European countries. There were problems emanating from the rise of far-right, neo-Nazi groups in many European countries, particularly in Germany. But a heinous group that hung a huge Erdoğan portrait with a gun pointed at his head in the heart of Vienna is of course disgusting and totally unacceptable. A portrait of Merkel with a gun pointed at her head cannot be hung in Ankara or elsewhere in Turkey and if such an unfortunate thing momentarily happened, Turkish police would capture and prosecute such perverts. So how many days have passed since that incident in Vienna? Did Turkey receive an apology?

 Did Austrian police arrest anyone responsible for the action? Obviously such a placard cannot be considered within the remit of freedom of expression.

What was written on that placard? “Erdoğan take your Turks and get out of Europe.” Who are Erdoğan’s Turks? Are Turks a group of people owned by someone? Naturally, such an approach is an insult to the Turkish nation, particularly those living in Europe.

Turks in Europe, particularly those who traveled there almost half a century ago as “guest workers,” have largely failed to integrate into the local culture. The Turkish government, as well as governments of those countries, are to be blamed for such an awful situation after such a long time. It can be comfortably said that males managed to integrate into the social community to some degree while women, confined to homes in Turkish ghettos, ignored the need for integration as they continued to live in an all-Turkish surrounding. The second, third and fourth generations succeeded in integration at a much higher rate and there are very successful business leaders, academics, bankers and politicians in many European countries.

These “European Turks” who often vote for social democratic candidates in elections in the countries in which they live, go extreme when it comes to voting in Turkish elections, mostly voting for conservatives and Islamists. The governments of the countries in which Turks live are naturally aware of this awkward voting trend of Turks. Now, angered by the AKP’s polarization and provocations and Turkey derailment from its 200 years of European vocation, European governments who were not very receptive to the idea of Turkey’s accession in the first place are now mostly against Turkish membership.

Can this awkward trend change tomorrow once the vote is finished? Even if wanted – and I am not sure it will be wanted – it will require a tremendous effort to patch up and overcome the damage this period has opened in Turkey-Europe ties, while also providing comfort to Turks in Europe.

Particularly with Turkey blackmailing Europe with the possible abrogation of the refugee deal, tomorrow might be rather dark in Turkey’s ties with Europe.