Turkey & the EU

Cross-posted on the Corner

Andrew McCarthy has a piece on possible Turkish membership of the EU up on the home page, very well worth reading in many respects, but not least for this observation:

In Turkey, the administrators of the Kemalist governmental model — comprising Muslims who understood Islam intimately — suppressed Islam not to deny freedom of conscience but to enable it. They were trying to forge exactly the sort of secular civil society Europeans revere. They knew it could not coexist with sharia. Thus, the government assumed supervision of the country’s 80,000 mosques, vetted the imams, controlled the content of sermons and literature, and aggressively monitored the Islamic charities. The Muslims running the state realized that Islam would inevitably work against secular civil society if left to its own devices.

If you want to understand why Mubarak’s approach in Egypt (political repression combined with the cession of large amounts of religio-social space to the imams) was, in the end, doomed to failure, that’s not a bad place to start.

Andy explains how the incentive of eventual EU membership (forever being proffered, just out of reach, to the Turks) is being used to take distort the (admittedly very far from perfect) Kemalist model in ways that could have very dangerous consequences.

But at least we can for be sure (at least for now) that the French and German political elites are enough in tune with their electorates (for now) to stop—as they should— Turkish accession.

With others the case is not so clear.

Here’s what Britain’s David Cameron had to say two years ago:

ANKARA – Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday he was angered by the slow pace of Turkey’s European Union accession talks and warned against shutting Ankara out because of anti-Muslim prejudice.

Cameron’s strong support for Turkey’s limping EU bid puts him in stark contrast to fellow EU heavyweights France and Germany who argue against letting the mainly-Muslim country of over 70 million people to become a full member.

Here’s part of what I wrote back at the time:

That Cameron blames the Franco-German stance on “anti-Muslim prejudice” is an argument of the intellectually desperate. Then again, what else does Cameron have? As so often, he has failed to grasp just how deep the EU’s federalizing project has already gone. Even if we ignore the phenomenal cost (of which cash-strapped British taxpayers would pay a disproportionate share) of such a scheme, admitting Turkey to the EU would give a country now led by genuinely popular Islamist thug a real say in the everyday lives of the British people. And then there are all those other things that would go with Turkish membership in the EU, such as, oh, the ability of a Turkish court to order the arrest and extradition of a British citizen from the UK to a Turkish jail with little or no judicial review. So much for Cameron, protector of civil liberties.

Oh, there’s also this (reported by the BBC in 2009):

Mr Obama also said Washington supported Turkey’s efforts to join the EU.

Smart diplomacy!

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2 Responses to Turkey & the EU

  1. Acilius says:

    In fairness to the Obama administration, rhetorical support for Turkish accession to the European Union has been US policy for decades. That rhetorical support has done nothing to increase the likelihood of near-term Turkish accession, which remains near zero. On the other hand, were Mr O not to make the same remarks about the topic that his predecessors have made and that the Turks have come to expect, he would most definitely would provoke a real crisis in relations between the USA and Turkey. So the statement to which you refer costs no one anything, while the alternative to making it would be very costly indeed.

    Why Mr Cameron thinks it is a good idea so vigorously to dance to Washington’s tune in this matter is a mystery, however. That I grant you. Perhaps the Turks want evidence that Mr O is doing more for their cause than his predecessors have done. If so, perhaps Mr O calculated that statements by a British Prime Minister are likely to be covered intensely by media throughout Europe, placating the Turks, and at the same time to be ignored completely when the EU makes decisions. Under this scenario, Mr O could ask Mr Cameron to take this line, thereby relieving any pressure the Turks might have brought to bear on him without taking on an undue risk that the EU will actually admit Turkey.

  2. Steve Cardon says:

    How much power does Erdogan really have in Turkey when push comes to military shove? The Turkish military, which is absolutely committed to secularism, holds the cards in Turkey. Necmettin Erbakan, who was (as noted in Andrew McCarthy’s article) a mentor to Erdogan, was also the first Islamist Prime Minister of Turkey. He lasted one year. When his government failed to quell an “Al-Quds night” protest in Ankara, and reign in other perceived encroachments on church/state separation, the military chief of staff paid a visit to the Turkish security council. Without going into detail, the outcome was that Erbaken was first forced to sign a list of decisions that included:

    • Forcing people to donate skins of sacrificed animals to the Turkish Aviation Board (THK)[9]
    • Strict headscarf ban in universities[10]
    • Eight year primary school education
    • Shutting down Koran schools
    • Abolition of Tarikats (sufi orders)
    • Control of media groups which object to the decisions of Yüksek Askerî Şûra (Supreme Military Council) to fire religious soldiers.

    (From Wikipedia)

    Shortly thereafter he was forced to resign.

    It appears therefore that Mr. Erdogan, being hyper-aware that he too could be easily removed, has been much more careful and attentive than was PM Erbaken. The tone of top clerics in Turkey is extremely moderate and peaceful these days. They do not incite against Israel; that was one of the things that got Erbaken in trouble.

    Obviously it is the military who most wants to remain secular, and become more western leaning. Since it is equally apparent that the military can get their way (politically speaking), and since it is the military who physically contributes troops and resources to NATO, there is some hope that they can be relied upon to “do the right/smart thing” namely live up to their NATO obligations. There is great incentive for them to do so. If Turkey is attacked and/or goes to war with Syria or another Middle Eastern country, they would really like to have NATO support.

    I am writing this a few hours before the first presidential debate. All over CNBC is the fact that Iran’s economy is crumbling. Iran’s currency has dropped over one third in value in just the last week. If that happened to the dollar, global meltdown would almost certainly occur. It appears that for once, sanctions are actually having effect. The street protests are beginning, and of course they are being put down for the moment, but cannot be held at bay forever. The Ayatollahs know all too well that the same street that put them in power during the revolution, can remove them just as easily.

    I see a convergence of interests in the Middle East. The Grand Ayatollah Khamenei desperately needs a grand distraction to divert anger, and Netenyahu desperately wants to go to war with Iran before the election. Why before? If the Ayatollah is overthrown, O’bama will get to claim a huge foreign policy victory that tilts the election in his favor. He will make noble speeches about supporting the Iranian people in forming a new government etc. etc. Netenyahu should be happy to see the the Ayatollah gone right? No, because that still doesn’t get rid of the nuclear program which is popular with the majority of Iranians. It is vital to separate allies from enemies.

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