Is it time to forget about a Turkish perspective for merging Islam and democratisation? Is the EU itself partly to blame by dragging on ascension negotiations?

Over decades, a membership of Turkey in the EU has been debated and negotiated. Once again, the progress of negotiation seems to have stalled. There always were good reasons for finally integrating Turkey: a Muslim country as an EU-member state could demonstrate that the EU is not a “Club of Christians”. Also, Turkey’s influence in regional conflicts is substantial.

But the recent moves by the Erdogan government apparently put all hope for an EU-Turkish rapprochement to rest: the violent measures against the demonstrators around Gezi Park in 2013, voluntary shifting of hundreds of procurators and police officers, rude language from Prime Minister Erdogan himself, indicators of notorious corruption even in higher echelons of the state apparatus, increasing measures against social networks in Turkey, and the negligent reactions to the victims of the mining tragedy in Soma all show that Turkey may be sliding backwards.

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 3 years ago

    Turkey was seeking EU membership for years and exerted considerable effort for its economic and political restructuring to conform to EU rules. Though there were a lot of skeptics of a Muslim country being an EU member, a considerable part of EU politicians and experts expressed views that they are not seeing the fundamental difference between the EU members and Turkey, and that Turkey must be a part of the EU. Turkey even has changed some provisions in the constitution to be seen as a ‘normal’, democratic Muslim state though that also heightens the danger of it sliding downwards if this is not being benignly supported.

    In this situation the EU membership may play the role of an anchor that makes Turkey a modern democratic Muslim state and the EU not a Club of Christians. But then the process has stalled. New arguments have evolved: why should Turkey seek the EU membership if Turkey is just like the EU? Turkey need not be a part of EU because Turkey can foster a new model of a Muslim country with ademocratic system which is not necessarily an EU member-state. It was assumed that this model can be attractive to some other Muslim states, while at the same time not dangering the EU confessional ‘virginity’. Something similar happened with Russia: Russia was proclaimed a European state but is so big that it cannot be a part of Europe. And now the situation has changed. So the EU must be more careful about its policy toward neighbors, without being itself a source of conflicts and its own external weakness because of its shortsightedness.

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  2. Theodoros Tsakiris 3 years ago

    The Turkish experiment in democratization has always been a complicated process. Erdogan, like Menderes in the 1950s, consolidated his power basis in contradiction to the secular kemalist guardians who always elevated the country’s Armed Forces as the true regulators of the Republic.

    The big difference between Erdogan and Menderes is that Erdogan used the EU bid as a means of neutralizing the Military’s interventionism. The Generals knew and know that a potential coup d’etat would effectively terminate their country’s bid for EU accession.

    (Full opinion here: https://www.global-matters.org/2014/05/no-europe-a-la-carte/)

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3 Comments

  1. AW 3 years ago

    I never understood why Turkey was supposed to become a EU-memebr in the first place. It is surely an important ally and a huge potential threat, but not a member. It is barely situated in Europe, is a different civilization etc. And by all means, I don’t get, whats wrong with being a “christian club”, especially considering the fact, that christianity has highly influenced European culture and mentality.

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  2. klaus segbers 3 years ago

    I don’t think that Turkey’s recent development has so much to do with religion. Neither has EU evolution much to do with Christianity. Rather, what we are witnessing in Turkey resembles an authoritarian strategy of modernization. Or, may be we should say, that is how it started. More recently, it became much less clear if modernization is still in synch with authoritarianism. The prime minister acts as a sultan, shifting hundreds of police officers and procurators to the side by fiat. Also, social networks and, apparently, criticism in general is not to his liking.
    The general trend here may become visible by making comparisons. Im Russia, China, Hungary, Romania, Turkey and in other places authoritarian leaderships enjoy solid majorities, measured in elections results or in surveys.
    This can be better understood when we accept – as a fact – that politic is becoming ever more complex. This is not to the liking of many people who are frightened by the complexities of globalization. Here, authoritarian leaders look strong and promise to defend their nations’ interests. This, so many voters feel, is at least something.

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  3. Johannes 3 years ago

    I have to agree with Misters Tsakiris and Segbers. Also I strongly reject the notion that the European Union is a ‘Club of Christians’. Did anyone forget that every larger European country has Muslim populations in the millions? And let’s not forget about smaller faiths and the ever popular atheists and agnosticists, which at least in Germany, make a third of the population. The Europe I know is certainly not Christian anymore (and thank god that these dark ages are over).
    Turkey joining or not joining the European Union is not a matter of religious conviction but about Turkey’s willingness to share the European understanding of democracy. The larger part of Turkey is located in a region full of crises, brutality, wars and (with the exception of the State of Israel) dictatorships – be they religious or military. Turkey in a way already is an outstanding example of progress, but it still could not leave this heritage sufficently. Sufficently enough to be worthy of becoming European at least. In the moment (and if bad luck prevails also in the future) Turkey is ruled by an Islamist polarist who’s mode of political differentiation is black/white (aka ‘who’s not with me is against me and has to be crushed), who does not unite but divides his people and cares more about Turkish girls’ virginity than about secure working conditions for the working poor (see Soma). Europe has to stay Turkey’s ambition, but Turks have to understand that their support of Erdogan will eventually be a danger to themselves as a possible fascist leadership certainly is in the cards for Turkey.

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