The Turkish Question

Geographically Turkey is not a European state, apart from the tiny northwestern edge of the country. Last October, however, Turkey was elected for a two-year term in the United Nations security council by winning one of the two non-permanent seats set aside for European countries. While the other candidate, Austria, barely won the required two-thirds majority, Turkey won its seat hands down. In the UN, Turkey belongs to the regional group of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG).

Turkey, however, is a special case in the United Nations. It is the only country that participates as a full member in two regional groups. As it geographically belongs to Asia, Turkey is also a member of the Group of Asian States. And as an Islamic country Turkey is also a member – and a prominent one – of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which includes all Islamic states from Senegal to Indonesia and which is also recognized by the UN.

As a consequence, Turkey eats from three different baskets, depending on whether it invokes its geographical position in Asia, its religious character or its European component. The peoples of Europe do not seem to regard Turkey as a European country. The general expectation is that if the governments of the European Union member states were to put it to a vote in a referendum the people of Europe would reject the admission of Turkey to the EU.

Four years ago, Brussels and Ankara started negotiations intended to lead to Turkey becoming an EU member. The issue is highly controversial because the economic and institutional consequences of Turkey’s admission will be far-reaching for the EU.

To raise Turkey to a European standard of living would require enormous and sustained efforts of wealth redistribution from the European taxpayers, which would impoverish Europe without a guarantee of success in Turkey. Moreover, if Turkey joins the EU, an additional 80 million people become EU citizens. As an EU member, Turkey will be the most populous member with the highest number of representatives in the European Parliament. In the European Council it will be on a par with the present Big Ones. Its foreign interests will dominate Europe’s. Turkey is too big for Europe to swallow.

What worries ordinary Europeans most, however, is that the 80 million potential additional EU citizens are Muslims. Does it serve the interests of the West if the largest member state of the EU is an Islamic country?

Some think it does. They believe that Turkish EU membership will turn the country into a democratic state and an example for other Muslim nations, and hence prove that Islam and democracy can be reconciled. But what if they are wrong? Many ordinary Europeans would rather play safe. However, that is not the attitude of the political establishment.

There are strong indications that the EU establishment in Brussels already considers Turkey to be a member of the European club in all but name. Turkish ministers are already allowed to participate in EU deliberations.

According to Pierre Lellouche
, a parliamentarian of France’s governing party whom President Sarkozy has given the task of “relaunching Franco-Turkish relations,” Islamism will be defeated by bringing Turkey into Europe. “We have next door to us, a great secular Muslim country that wants to share our values. It is making the necessary reforms. We would be crazy to say no,” Mr Lellouche says.

He is, however, opposed to putting the matter of Turkey’s EU admission before the French electorate in a referendum because this is “to pollute the debate” with the fear of Islam. “Some play around with the fear factor: that is unworthy. Turkey is not Islamism or terrorism. Because of the fear of Islam and of Arabs, we are saying no for the wrong reasons.”

The question, however, is whether those who say yes to Turkey are not doing so for the wrong reason, namely to prove their point that Islam and democracy are compatible.

Why is it that, after 13 centuries of preserving European identity by opposing Muslim attempts to conquer Europe, some claim that Europe can only preserve its identity, its values and its freedoms by opening its doors to Turkey? Why can Turkey not remain free and democratic and “share our values” without becoming European? Is representative democracy only possible in Europe? Is secularism Europe’s only defining element?

Does it serve the interests of democracy and the West that the largest member state of the EU is an Islamic country, when ordinary Europeans oppose it? Is so, why should it not serve the interests of democracy and the West that Mexico becomes the largest member state of the USA? Does the religion of the Turks – even those of the secularized Muslims – matter to ordinary Europeans? Yes, it does. It matters as much as the language of the Hispanics matters to ordinary Americans. Only politicians intent on changing the nature of the peoples they were elected to represent do not care about such things.


From here it looks as though Sarkozy and his minister are playing the classic traitor's game from time immemorial: allying themselves with foreign enemies to overpower rivals closer to home. Sarkozy wants a Turkish ally in Brussels. Together, he imagines, they will be unstoppable. He is also quite happy to wield the sultan's scimitar to keep Christianity in its place in France and Europe.

For a good read, check out With Fire and Sword, by Henryk Sienkiewicz. In the background, a Western-educated Polish minister permits invading Cossacks and Tartars to attack a rival Polish lord, at the cost of nearly ruining the country.

Nihil Novis Sub Sole

During the siege of Vienna, it was French engineers who advised the Turkish on how to breach the fortifications. Most of the modern weapons of the Muslim army were made in France. And the siege itself happened only because Sarkozy's predecessor, Louis XIV, encouraged the Sultan to do so. By the way, already at that time a protestant Hungarian traitor (Thököly Imre) fought on the Muslim side. Wonder if Mr. Sarkozy can be traced back to that fellow. Thököly even made it commander of all turkish forces battling the christian forces under Prince Eugene at Zenta... And lost bitterly. I wish the new hungarian traitor falls as deep.

Ogniem i mieczem

There is a new chapter of the book taking place at the border of South Ossetia: The Saakashvili/Kaczynski runaway.

simple minds 2

Dr. House: "There's an evolutionary imperative why we give a crap about our family and friends, and there's an evolutionary imperative why we don't give a crap about anybody else. If we loved all people indiscriminately, we couldn't function."


Christianity tends to modiy this statement of the good doctor's but not to the degree a simple mind  could accept let alone comprehend. But if the simple mind wishes to challenge the veracity of the family first thesis, he need only refer the matter to his closest friendly Turk.

PS. If the simple mind considers Europe to be a "Christian Gulag", I can assure him that he is free to leave ANY time he chooses.




You are really hooked on FOX, aren't you?

simple minds

... which brings even more complications when these 'Europeans' may decide whether Bosnia-Hercegovina has any right to join the EU. That would shake up the Christian Gulag pretended by simple minds.


I find it amazing that any Europeans would even think about admitting Turkey into the EU. They must be daft. Turkey is not a secular country. The Islamic undercurrent was strong even under Ataturk (and I speak as someone that admires his attempt to defang Islam). Islam is now roaring back in Turkey. Secular Turks, mostly on its west coast, are fearful. The western oriented secular state that Ataturk tried to create is now being deconstructed by the Islamists. Europe would have to be incredibly stupid to admit Turkey into the EU.

empirical observation 5

@ marcfrans

You will note that I intentionally did NOT define the term "European" in my question.I DELIBERATELY employed the phrase "people who consider themselves to be European", which could and would include individuals either born Turkish nationals, or individuals of proud Turkish ancestry who, for whatever reason, may have decided that they did not wish to see Turkey join the EU 'club' and STILL the simple mind failed to cut the mustard.


@ kappert


"The only problem with that theory is it's based on the assumption that the universe is a just place". - Dr. House.



You don't believe that, do you?


@ Atlanticist

Your question was not "simple" enough for a simple mind.  The issue at hand is not who is a "European" - that is always debatable (ask Armor) - but rather who can be a member of the EU club.

Apart from that complication, you asked the simple mind if Europeans (in the sense of EU citizens) should be able to determine democratically who can join their club and who cannot.  To my mind that is a very simple question.  But, it did not get answered.  Instead, some assertions were made about (a) the feelings of the President of Georgia, (b) the importance of 1922 in Turkish history, and (c) the geology of Iceland and the gambling skills of its people.  None of this has anything to do with your question.  

I guess we will never know the answer to your simple question.  Or is it that we know the answer already, based on the irrelevancy of the non-answer provided?

A simple question for a simple mind

@ kappert

If a simple majority of people, who consider themselves to be European, determine that Iceland is part of Europe but Turkey is not, as a democrat, who are you to deny them that simple democratic right?

not so simple

Your 'majority' is questionable. If Sackaswilly feels himself as a European, the Turks and Cypriots should be able to produce the same feelings, as they are even closer to the European 'heartland'. In its political and economical structures, Turkey is European at least since 1922.
Whereas Iceland is geologically divided between Europe and North America, and was colonized by Europeans, just like Canada, the U.S., etc. In terms of energy they are way ahead, and in terms of financial acrobatics they are skilled gamblers.