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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity


So, Austria’s screwing Turkey good and proper. Why? Well, Ostracised from �sterreich’s got some interesting theories about that:

“Despite appearances, I am pretty sure that Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Sch�ssel, who personally defines the foreign policy of the country, is actually in favour of full Turkish EU membership…”

Meanwhile Tony Blair and Jack Straw are trying to look like they’re making an effort (even though the UK presidency of the EU so far has been characterised by brief spurts of activity followed by complete backtracks and stalemate, so few reckon they actually care any more), Straw moaning that

“It�s a frustrating situation, but I hope and pray we may be able to reach agreement. We have a situation where 24 have decided to move forward and one has not. It is not the first time that has happened, and I am sure it will not be the last.”

Diddums – perhaps you shouldn’t have waited until the day before the talks were due to start before trying to sort it out, Jackie? It’s bad enough students handing essays in right on the deadline – but this is the future of an entire continent we’re talking about. A little bit of planning’s not too much to ask, surely?

And so the Empire of Priam – and as such the legendary origins of Rome and most of western European civilisation (not to mention the kingdom of Croesus, the origin of coinage and thus modern trade) – waits on the sidelines like the ugly girl in the turquoise crimpline dress, while 73% of Austrians and 53% of Europeans as a whole demonstrate their historical and cultural ignorance by declaring that “cultural differences” between Turkey and “Europe” are too big.

Update: Well would you look at that? A last minute deal…


  1. Leaving aside the question of historical ignorance, I would note that the Asia Minor of Priam was a rather different place than the Asia Minor of the Turkish Republic, what with the Greeks who used to live there having been all but pushed out, those remaining being marginalised and victimised, by the Turks who turned up rather later than Priam and Troy and all those Greek chaps who helped frame the parameters of western thought. Thus, Turkey is not, despite the efforts of Ataturk a western, european country, and there are differences between Europe and Turkey (who have a tiny European landholding).

    Whether Turkey ought to join is a second question, and one that I think for the nonce is still to be answered in the negative, as they are quite simply not the kind of civil society that other EU members are, or at least aspire to be – corruption is high, human rights abuses are rife, and the state participates in the repression of ethnic and religious minorities. While we can also say this about a number of eastern european countries that have joined, we ought to concentrate on working out how to solve those problems in those countries before we embark on such an enterprise with such a vast country. Until such time as we are ready to take them on, we ought to settle for a privileged partnership, even one extending to freedom of movement of people and capital and services across our border.

  2. I'm not so sure.

    On whether Turkey is or is not a European country, I can't see any reason why the question should be historical rather than political and geographical. For me, the geography of Turkey as a European country is dubious, but the politics is clear: Turkey was admitted to the Council of Europe pretty much at its inception. It seems a bit cynical now to try and challenge its potential membership of the EU by claiming that it's not a European state, when its European statehood has been tacitly accepted for other political purposes for decades. (That's not aimed at you in particular, Marcin – I'm talking about the debate in general.)

    Assuming that one basic criterion for EU membership is being European, that seems to me to be settled already in Turkey's case. What's not so sure is that it meets the other 'Copenhagen criteria' and has similar basic values to the rest of the EU. But these criteria are established and all applicant EU states must meet them. If they haven't been applied properly in the past, then they should have been, but this isn't an excuse for not applying them now. And if they are currently not stringent enough, then maybe they should be changed across the board. But either way, we can't make an exception for Turkey. If it meets the criteria, it should be let in; if it fails, it should not.

  3. Saying Turkey should not be let in because of its dodgy human rights record is tempting and appeals to 'right minded and decent' people across the poltical spectrum, but the argument could also be made that by forcing Turkey to ratify European law on human rights and giving the Turkish access to Supernational law courts could improve human rights. This is what happened to the Home secretary's power to keep a prisoner in prison indefintly on a whim which is based on the whim of the Murdoch press.

  4. "And so the Empire of Priam – and as such the legendary origins of Rome and most of western European civilisation (not to mention the kingdom of Croesus, the origin of coinage and thus modern trade) – waits on the sidelines like the ugly girl in the turquoise crimpline dress, while 73% of Austrians and 53% of Europeans as a whole demonstrate their historical and cultural ignorance by declaring that "cultural differences" between Turkey and "Europe" are too big."

    Oh, now that's just brillant. Before you go on to accuse millions of "historical ignorance" it would probably be a smart idea to check one's own facts. The indigenous inhabitants of Anatolia prior to 1071 AD were eliminated, or chased out, by the invading Seljuks who are the ancestors of today's Turks. Seems the ignorant masses aren't so ignorant after all…

    As for Turkey's "Europeanness" I wouldn't go so far as to count the Cold War geostrategic necessity of the US and the (then) EC to include Turkey in its fight against the USSr/Warsaw Pact as being dispositive proof of where Turkey's primary cultural heritage lay. Which, clearly, is in the Central Asia for anyone who can see.

  5. I'm all in favor of pushing forward toward eventual EU membership of Turkey, and I have ranted at length about the stalling here.

  6. Marcin / Sephiroth – I'm certainly not suggesting that nothing's changed in the Turkish peninsula in the last 5,000 years, merely that the links between what is now Turkey and the geographical continent of Europe stretch back at least that far. During the medieval period every ruler worth his salt tried to maintain links with the Islamic rulers of the region to leech off their superior science and gain access to the libraries which maintained the knowledge of the ancient world (hence our continued knowledge of Aristotle, Plato and the rest), while the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires straddled the continental divide – a divide which is, after all, far narrower than the English Channel – for centuries, with any number of political and cultural cross-overs.

    If you buy, as I do, that western Russia (formerly known as "Russia in Europe") is fundamentally more European than Asian – the courts of the Tsars after all being closely connected to those of the western European rulers – then you should surely accept that modern Turkey has at least similar claims – especially since the 20s and the "Europeanising" influence of Attaturk, and even more so since the Second World War with, as Alex points out, membership of the Council of Europe since 1949 (before Iceland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and Finland, to name but a few states generally considered more European).

    And as Strangely Rouge points out, the presence of the EU has already and will continue to help improve Turkey's human rights and civil liberties record – especially via access to the European courts. As for Sephiroth's claims of Turkey's role in the Cold War being proof of its Asia Minor status, surely the same could be said for Greece by that logic? Yet I doubt many would claim that Greece has no place in Europe.

    As far as I can tell, the only issues that anyone should really be worried about with Turkey are the human rights/civil liberties (which, as pointed out, are improving in part due to EU influence) and economic ones. If it can pass those tests, I see no reason why it shouldn't be included. Having a strong Islamic presence in Europe is, after all, hardly unprecedented – just look at medieval Spain. Admittedly there were a number of problems caused by the Moorish clash with Christianity, but we're all a lot more civil now, and I have no doubt that such issues can, with a bit of tact and sensitivity, be overcome without too much conflict.

  7. No, I was arguing that the placement of Turkey into European organizations was strictly a Cold War necessity, rather than proof that Turkey was actually considered European by anyone.

    And Anatolia today is as different from the Anatolia of King Priams time as the Manhattan of today is to the Manhattan of 1000 years ago. The old inhabitants in both areas are long since gone…

  8. I'm guessing you wouldn't be convinced by a psychogeographic line, then?

    I know what you mean entirely, but place and historical/archeaological remnants can – at least to an extent – maintain connections with the past long after the original inhabitants have gone. After all, Britain is still called Britain even though the Brytaniad long ago got forced out, and England is still England long after the Angles were replaced. Landscape, relics and names linger, and maintain connections – albeit sometimes only subconscious.

    Basically what I'm saying is I couldn't care less about whether the people are the same – the area that is now Turkey is historically, if not strictly geographically, at least as much part of Europe as part of the Islamic world. It may not be as "European" as France or Belgium, but it is arguably pretty much as European as Russia or Spain. And Spain, lest we forget, was a fascist dictatorship but 30-odd years ago – it seems to have adapted fairly well.