................fighting the bad fight since 135 BC................

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Turkey and the EU

The Economist has long been an advocate of Turkey joining the European Union, as evidenced by this recent article. In such articles, The Economist willfully ignores the country's insidious human rights abuses. Turkey still throws journalists in jail when they speak out too strongly against the government. Facebook is banned. And, of course, they country still officially denies that the Armenian Genocide took place. Does this sound like an ideal candidate for a club that, however hypocritically, represents fundamental values like freedom and justice?

Yet the economic advantages of having Turkey in the EU are not too be taken lightly. As The Economist states in this column, "Turkey makes things like furniture, cars, cement (it is the world’s biggest exporter), shoes, televisions and DVD players. In a sense, it is Europe’s BRIC: it might be called the China of Europe." The addition of a manufacturing economy to the EU's rich services sector could give the continent new life, and a unique position in the world. The array of new firms that might sprout up in Europe to service Turkey's economy could be staggering. It's an exciting prospect.

Moreover, as The Economist states, "Backed by its strong economy, Turkey has become highly active in its diplomacy across the Middle East, in the Balkans and as far afield as Africa—and not always to the satisfaction of its allies." Turkey's relations with Israel have soured, but perhaps that is a short-term problem. While officially secular, Turkey still has clout in the Middle East that no other Western nation could ever hope to have. It is allowed into the EU fold, it could become a powerful mediator between east and west.

As I said, human rights abuses in the country must be addressed. Unfortunately, however, they do not seem to be the biggest obstacle tho Turkey's accession to the EU. Rather, it is opposition in the club itself that is causing problems. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in particular, are absolutely against adding Turkey as a member. As stated by The Economist:
Mrs Merkel has long opposed Turkish EU membership, advocating a “privileged partnership” instead. Mr Sarkozy has consistently opposed Turkish entry on principle. Public opinion in Austria, the Netherlands and some other countries has become more hostile.
America's support of Turkey as an EU member probably does not help their situation, either. Most European countries are still bitter over the Iraq War debacle and are not exactly looking to America for advice.

Sadly, however, the most pressing issue preventing Turkey from becoming a member of the EU is the growing anti-Islam sentiment sweeping through Europe. Note the following citation from this Economist article on German domestic policy:
Germany’s bestselling book is “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (“Germany does away with itself”), a warning by a director of the Bundesbank, since forced out of his job, that too much child-bearing by the poor and by immigrants (especially Muslims), and too little by the educated classes, dooms the country to decline. The book’s popularity has shaken Germany. Xenophobic parties play little role in politics, but the resentments that feed their popularity elsewhere are just as potent. A third of Germans think the country is overrun by foreigners, according to a newly published poll; a majority favour “sharply restricting” Muslim religious practice. Over a tenth would even welcome a F├╝hrer who would govern with “a strong hand”—a sign that the embers of extremism still glow.
Such anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments do not bode well for any potential Muslim entrant into the EU.

Turkey has many other domestic issues to wrangle with, as The Economist outlines. And, as I said, much has to be done with regards to human rights in the country. The Economist often lets itself become overly enchanted with the economic benefits of the country joining the EU. As of now, however, the economy should be a secondary, or even tertiary, consideration.

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