Friday, November 22, 2002

Robert Greene has a piece in The New Republic arguing that Turkey should be allowed to enter the EU. Well, not so much that as that the EU needs to change its attitude to Turkey's application. At the moment, Turkey clearly doesn't qualify for membership, as it is not democratic enough, doesn't respect human rights well enough, and doesn't have enough of a functioning market economy. The trouble is, the EU doesn't respond to Turkey's application by saying this. Instead, Valery Giscard d'Estaing remarks that Turkish membership would "destroy" the Union. (German ministers say similar things). Rather than being treated like other countries that don't presently qualify for membership, Turkey is shunted to one side rather than being treated as part of a group.

The Turks themselves are pretty realistic. They realise that their country is lacking in democracy, human rights and a modern economy, and I doubt they would complain especially if it was clear that they were genuinely being kept out of the EU for this reason. They smell hypocrisy, and that the subtext of all this is that Turkey is Islamic and that the EU does not want an Islamic member. And when d'Estaing makes remarks like that, it is hard to disagree with them. The fact is that here is a large, strategically important Islamic country that wants to join the west and wants to modernise its institutions. The EU can either help this happen or not, but whatever it does Turkey and its strategic importance will not go away. If all the Islamic world was like Turkey, we would not be fighting a war. It is time to express some appreciation for this fact, and it is time to get rid of the hypocrisy. By all means set fairly rigorous conditions on Turkish EU membership, but apply them in good faith. If Turkey is shunned merely because it is Islamic, then what is being said those in the Middle East who claims that the west is fighting a war on Islam in general are closer to the truth. The position of moderates in Islamic countries is weakened. And accordingly, the position of extremists is strengthened.

I don't know quite how we will tell when we have won this war, but if the Hagia Sophia ever returns to being a mosque, we will have lost it.

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