The global community (read Europe) should thank French President Emmanuel Macron for telling his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that there was no chance of progress towards Turkey’s joining the European Union (at present).
During his meeting with President Erdogan in Paris in January 2018, the French leader said that “it was time to end the hypocrisy of pretending that there was any prospect of an advance in Turkey’s membership talks with the EU”. President Macron took a tough stand on Ankara’s EU membership bid, as he rightly realised the Erdogan administration’s intension. Seemingly, Turkey has been ‘blackmailing’ the 28-member European Bloc for long to become a member of the EU. The Brexit issue has prompted other European leaders to maintain silence over the Turkish membership bid. President Macron is not like them. So, he didn’t follow their path and told President Erdogan that it was not possible for Europe to accept the transcontinental country in Eurasia as a member.
As expected, President Macron’s views on Turkey’s EU membership bid disheartened President Erdogan, who stressed that Ankara was “tired” of its EU membership process. He also said that Turkey could not be requesting indefinitely to join the Bloc. Even after his ‘failed’ talks with Macron, the Turkish president didn’t take a single step to restore ‘democracy’ in his country. Perhaps, he realised that Europe was well aware of his actual game-plan: to become a member of the EU and then enjoy political advantage over regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran (and to suppress the Kurds).
As far as history, geography, culture and civilisation are concerned, Turkey cannot (and should not) be considered as a European nation. Nearly 97% of its territory (or 759,855sqkm) lies in Asia, while just 3% (or 23,502sqkm) is in Europe. It is to be noted that 77% of Russia (or 13,147,904sqkm) is in Asia, while 23% (or 3,927,296sqkm) lies in Europe, but it is considered to be a European country as the core of the Russian nation has always been in Europe. Europe is reluctant to accept Turkey as a member of the EU mainly because it does not want to share borders with Syria, Iran and Iraq. Moreover, Turkey is too big for the EU to absorb. With a population of 79.51 million (in 2016), Turkey will become a dominant member of the Bloc (if it manages to get the membership).
The Turkish history and culture are rooted in Central Asia and in Middle East. As a result, it may not be possible for the Turkish people to live together with the Europeans. As a Muslim nation, Turkey’s cultural traditions are different from those of Christian Europe.
Secondly, it is not possible for Turkey to adopt the European political culture. The 2016 coup attempt clearly shows that the country is not ready to accept the European-style democracy. Under the leadership of ‘authoritarian’ President Erdogan, the Armed Forces have started playing an important role in domestic politics. The Erdogan government is not only abusing human rights, but also trying to terminate the Kurdish population. The Amnesty International has strongly criticised Ankara for launching attacks on media, torturing opposition leaders, violating free speech and conducting unfair trials of political prisoners. Europe, which is well aware of the ‘sensitive’ Kurdish issue, knows that the inclusion of Turkey in the EU will create trouble for the entire continent in future.
Thirdly, Turkey’s GDP per capita – USD 10,787.61 (in 2016) – is less than the EU average. So, the entry of a ‘poor’ country will put the EU finances under tremendous pressure. Moreover, the unequal distribution of wealth may encourage poor Turkish people to take shelter in EU countries. Ankara’s EU membership will worsen the migrant crisis in Europe by encouraging people of war-torn West Asian nations to reach mainland Europe via Turkey.
However, the top political leadership in Ankara has ignored all these factors in order to serve its own interests. Turkey is basically following (its friend) Pakistan’s policy of influencing the regional politics by taking ‘unfair’ advantage of its geographical location. Like Pakistan, Turkey is trying to influence neighbouring European countries through the estimated 10 million Turks (already living in the EU) in order to fulfil its ‘political dream’ (the EU membership). It is to be noted that Pakistan, too, is encouraging the Muslim population in neighbouring India to get a mileage on the ‘Kashmir’ issue. The two countries also have too many other parallels that make them the opposite sides of one coin.
Both Turkey and Pakistan were ruled by ‘dictators’, who used foreign money (Western aid) to ‘nurture’ militants or terrorists. Just like Pakistan that gives a free run for so called Islamic terrorists to operate right across Central Asia to South-east Asia, Turkey is sponsoring terror attacks in West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, thus, making it difficult for the countries in the region to restore peace.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
In recent times, Turkey and Pakistan have emerged as epicentres of radicalism, with youths joining the militant outfits. And the top political leaderships there are responsible for this deteriorating situation. Seemingly, both Ankara and Islamabad have used religious money for purchasing weapons and promoting the so called ‘Islamic’ wars in the region. While the Pakistani forces have slaughtered common people in Balochistan, the Turkish forces have massacred Kurds in its own territory and also in neighbouring Iraq.
It seems that both Turkey and Pakistan have adopted the same ‘foreign policy’. To encourage anti-India sentiment, the Pakistani authorities are carrying out various programmes in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) along the Line of Control (LoC) with India. Turkey is doing the same in Syria, apart from supporting various radical outfits in Yemen and other parts of West Asia, East, North and West Africa. The two countries are allegedly involved in money laundering, running fake passport-making rackets, human, drug, organs and currency trafficking rackets. Interestingly, both Turkey and Pakistan have opposed India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
So, it is quite natural for Europe to think twice before allowing Turkey to become a member of the EU. Since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the nation has changed its ‘democratic’ character. As the country is moulded by the vision of one man, it becomes increasingly difficult for the democratic world to deal with ‘Erdogan’s Turkey’. Now, it is up to the Turks to decide what sort of country they want to live in.
It’s a fact that Erdogan has become a political giant, as he reshaped Turkey more than any leader since Atatürk. Today, he is considered as father of the modern Turkish Republic. At the same time, his way to silence critics has caused alarm abroad. His authoritarian approach has been condemned by many countries.
It is because of President Erdogan, Fethullah Gulen has left Turkey and taken shelter in the US. Gulen – born in 1941 near Erzurum – became a popular Muslim preacher and intellectual in the 1970s by advocating interfaith dialogue, modern education and faith-based activism. In his publication ‘The Gulen Movement: Building Social Cohesion through Dialogue and Education’ (University of Chicago Press, 2010), Gurkan Celik said: “The Gulen movement differentiates itself from other Islamic movements by stressing the importance of ethics in education, media, business and public life.”
According to Celik, Gulen was against using Islam as a political ideology and advocated co-operation and dialogue. The preacher reportedly has millions of followers worldwide, who sponsor his activities in the fields of education, dialogue, relief work and media in more than 160 countries.
Ariel Salzmann, an Associate Professor of Islamic and World History at Queen’s University in Canada, explained that Erdogan and Gulen were “partners in trying to assume power for decades”. They decided to transform Turkey into a state of “Turkish nationalism with a very strong, conservative religiosity”. Although Gulen did not join politics, he supported Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), and helped the party come to power. However, ties between Erdogan and Gulen worsened when Gulenists in the police and judiciary “became a little too independent”, stressed Salzmann. And when Gulen criticised (then Prime Minister) Erdogan in 2013 for his poor handling of the Gezi Park protests, the latter declared ‘war’ against the preacher and forced him to leave the country. The development reveals the Turkish president’s ‘authoritarian’ character and also encourages Europe to maintain a distance with Ankara.
The ‘pugnacious’ Turkish president will have to feel the pulse of Europe to achieve his ‘greater goal’. Only political opportunism will take Turkey nowhere.
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