The Foreign Policy Centre has published a pamphlet entitled, Turks in Europe: Why are we afraid? The paper’s stated goal is that European multi-culturalism demands acceptance of Turkey into the EU. From EurActiv:
The prospect of Turkey”s entry into the European Union has triggered a remarkable outburst of fear and anxiety in some European member states. In France, many voters that rejected the constitutional treaty in France cited Turkey”s prospective membership as one of the reasons.
This is awkward for Britain, which has taken a strategic lead in ushering Turkey into the EU. British diplomats are working desperately behind the scenes to ensure that the British Presidency is not overshadowed by the collapse of the accession talks. While EU member states agreed last December for the first round of negotiations to go ahead, the rejection of the constitutional treaty gave fresh impetus to those who had nursed the deepest reservations about this historic step in the development of the EU.
In France, Dominique de Villepin has already demanded that an extra hurdle be placed in Turkey”s way, calling upon the Turks to recognise the present Republic of Cyprus before the talks can resume. Similarly, Angela Merkel, has made opposition to Turkey”s membership her flagship foreign policy during the election campaign. Turkey, she argues, should enjoy a “˜privileged partnership” with the EU — a euphemism for second-class status — a proposal that has backing in other, smaller member states such as Austria.
Despite this strong opposition, it is still likely that — as so often in the deliberations of the EU — a face-saving diplomatic fudge will be negotiated behind the scenes. A probable compromise will be that enlargement criteria generally will be toughened, without singling Turkey out. Thus, the issue will be kept at bay, without the explicit rejection of Turkey”s membership. It is not difficult to imagine how potentially damaging and perhaps disastrous such diplomatic gamesmanship could be when reported in the Turkish media.
It is lazy to write this off as another EU fiasco. The real problem lies in the fear that the governments of certain member states have of their own publics. It cannot be argued often enough, or forcefully enough, that it is in our collective economic, geo-political and strategic interest to bring our key ally in the Muslim world into the EU. European politicians are rightly sceptical of the American inclination to see a “˜clash of civilisations” in the 21st Century. At the same time, in the wake of 9/11, the Madrid bombings and the attacks on London, we cannot hide from the problem of militant Islam and its appeal to young Muslims living in the West. Here is a supremely important opportunity to welcome a secularised Muslim state into the family of European nations.
But hope will not win over fear unless we understand what makes Europeans frightened of Turkey”s membership. We have to grasp why so many are so afraid, and the role that labour market crowding and supposedly “˜insurmountable” cultural differences play in nurturing these anxieties.
As Sarah Schaefer argues in this pamphlet, some countries such as Germany that have large Turkish populations fear further migration because they have not yet come to terms with the post-war influx of Turks. Rather than integrating migrants into German society, successive German governments have pursued the opposite policy. The result has been the emergence of so-called “˜parallel societies” where Turks and Germans live alongside each other, often without subscribing to the same set of basic values and even without speaking the same language.
There is European multi-culturalism in action. No problem. Future European governments will figure out a way to hammer that square peg into the round hole.
Many Turks living in Germany are economically disadvantaged, with unemployment biting particularly hard among the younger generation. In a country that is suffering from soaring joblessness, anxiety about further immigration is inevitable.
But millions of Turks already live in Germany and their alienation from mainstream German society cannot continue if that country wants to preserve a civilised level of social cohesion. Citizenship classes and a fresh focus on German language lessons have a part to play in drawing in the younger generation and ensuring that they feel a sense of belonging. This should be all about empowerment, rather than indoctrination. Common citizenship brings freedom as well as responsibility.
That said, integration is a two-way street, which is one of many reasons why Turkish membership of the EU is about much more than trade and defence. Accession would send a powerful signal not only to Turkey itself, but to those of Turkish extraction already living in Europe; it would be a dramatic step forward in the history of European multi-culturalism and in the more urgent efforts, post-9/11, to find ways of ensuring that Muslims and non-Muslims can live side by side. In the long term, Turkish membership might encourage the emergence of a truly modern, European version of Islam: that is a form of Muslim living that also incorporates a basic set of European values, women’s equality and human rights.
This paper can be read in full at The Foreign Policy Centre’s website.