Ever watched a movie or read a book wondering if “they” would get each other in the end? Well, when it comes to Turkey and the EU, this is a question many people have been asking themselves since a very long time. Only that “they” are not the traditional man-woman-duo, but rather a self-loving macho dude who tries to get it going with a multinational swinger club, but isn’t allowed in because his values are kind of questionable (which coincidentally also describes the situation many young Turkish men find themselves in on Erasmus student parties here in Istanbul).
This specific unlucky romance has been going on since Turkey applied for the European Economy Community (EEC) in 1959. For all of you who didn’t attend the seminar on the European Union I was an assistant/teacher to last autumn in Budapest; the EEC is one of the predecessors of the EU, initially founded to create economic ties between six central European states. The idea: If France, Germany etc. rely on each other economically, they will stop waging war against each other on a regular basis. I never was asked to kill a French guy in my life, so I guess it worked out.
This morning, I stumbled upon an interview in the online version of Germany’s newspaper ZEIT with the Turkish EU-minister Egemen Bağış – or “Eggman”, how I will refer to him from now on. The sole fact that Turkey employs an EU-minister already gives a hint how important membership is for the Turkish government.
Not everything Eggman said on two pages is complete bullshit. A lot, however, is. Let me introduce you to the fantasy world of Turkish top-notch politicians. Check the link above for the original quotations in German.
“Seriously: There will be the day which will see the chief of states of Germany and France begging on their knees for Turkey to join”
This is how he starts the interview. It really is. Best diplomat ever. Now, I’ve heard that Turkish kids are taught in school how Turkey is the best, richest, strongest etc. country in the world. I guess Eggman sucked this up like a sponge.
“The biggest hindrance for Turkey to join the EU are prejudices.”
There actually are a lot of prejudices. And yes, racism is playing a part somewhere without question. However, Eggman kind of seems to oversee one or two other issues. Quite minor ones. Like, you know…human rights. The issue of Northern Cypress. Insecure borders which would then be Schengen-borderlines. Or the handling of minorities here in Turkey. Yeah, they’re doing something about the Kurds, but way too little, besides there are other minorities such as Alawites that are being widely ignored. Of course, Alawites are muslim just as the majority of the Turkish population. But it’s a common thing with religions, ethnicities and ideologies to fight similar but divergent factions the hardest. What else is there? Oh right, the entire country is drifting away from democracy towards a police state. And much, much more.
“For us what’s most important is to get the negotiations concerning justice and human rights started. […] I am convinced that Turkey is ready for this.”
Perhaps the most stupid and unworldly quote in the entire article. What is this supposed to mean? They’re planning worse and want to get this over with? Dude, tear gas? They’re putting internet activists in prisons in high numbers, same goes for journalists and lawyers. The police routinely beats up poor fellas during demonstrations, including those who just want to help the injured, they threat women with rape etc. Companies receive government contracts upon denouncing the protests while the one hotel line which functioned as a safe haven for the demonstrators during the Gezi battles is facing oppression ever since. Want more? Ask any random Turk capable of speaking a foreign language.
“The EU has to change [for Turkey to join].”
Sure, it’s us.
Most disturbing are probably his remarks about the Gezi protests.
“What you saw in Gezi park was nothing else than what you would have observed during the demonstrations against the Stuttgart 21 project: In every country the police sometimes exceeds it’s power.”
For all non-Germans: “Stuttgart 21” was an infrastructural project to be carried out in Germany’s city of Stuttgart which would have required the chopping down of a number of trees important to the locals. It ended up in national protests against the course of the government up until today, featuring tear gas attacks and armored vehicles crushing peaceful demonstrators under them, exposing the administration as a tyranny basing it’s power on misinformation and brute force. Oh, wait, that didn’t happen in Stuttgart? Then why on earth is Eggman saying it’s the same as what happened during Gezi?
“Such cases [of police arbitrariness] have to be analysed, persecuted and punished, if necessary.”
…though the take of the Erdogan administration is to persecute and punish just the lawyers who were about to analyse police crimes instead.
You see, there’s a lot going wrong in this country right now, while Turkish officials try to convey the picture of a flourishing industrial nation to the west. Often, the EU negotiates with a potential member state to encourage necessary humanitarian or infrastructural reforms. In Turkey, this concept seems to fail; real progress has been replaced by half-hearted reforms and boasting rhetorics to make the west believe in change.