Friday, March 27, 2009

Should Turkey be allowed into the EU?

Read of this and then think about it again, is this the kind of culture that will be compatible with ours - what could possibly go wrong.


Oranjepan said...

Hiya Steve, I'm not sure that this article is fully representative of the whole of Turkish society.

As far as I can tell it's more of a typical debating piece on one selected aspect of Turkish culture than a balanced academic paper worth basing policy on.

Anyway, nice to have found another local to add to my Reading List - you may enjoy my survey, and it will help you advertise your blog to other readers.

Steve Borthwick said...

Oranjepan makes a very good point, this kind of behaviour is almost certainly not representative of the whole of Turkish society; I think only someone who is very naive would believe that, however I think it is important to distinguish between the educated middle classes of Istanbul and the vast majority of people in the much less affluent regions of the country where tradition and religion still retains an iron grip over society.

If accurate, one killing a week in Istanbul sounds like quite a lot. In any case regardless of the precise details it seems to me that the main concern for Europe is that this kind of morality and tradition, which is prevalent in predominantly Islamic and theocratic societies like Iran, Saudi, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq etc. clearly runs counter to European secular principals of equality and freedom in law for all members of society. Male, female, black, white, Jew, Christian, homosexual or straight. I believe that it's a big ask to expect to reconcile on the one hand the ethical principals of the UK/EU and those of cultures where the majority of people are adherents to bronze age dogma, homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism.

I think the crux of this is that we have to ask ourselves is Turkey moving in a general direction towards Islamic theocracy or away from it. In the past few years I believe the weight of evidence would suggest that the movement is in the wrong direction. I used to think that Turkish entry into the EU would be a good idea, in the last few years I have changed my mind because I believe that there are fundamental and irreconcilable differences between Islamic theocracy (or any kind of theocracy) and secular democracy.

Here are a few other examples of where I think Turkey has chosen the wrong path:

Turkey censors evolution WEB site

Turkish journal told to scrap Darwin article

The rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turks reveal xenophobic, conservative attitudes in poll

Police violence soaring, says report on Turkey

Turkey's governing party avoids being shut down for anti-secularism

Oranjepan said...

Some would argue that UK/EU isn't always quite as ethical as we like to pretend...

It is a difficult question, I admit, but for precisely that reason I don't think it would be right to give a definitive 'yes they should' or 'no they shouldn't' answer at this moment based upon a selection of negative reports published in the same newspaper.

Turkey is a secular democracy. To exclude them from participating at any level runs the far greater risk that the people will react negatively and choose to espouse exactly the political views you oppose in greater numbers.

Not only would the people then be living under conditions you disagree with, but this would inevitably progress to a situation of escalating confrontation further down the line.

The balancing act of keeping the door open while keeping them waiting is actually a better tool at encouraging the kind of improvements you desire to see as it forces them to prove themselves by maintaining the pressure for change.

There are many unresolved issues which do still hang in the balance, so until they are settled I think it is impossible to say anything except "not yet".

Steve Borthwick said...

Thanks for your wise words Oranjepan;

Whilst I completely agree with you that there many challenges with our own democracy and much that could be improved about our society there are certain types of injustice that we sensibly discarded many years ago. I’m referring specifically to those based upon religious and traditional dogma, certainly the more serious of them anyway. (Blasphemy finally went last year in the UK although I think it might linger elsewhere in the EU) I also agree that Turkey is a secular democracy today but my point was really about what direction they are headed in and how, if I am right, then it will be more, not less likely, that membership of the EU will cause friction and conflict. It is not hard to find stories like the examples I gave, in fact I chose the Guardian because it’s usually fairly balanced IMO on matters of religion and cultural difference as opposed to the usual rabid nonsense you find in say the Daily mail etc.

I have no problem at all with the population of Turkey choosing for themselves whatever political system they like, but if it conflicts with basic principals of our system (like freedom of speech and equality) then we only have two basic choices, we discard our own principals or we respectfully decline their membership. It is hard for me to see a set of circumstances where I would prefer the former or where these differences could somehow be "blended" acceptably.

My conclusion therefore would be slightly different from yours but perhaps not so far apart, i.e. "not until.."

Oranjepan said...

I don't disagree with any of your argument, and I agree wholeheartedly that it is a matter of the 'direction of travel' - ie it is not a matter of the destination.

Wherever we or they stand on the chart of political progress we need greater integration to develop the closer ties between us through which we can influence each other to positive effect.

It's no good abandoning democratic processes because we may not like someone else's choice - democracy isn't an outcome.

Wherever disagreement exists we can agree to disagree, but we must also agree to continue talking in the knowledge that finding a shared position creates the basis for common action.

If membership of the EU is not right for Turkey, whether at this time or in future, she is still an important ally in many areas, not least security-wise and in trading matters.

So I think it would be best if we are judicious and take a more diplomatic line - this would build trust and enable us to gradually strengthen our line on all fronts.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for leaving such a good comment on my blog. It was refreshing to read such a sensible person's words.

Steve Borthwick said...

OK, Oranjepan, you are right, I would not want to see relations with Turkey or any country cut off completely or abandoned etc. I also accept your point that a diplomatic stance (in general) is vital in the pursuit of harmony between any two entities. However don't you think that Religion (or at least it’s manifestation as a political underpinning) is the elephant in the room here? Take Iran for example, a prototype for Turkey? Let’s hope not, but the point is that theocracy is not democracy.

I would argue that logic dictates the term “[insert religion of choice] democracy” is essentially an oxymoron, i.e. Theocracy is anti-democratic because certain wishes of the people cannot change over time and sections of the community (Women in this case) are discriminated against. By definition certain things are fixed (in the case of Turkey) by the dogma of Sunni Islam that 98% of the population there adhere to. Take religion out of the politics of Turkey and you have a much better chance of convergence IMO.

If theocracy does turn out to be the destination for Turkey then the hand will have been played IMO and the people there will have voted to turn east and not west in terms of their strategic alliances; although even then, I see no reason why our relationship wouldn’t simply be more like the one we have with say, Egypt rather than the one we have with say France, some common interests yes, strategic partner no.

It’s a difficult one, where do you draw the line between compromise and inclusion vs. sticking up for your core principals, history seems mixed on that one it’s the old Chamberlain vs. Churchill debate I guess.

PS. I submitted your questionnaire today and have already used the results to find an interesting blog to add to my own list, so thank you for suggesting that.

Oranjepan said...

Yes, yes and yesbut...

I don't think Turkey has passed the point of no return, yet. It's therefore too soon to completely rule out the option of her joining at a later date.

I think we are looking at this from slightly different emphases - you seem to be worried about the point of no return, while I'm interested in trying to keep everyone this side of it wherever it is.

We're pulling in the same direction so our positions are definitely complimentary even if it looks like we have slightly different perspectives.

PS. Happy to be of service!

Nowtas said...

A political discussion that resulted in shared information, a degree of agreement and online equivalent of man hugs? This topic may be unique in the blogging world.

Steve Borthwick said...

Nowtas, amazing isn't it.. we even touched on that other great flame generator religion and got away unscathed.