11 May 2006

652) Former 'ally' Turkey is today's 'adversary' for some in Europe

It is not the case with all of them, but there are countries in Europe that have stopped seeing Turkey as an ally in terms of the “big issues” that concern the “Old Continent.” This is a change from the high-tension days of the Cold War, when the same Turkey was considered a “bastion of the West against the communist threat.”

Based on that perception many in Europe condoned at least two of the three military coups in this country under which Turkey's democratic development was dealt serious blows. The progressive forces suffered greatly because of those coups, but this was not considered to be that “crucial” for many in Europe, since it was deemed necessary to keep Ankara on the right path and away from the lure of Socialism.

Put another way, there was great fear in Europe and America, and among their right-wing “allies” in Ankara, then that Turkey would break away from the West and join the East -- which in those days was the Soviet-led world, of course.

It was also because of this that Turkey was given a perspective in 1963 for joining the European Economic Community. It was felt that this perspective would anchor Ankara firmly on the right side of the fence, even if membership was decades down the road.

Now, however, the Turkey that was seen as a “European bastion” has come to be considered a “threat” for the same Europe. If it is a question of the country's size and a concern that “unemployed Turks will invade European cities” that feeds this perception, most experts believe this is simply based on wrong premises.

They maintain that a stronger and economically sound Turkey will in fact be a perfect reason for the many Turks in Europe who have not managed to integrate into the societies they live in to repatriate themselves.

On the other hand, even the EU Commission, along with many independent experts, is saying now that enlargement has been good for Europe and not bad, as some are trying to argue. Writing in the Financial Times earlier this week, Andrew Duff, a European deputy and member of the Turkish-EU Joint Parliamentary Commission, for his part argued the following:

“The EU's need to ensure security of oil and gas supply heightens the strategic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey's integration with Europe may prove indispensable in the long run to the development of a decent EU common foreign and security policy in the Caspian region as well as to the EU's efforts to bring lasting stability to the Balkans.”

Duff only points to some of the reasons why Turkey must not be alienated from Europe. But there are those who want precisely that to happen. Take the French Socialist deputy Didier Migaud, who prepared the bill that seeks to criminalize in France the denial of the alleged Armenian genocide.

In an interview with Sabah published yesterday he made no secret of the fact that he is opposed to Turkey's EU membership, and that, according to him, Europe's borders end where the border with Turkey starts.

This puts a lot into perspective in terms of what lies behind the Armenian bill to be voted in parliament on the 18th of this month. It is clear that Migaud and his like in France want Turkey to be alienated and driven away from Europe. The Armenian issue is a convenient device for trying to achieve this.

If this was not their real motive, then both Migaud and his supporters would take serious note, not only of what a group of respectable French historians but also leading Turkish proponents of the “Armenian genocide” argument -- including such respectable names as Murat Belge, Halil Berktay and Baskin Oran -- are saying on this score.

Oran, for example, argues correctly that all the French bill will achieve if accepted will be to stop the slow but sure raising of the veil on the Armenian issue in Turkey, where it is even possible now to readily get a translation of the famous and controversial “Blue Book” prepared by Arnold Toynbee and Viscount Bryce on this topic.

One might conjecture that it is precisely this that Migaud and those like him -- not to mention the Armenian Dashnaks -- are concerned about because they want to keep Turkey at arm's length at all costs.

A more open look by Turks at the events of 1915 will take away a key instrument from them for keeping Turkey at bay, and this they do not want to see happen. What they also appear to be saying here is that it is better to have Turkey as an adversary than as an ally.

But the crucial thing here is that Turkey is not a country that is static with no prospect of going anywhere if there is no EU dimension. Turkey, due to a host of objective factors, will continue to grow, for all its troubles, and get stronger in its region.

The question is not that. The question is who a growing and increasingly powerful Turkey will look to for friendship in the future. Who it will not be looking to is becoming increasingly apparent these days.

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Semih �diz

http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=43109

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