12 September 2006

1009) With this type of mentality, Genocide of the Eskimos is to come soon

EU-Turkey: He who sows wind reaps a hurricane

The Turkish proverb in the title, which cautions people to be moderate in their actions, is indeed worth pondering nowadays.

It came to mind as I was reading news stories concerning the European Parliament's report urging Ankara to recognize the alleged genocide of Armenians, Pontic Greeks and Assyrians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. With this type of mentality, the genocide of the Eskimos, as I wrote about last January, is obviously to come soon … . .

I won't question the substance of the report. Indeed, some elements in the report, as precisely and politely expressed by Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan, "are written with political motives and without realism and are not in accordance with the European Parliament's credibility and seriousness." In contrast to what its authors initially expected, it will do much to help Turkey strengthen its so far clearly affirmed standpoint. Their relentless strategy is destined to backfire. In the days to come they will certainly better grasp how brilliantly they managed to score a home goal.

What I think we should look at more closely, however, is what is going on in the bleachers rather than on the pitch.

At present, the European team on the field consists of two main outspoken groups: Attackers, like the Greeks or the Greek Cypriots who naively see in Turkey's negotiation process the opportunity to elicit from Ankara as many key concessions as they can; and defenders, such as the French or Austrians who, being ardent Turkey skeptics within the European Union, are zealously trying to daunt Turkey by proposing even more unacceptable provisions with each passing day. In fact, the latter's approach is more worrying. A couple of days ago, Nicholas Sarkozy, for instance, the French politician who is expected by many to become the next president of France, is reported to have argued that the EU "should, for many reasons, deepen relations with [Turkey] but without going as far as full membership." He then astutely concluded that they have to decide "who is European and who isn't."

In the current state of play, the way the Turkish government team chooses to strike back in this unfolding match, in which their options have been limited by means other than fair football, has already lost its significance. Henceforth, the Turkish people's perceptions will be the only decisive factor. The prospects in this regard, nevertheless, don't look promising.

For more than a year I have been constantly and persistently warning that the Turkish people are profoundly sliding away from the West. The last indication of this phenomenon was the German Marshall Fond's recent survey. What I find increasingly worrying thus is how the Turkish spectators on the bleachers will respond in the days to come to the way the game is being played. When I say the Turkish spectators I don't mean the diehard fans, or the hooligans, but rather the wider masses, who continue to watch the game silently, but with a rocketing level of disgust.

What indeed will be their response to attempts to change the rules of the game?

Just recently, I read the Brussels-based Friends of Europe's report prepared by Kirsty Hughes and entitled "Turkey and the EU. Four Scenarios: From Train Crash to Full Steam Ahead." It is one of the most balanced studies on Turkish-EU relations I have read so far.

At one point in the said report, Hughes questions how those member states that are more keen to see a shift to a "privileged partnership" instead of full membership as the basis for EU-Turkish relations "would intend to repair relations with Turkey in the event of a major train crash and ensure that Turkey remained well-disposed towards the Union and fully anchored in European structures." She then argues that no one "gains from an outcome where EU-Turkey relations are seriously damaged, even if not completely ruptured -- apart from nationalists on all sides."

The enigma is indeed that simple.

As I always repeat, for any country (Turkey included) which is aspiring to become a member of the EU, the basic and, more importantly, universal principles the Union is founded on are, of course, undisputable. Given this prerequisite, you have every right to criticize the slow pace and/or uneven implementation of reforms in Turkey. You may rightly ask, for instance, that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) be changed. But if you frequently persist in giving the impression that your demands are politically motivated and biased, as indicated by your latest request (or should I say imposition) concerning the recognition of the alleged Armenian, Pontic Greek and Assyrian genocides, the Turkish people will continue to regard you as being unpersuasive and insincere. You will pass from this life to the next while waiting for Godot.

As a sincere and heartfelt supporter of my country's EU membership, I humbly feel obliged to warn once more that the sensible Turkish spectators on the bleachers are increasingly leaving the stadium. At a time when the rival's own players are nothing more than hooligans, there is an urgent need for the reserve players to take a responsible role. In doing so, however, they should not use pretexts like that of Joost Lagendijk or Cem Ozdemir, saying "[The European Parliament's report] is totally counter-productive because it weakens those in Turkey who are fighting for reforms." Such an approach is neither convincing nor seems to have taken into account who their real audience is.

Let me underline it boldly again: There is an urgent need to behave responsibly and with common sense!

Otherwise, more and more hooligans will be gathering in front of the stadium gates and it won't only be those who sowed the wind who reap the hurricane, but rather we will all be affected.

Cem Oguz
ccem@bilkent.edu.tr
12 September 2006

2006 The New Anatolian

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