[email protected]

December 15, 2011, Thursday

Is it really all that great that we are not yet in the EU?

We have entered a problematic period as far as our relations with the European Union are concerned. The success that Turkey has seen with its economy and its general development has sparked in some circles an air of “we no longer have a need for the EU.”

This atmosphere is being boosted even more by the fact that the European Union is still going through one of the greatest crises in its history. This unforeseen crisis is shaking the very structure of the EU, most palpably in Greece, Italy and Spain. Last week, on Dec. 8-9, there was a summit in Brussels with decisions made about all sorts of new precautions. In short, they are trying to transcend this crisis.

We know about all the negative reactions both in Turkey and in Europe to our prospective membership, based not only on understandable nationalistic emotions but also cultural and religious differences. There are very strong “no to Turkish EU membership” lobbies on both sides.

Some powerful groups in Europe resist our prospective membership, pointing to Turkey’s majority Muslim population as a reason. We see at the same time that hostility toward Islam and Turks is being incited. The neo-Nazi murders and increased racism in Germany of late need not be brushed aside lightly. At the same time, the reality that Turkey will in the near future possess Europe’s largest and most dynamic population, as well as the fact that it is becoming stronger and stronger in its region, are making certain European circles uncomfortable.

But perhaps the most important factor is the resistance and attempts to prevent Turkey’s EU membership by members of the guardian regime in Turkey. The guardian regime wants to see Turkey led by a more inward-looking government. After all, this is where all their opportunities, influence, and powerful positions derive from. Let me try and explain what I am really trying to say by borrowing from some statements made recently by EU Minister Egeman Bağış in an interview with the Hürriyet daily. In response to the question, “If there were no EU accession process going on, what would Turkey lack?” Bağış answered, “Were there no EU accession process, there would still be state security courts. It used to be required that the boards of both the TRT [Turkish Radio and Television Corporation] and YÖK [Higher Education Board] would have at least one general. That has changed. If there are 24-hour broadcasts in Kurdish, if a president has visited an Alevi ‘cemevi’ [house of worship] for the first time since Atatürk, if there is a prime minister who has shown the grace to apologize for the Dersim massacre, if our Armenian and Greek citizens can now attend masses at both Akdamar and Sümela after 112 and 88 years respectively, if we no longer worry about the safety of the toys our children play with and if the very food we eat is more hygienic, the EU plays a part in all of the above.”

Let me add this: If civilian supervision of the military has increased, if cases like the Ergenekon and Balyoz are being held not in military but rather civilian courts, these are occurrences that derive from warnings offered up in EU Progress reports, as well as the fact that these reports follow-up on the issues at hand. And, it should be mentioned, there is a lot further still to go…

In order for Turkey to rid itself of this guardian system, it needs support from the European Union. The greatest barrier that lies before the guardian status quo is in fact the EU itself. Membership in the EU is the greatest guarantee Turkey has of democratization.

Anyone who believes that the military guardian regime is over is wrong. Very recently, one of the most important suspects, a general, in the “Internet Memorandum” case involving the military escaped abroad. In other words, he was ferried out. We are actually engulfed in the most critical period yet in terms of getting rid of this military guardian regime and of making the transfer to democracy. If constitutional, permanent, and fundamental precautions are not taken -- and may God protect us from this -- those waiting in ambush for a period of revenge filled with hatred and enmity will surely return.

Turkey’s EU membership is actually a strategic decision. It represents an important milestone for Turkey in terms of global peace and integrating with the world, all while remaining true to ourselves. In fact, the most important stage in the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations project is Turkey’s prospective EU membership.

This most recent large crisis experienced by the EU is, instead providing a reason for Turkey to back down, actually a historical opportunity for us. Influential circles in Europe have now begun to better understand Turkey’s importance. There is talk now of how an EU without Turkey can not really hope to be a global player. This should make us neither arrogant nor tense.

Let us not become enslaved to the fluctuations of national politics; let us not lose sight of the wider vistas before us…

Previous articles of the columnist