The Corner

TURKEY

Here (via the Times) is yet another reminder as to why Turkey has no place within the EU.  

When Hakan Tastan wanted to amend the religion on his Turkish identity card, his enthusiastic championing of Christianity exasperated the official barring his way. Eventually, the official gave up trying to oppose the controversial change. “Change this heathen’s religion and make him go away,” the devout Muslim told his clerks. More than ten years later, the missionary zeal of Mr Tastan and his fellow Christian convert, Turan Topal, has led to much graver things than being called names. They face up to nine years’ jail after going on trial last week for “insulting Turkishness” during their religious work, under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

  Needless to say, Mr. Tastan (a protestant, and so lacking the protection – such as it is – of Turkey’s ‘established’ churches) has also been told to leave Turkey, to which he has this to say:   Where are we supposed to go? We are Turkish. I am a patriot. I hang out the Turkish flag on national days and have a picture of Atatürk (the founder of modern Turkey) in my office.”   And there we come to the rub, for, as Mr. Tastan knows, it is the fine, secularist, legacy of the founder of the modern Turkish state that is now under threat from the closeted (and not so closeted) Islamic fanaticism of the Erdogan government.   Meanwhile, my post criticizing the Pope’s seeming decision to endorse Turkish membership of the EU brought criticism from at least one reader: “We assail, on the one hand, Muslim resistance to assimilation, while we tell Turkey it can not (or should not) be allowed to join a Western Institution (which, despite its warts and wrinkles) the EU is. Do you really think keeping Western institutional doors blocked to Muslim entrance will help a reformation occur in the Middle East?”   That’s a fair point so far as it goes, except for the fact, to be frank, that I am less interested in how Europe could transform Turkey than how Turkish membership of the EU could transform Europe. Not for the better I feel.   Other readers thought I was naive in my criticism of Benedict. The Pope was cleverly playing politics, they argued, only endorsing EU membership for Turkey after it had become a lost cause. That certainly seems to be the view of British blogger, Cranmer, a man who, as his splendid nom-de-blog would suggest, is no great friend of the papacy:

Could it be that His Holiness was able to make such overtures because knew that the EU was about to deal a heavy if not fatal blow to Turkey’s EU aspirations? The Commission has decided to halt negotiations until Turkey opens its ports to Cyprus. Turkey will only accept customs union with Cyprus if the EU eases its embargo on the Turkish-controlled north of the Mediterranean island. Therefore eight negotiating chapters have been closed – talks on the free movement of goods, right of establishment, financial services, agriculture, fisheries, transport, external relations and customs union. With the Pope in Turkey, this is a strangely-timed pronouncement of an acutely political decision. 

Meanwhile a US expat in Turkey emails me that there are reasons to be more cheerful: 

Erdogan is history with the early elections, the military has been grumbling for some time now, and that is a good thing, it has put a damper on some of his more reckless appointments in the local governments. The general mood here is beginning to change regarding entrance into the E.U.. Most people I talk with about it now are against it, pick a reason: overregulation, higher taxes, endemic corruption in Brussels, enforced cultural changes etc. The vast majority of Erdogan’s support is from the “small village” contingent, hardly the movers and shakers of this society, the majority of who are fiercely secular. The “small village” people are scary right now because they are emboldened by Erdogan, and this is turning the rest of the clear thinking, normally non-committed, apolitical types against his whole party. Erdogan is toast, and we here like that idea, we would love to get back to a 5 lire bottle of beer and a 8 lire glass of scotch.

Too optimistic, I fear, but, for the record, I too support 5 lire beer and 8 lire Scotch.

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