Friday, October 29, 2010

Turkey in EU?

There is a lot of heated debate whenever we discuss Turkey's entry in the EU. What are the real issues behind Europe's reluctance in allowing Turkey to join?

Islam and it's large population are two of the obvious reasons, Greece and the Cyprus issue, but also the lack of freedom of the press, minority issues and the very powerful military elite of the country are also serious issues.

I myself consider Turkey a European nation. For centuries Greeks, Romans and other European nations roamed the region that today is called Turkey and Turkey's flirt with Europe started since the days of the Ottoman Empire. Culturally they are very close to us Greeks, since our ancestors belonged in the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, living side by side with what today is the Turkish population for centuries.

Islam as a religion is not an issue for most Europeans, since we are more and more an agnostic breed of people. Besides Turkey is a secular country and extremist Islamic movements are not as present as in other Muslim countries.

The real problem that Europeans have with Turkey's EU membership related to Islam, is the growing Muslim population in Europe. Many Europeans fear that Turkey's EU entry will bring more Muslim immigrants into their countries and will contribute to a radical change in Europe's demographics. So that in the future the European population will see its native Christian population shrink. And with it, the European values, culture and way of thinking.

But Turkey has already a lot of these European values and way of thinking. It is not fare to categorize every Muslim country the same, as they are all so different from each other. Besides, from what we have seen so far from the case of  states like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, immigration from these countries was not always as large or permanent as feared.

Many migrated for some years to western European states to work and make a lump-some, before returning back to their countries. Turkey's economy is doing rather well, better than many other EU Candidate Member States. Will the Turks flood Europe en mass once they join? Surely we will see more immigrants from Anatolia for a while, but if we curve immigration from other Muslim states, it can be balanced.

The full support of USA and the UK for Turkey's entry in EU is a thing that makes me a skeptic though. If the Americans and the British want it so badly, it can't be that good for the rest of Europe. They emphasize on what a great asset Turkey will be for our economies and the European Market. But does this translate as something necessarily good for the ordinary citizens?

The European Project should be something more than a huge Market and an economic experiment. Can Turkey offer solutions to European integration, do they have anything new to offer apart from what the Americans are advising us for?

Another issue of course the shift of power within EU. Why is Britain so keen for Turkey to join, while the Germans and the French are not? Turkey has a huge population and growing. If they join the voting power will shift. Especially if the Turks form with the Brits a similar Axis like that of the Franco-Germans, the EU could be transformed in what the British and Americans desire it to be.

Just a free trade market, not a political or a military union. I guess that is why Germany and France are not so keen and I do not believe that the Islam is the main issue, rather a secondary one. And I totally understand Germany's and France's fears and reluctance.

The only positive argument I find here, is the Turkish workforce that we may need. They are young, educated, numerous and hard working. I would much prefer to have immigrants from Turkey, a secular Muslim state, than Pakistan or Afghanistan in my country.

A major thorn in Turkey's EU accession is of course the attitude of the Turkish elite towards Greece, Cyprus and other Balkan states. Sadly there can be no favorable solution for them on the Cyprus issue, if they continue with their current policies. If they want accession, they will have to recognize the Republic and allow the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in reaching a compromise themselves. It should be the EU actually that must get more involved and play its role in reaching an agreement between the two sides.

As for Greece, Turkey's entry in the EU can be most favorable. Both nations suffer from having to invest heavily in their military budget in order to "protect" from each other. Two allied NATO nations that must protect from each other, how odd is that? But once Turkey joins, a war between them will be unthinkable, just as it is for Germany and France. Their economies will be so entwined and people will once again be able to move freely across the borders.

The Greeks will be able to resettle in cities like Istanbul and Izmir and the Turks in Crete and Thessaloniki, beginning a new era in the two countries' relationship. For sure they won't pose a threat to each other anymore, something that NATO membership has failed to achieve.

But can Europe "digest" Turkey? While they have a growing and promising economy, the western tip of the country is as European as the rest of the Balkans, but the eastern tip is way behind the rest of the country. In large parts it is controlled by separatist groups in the Kurdish region. It will take ages to bring the two sides of the country in the same level.

With the current economic crisis Europe has so many other things to work on, so Turkey is left out in the cold. Many predict that the Turks might get fed up and turn their back to Europe and that they will try to form alliances in the Middle East. Well I doubt if they are gonna turn to Iran, if they want to stay allies with America. They have neighbors like Armenia Georgia and Syria, nations not as friendly to them.

And the Middle East as a region is fragmented as well between pro and anti American sides. Could Turkey gain their trust and manage to unite them all? Especially since the Arabs do not have the best view of the Turks, and the Turks do not see themselves as Arabs. There is also the Kurdish problem. A challenging task indeed.

The "bridge between East and West" argument translates to me in "Oil Pipes from Caucasus" and their control. Turkey has a great strategic location. Europe needs oil. We are desperate to secure more sources of it and perhaps be less dependent in countries like Russia that have a hold on us, or any other less stable states from the Middle East and Africa. But can Turkey offer us that?

Wouldn't it be more preferable, instead of playing such dangerous geopolitical games in the region, to invest in a greener, energy efficient European economy?If we want to find a solution to our energy needs, perhaps meddling in the Middle East and its nations' affairs, is not the way forward. And so perhaps that is not the reason that Turkey should join the EU.

Of course major reforms must take place in the Turkish society before they can join. Their military elite must be weakened and overall they must become less authoritarian and more trusting towards their neighbors and Europe. The reforms that the EU has asked for must continue, especially those considering the freedom of press and certain minorities. They really need a minor social revolution, in order to change some issues that Europe is skeptical about, in their own time and gradually.

Overall I think this saga will continue for decades to come and loads of things can change during this time. Even Turkey. I hope they join one day, but not for the Markets or the oil that they have to offer Europe. If they join to be committed to Europe and the vision of an independent, prosperous, stable and federal continent, with common strategies and policies in the military and financial spheres, then they got my vote. Good Luck!

Future Governance of Europe. Nations, Feudals or a Federation?
Our leaders have gathered in Brussels to discuss, or rather argue on how to handle the current crisis. They rarely agree on anything and never take our opinion into consideration on whatever they agree in their summits in Brussels, even though it directly affects us.

The truth is that even though they want to keep the E.U. as a single Market and a place to trade, they do not really want to hand over the reigns of their countries into a new political union that is emerging in Europe.

The problem in our continent today is that we do not know what we want to do with it. We do not know how to manage our resources, how to cooperate with each other and how to work collectively.

And if we take into account the political reality in every nation, that is each dominated by a rich established elite, then it is clear to see that Europe is being ruled by elitism. Both on European and national level.

But that is not much different from the times that our nations were ruled by oligarchs or feudal lords. The difference is that today they are not land owners that govern us, rather rich bankers, businessmen, technocrats and marketers. It is not land they are offering for our hard work, but goods and services.

Our elites' interests are not necessarily our nations' interests. In a globalized world, the nation state is generally an outdated idea for those who thrive from the global market. And some of them have accumulated so much wealth, that are able to influence national governments, or even threaten their very existence. Yet through media manipulation, they are persuading us that what is generally good for them is the "good of the country." 

In the globalized economy, a free and independent state can not really exist unless it becomes another Cuba. Once you enter the Markets and become an open economy, there are certain rules you must abide with, in order to keep receiving credit. Thus your "independence" is relative.
Another factor that influences European politics, is that our continent today still bears the marks that WW2 has left behind. Our political, social and economic models were established on the aftermath of the war and our collective ideology and culture have also their roots there. Our political elites were established around the same time and reflect the ideology and politics of that era.

Global players influence and dominate now the policies that small nations follow, or large multinational organizations like the EU are promoting. That is what our political and economic capitalist system is dictating,a free open market and an overall neo-liberal agenda.

And to achieve that, this system has established in every country that wants to be part of it, a political and economic elite that is coming together, cooperating with the elites of other nations. The only thing though they agree on is that they have to preserve this system. Who is going to receive the Lion's share is what dominates European and global politics.

In Greece like in many other countries, we have two or three main political parties dominating and ruling the country. Political dynasties that have been established after the great post war shake up, that are somehow still relevant in our political and social psyche. But for how much longer?

The squabbles of many countries in Europe today, still reflect the overall attitude that one nation had for the other during or after the war. This political reality is very damaging for our future and for any effort to progress and reform.

The E.U. was created as an initiative of one group of European leaders and thinkers, during the '50s. They envisioned a Europe that would never see another war again. Today the European governments have long left this track and are focusing in making our continent a great market, but for the benefit of their "national" interests. They generally lack any collective vision for the continent. Each country represents simply it's own interests.

Many great motto exist like "United in diversity", "Europe for the people", to add prestige to the "European project." But you only have to wait until a crisis or an EU Summit to see the lack of unity or any consideration for the interests of the ordinary citizens of Europe.

The main power that rules the E.U. still lie with our national governments, plus the strong industrial and financial lobbies of our continent that they represent and serve. The Euro-Parliament has not the authority or jurisdiction to make the EU fully democratic and federal. These powers are being passed to the unelected by us EU Commission, or the EU Council that is all our governments put together.

In fact what EU is right now, a fine mess of the combined effort of all our governments, to control, shape, and influence the policies that apply to all of us in Europe. There are strong business lobbies in EU and in our countries individually, whose interests are placed above the common good of the people. Our leaders are often placing their personal aspirations above Europe's common future as well.

The funny thing is that the same people who despise EU and call it undemocratic, are the same ones who do not want to see it democratic, by proceeding to some kind of federation. When we try to implement reforms that will push with its democratization as an institution and make it transparent to its citizens, they protest in fear of losing their national interests. In many cases their actions simply mask theirs or some rich individuals' personal interests.

What do you want your country to be? A small feudal state that is controlled by rich European or national oligarchs, or to belong to a federal Union of nations that can decide on their affairs united, be more powerful and less susceptible to manipulation? Both from inside and outside of your nation's borders.

It is decision time for us as citizens, but also for our leaders and leading elites. Our actions will influence the future of our continent and our future generations, so we've got to be responsible.I am afraid that we have no other alternatives, in a globalized world.