As part of his campaign leading up to the EU Parliament elections June 7th the former vice prime minister and frontrunner for the conservatives Bendt Bendtsen (cons.) told media that he did not think that Turkey should ever achieve full membership of EU. Instead he would offer Turkey a privileged partnership. He is cited in the media mostly as referring to the German CDU for justification. Himself neither very brave nor a great thinker it may actually be true that he has to hide behind the Germans instead of just sticking to his guns.
CDU’s point is something along the lines that since Turkey is Muslim they have different values than Christian Europe. A point also commonly cited in France for opposing Turkish membership.
This blogger seems to know that Bendtsen is actually thinking about Turkey’s actions under the Mohammad cartoon crisis; general problems with freedom of speech and Turkey’s vehement resistance to Anders Fogh Rasmussen becoming the next secretary general of NATO.
A common reaction among commentators here in Denmark has been that Bendt Bendtsen’s statement was a cheap populist shot aimed only at creating publicity. The chance that he actually holds the opinion that Turkey does not belong in EU is brushed off as ridiculous. Especially since the official opinion of the government that he was a member of not so long ago was that EU should work towards full membership for Turkey.
Lord knows I am not a big fan of mr. Bendtsen but his remarks did spark a discussion here which I think is important. Several other members of the governing parties have come out in full support of this opinion. Others express understanding. Front runner for the Liberals Jens Rohde says he understands the opposition to Turkish membership: “everyone in the world – except perhaps Obama – can see that the Turkey of today does not have a chance in hell of gaining membership. (…) I too am sceptical of their style of government when for instance a writer is put on trial for writing a book critical of Islam. In that sense they are moving further and further away from membership”. He continues, however, that he is confident that Turkey will not become a member until they live up to the formal criteria.
This too is a common way to try and silence critique: “They won’t join until they live up to the criteria, which by the way wont be until far into the future.”
The problems as I see them are two: Experience shows that in EU 1) popular opinion does not carry any value; 2) neither do formal accession criteria.
What matters is expansion.
70 percent of both Europeans and of the Turkish population oppose Turkish membership. Shouldn’t that mean something? When a popularly held opinion is voiced against the grand plans that EU has scheming it is brushed off as irrelevant and the train just keeps on steaming ahead.
We saw this particularly bad tendency at the Dutch, French and finally Irish no-votes to the paper called the EU Constitution, when it was still called that, and then again when it had changed name to the Lisbon treaty. All that EU politicians did the first time around was to fake concern and then just change the name. When it was rejected again they told Ireland to take their time and come back when they had changed their mind. The lack of respect that EU politicians have for public opinion is deeply concerning to me. You may even say that I am personally offended.
Just like Turkey today, Bulgaria and Rumania were also nowhere near compliance with accession criteria when they were acceded to EU. But we were told that EU had already “promised” that the two countries would become members at a certain date and so the criteria were all of a sudden not so important after all.
So, what happens in 20 years when Turkey is still a fucked up country and no where near living up to the criteria? Are we going to hear the same drill: “Well, we promised them membership so they are just going to have to catch up later”?
My main concerns as regards Turkey in EU are mostly immaterial such as the political and religious culture and ethics of Turkey and the fact that Turkey willingly acts as messenger for OIC in their efforts to curb human rights and freedoms. Concerns that are easy to ignore if expansion is all you care about.
Turkey has signed the Cairo Declaration, which states such ridiculous things as: “(art. 2,a) it is prohibited to take away life except for a Shari’ah-prescribed reason”; “(art. 2,d) Safety from bodily harm is a guaranteed right … and it is prohibited to breach it without a Shari’ah-prescribed reason.” “(art. 9,a) The State shall ensure the availability of ways and means to … be acquainted with the religion of Islam”; (art. 10) “Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism”; “(art. 12) The country of refuge shall ensure his (the refugee’s) protection until he reaches safety, unless asylum is motivated by an act which Shari’ah regards as a crime.” (such as homosexuality or religious conversion); “(art. 19,d) There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari’ah”; “(art. 24) All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah.”; and “(art. 25) The Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration”.
Any country, which is signatory to the Cairo Declaration is, in my opinion, unfit to become a member of EU.