Sunday 8 April 2012

Turkey and the EU: Easter Essay

Having returned from a keenly anticipated 8-day trip to Istanbul, I am now qualified to be genuinely unsure as to whether Turkey should be allowed to join the EU.

I have long been an admirer of the Turks' sterling martial qualities that have made them major contributors to, inter alia, the UN cause in the Korean War and of course to NATO. Closer to home, an upstanding Turkish family operates five immaculate eateries in my neck of the woods, all differently themed and manifestly well run. Visiting Istanbul itself, a few first-hand observations -
including a very vivid and surprising encounter - have helped to fill out my impressions. Seasoned Turkey-goers can skip to the end of this gushing travelogue.

- a very masculine society. Almost no police in evidence on the streets, and accordingly the society is self-policing, issues being sorted face-to-face (e.g. the many road traffic acciden
ts on unbelievably chaotic streets). Men of all ages wander out together in groups, as do women. Seperately. But despite a fair amount of burqa-wearing (a relatively recent fashion, as in so many places) there are also loads of confident young women with plenty of attitude and evidently no intention of veiling up at all. Everyone seems to rub along.

- arrant disregard for regulations, enforcement of which is derisory (entirely consistent, of course, with the first point). Speed limits, red lights and one-way street signs are advisory only; no regard whatever for trade descriptions; health-and-safety a complete joke; extreme jay-walking on an heroic scale; and it is quite impossible to guess what their child labour laws must be (if any). Boys transitioning to manhood run proper errands for men in the same way they would in Britain in days of yore, rather than nefarious errands for a teenaged gang leader per recent UK trends.

- street after stre
et of squalor and chaos just yards from such modern and clean buildings as exist (the better hotels, museums and offices etc and of course the many very fine mosques). The Turks excuse this saying they are a nomadic people who just pitch their tents wherever and get on with things. (Even the Harem sector of the splendid Topkapi Palace is pretty ramshackle.) Feral cats and dogs everywhere (though a lot less menacing than the really vicious packs of curs that have roamed the suburbs of Athens for years).

- the European side of the city being a lot rougher than the Asian side across the Bosphorous. Seems paradoxical (to a European !) but it is a function of the latter being almost entirely a produc
t of the post-Ataturk, secular era.

One way and another, a fairly bracing Nietzschean set-up, all of which tends to increase my admiration. And of course Turkey is thriving economically, and pivotally placed geo-politically. So - welcome to the EU for the well-and-truly revived 'sick man' ? My reservations come under two headings.

1. Why would they want to join ? Their economy has been growing strongly for a decade and more. How much fun is it going to be when they have to adopt, and at least go through the motions on, all those reams of euro-r
egs ? Many will doubtless respond that the Mediterranean nations already flout them freely. But not on the Turkish scale.

In any event this is a small point compared with ...

2. Is Turkey compatible with European 'Christendom' ? Joking aside, this is where all our cultural
understanding and observations are put to the test. If I understand her correctly, the estimable Hatfield Girl holds that Christendom is coherent, desirable - and doesn't include the Turks. I am inclined to think that Turkey, certainly post-Ataturk, has at least as much relevant recent history with 'Western Europe' as do the Orthodox countries (for which I don't have a lot of time). There are very many Turks who fiercely carry the torch for Ataturk's memory and his modernising secularism.

But we have to confront the Islamic question. This takes two forms, one of which I knew about already, viz the current politico-Islamist tendency in Turkey which is pushing for de-secularisation in public life, perhaps most unnervingly in education. The current Turkish regime baldly asks: is the EU a Christian club or is it the address of a community of civilisations? - expecting to shame us into adopting the second definition. Here's the Economist's snapshot of the situation from October, which looks like a picture of impasse.

A further first-hand perspective on potential religious incompatibility derives from an entirely fortuitous encounter we had on our recent visit. Wishing to push out beyond the grand showcase mosques of Istanbul proper, we went to EyĆ¼p, north of the old city walls, where there is a famous and much venerated shrine / mosque / graveyard complex. Here we found Muslim pilgrims apparently worshipping, erm, a 400-year old tree (a bit pagan, I thought) ... and then a complete surprise: we saw a sheep being sacrificed.

We asked about this and there was a bit of embarrassment - you weren't meant to see that. But later we were told that wealthier people would sometimes sacrifice a camel ...

At this point, some folk will say
: the Spanish sacrifice bulls all the time, and a lot less cleanly too.

Others will say this really has nothing whatever to do with 21st Century Europe, and everyone should recognise it and go their separate ways.

Me ? I'm still undecided. I like the Turks. I don't like animal sacrifices. We should definitely be allies. Beyond that ... what do readers reckon ?

Happy Easter !


Photos © Nick Drew 2012


Electro-Kevin said...

I saw a goat sacrificed in Turkey. There was abject squalor side-by-side with ostentation wealth too.

It's a real mixed bag. I liked the people I met very much indeed.

I disagree with the extension of borders that have taken place already - let alone more.

Scrap our welfare system. That seems to be the only defence against being totally swamped by people, both good and bad. It will become unaffordable anyway.

I expect Britain to become like Turkey - a dichotomy of wealth and abject poverty and probably Muslim to boot. A staunch religion will be the only way to keep the serfs down.

I don't suppose that matters much to the upper middle-class who are already protected from such things and who can wangle internships for their dim kids.

Anonymous said...

Don't they already do ritual animal sacrifices in Luton, Barnsley, Tower Hamlets etc.

john in cheshire said...

I don't think Turkey should be allowed to join the EU. But, if we can withdraw ourselves from that entity, then I really don't care, as long as we protect ourselves from the islamic onslaught. But I don't see any signs of any of this being thought about by our supposed rulers, let alone acted upon.

Dick the Prick said...

I'm not sure the cultural thing is all too relevant these days; in for a penny, in for a pound and it has to be accepted that Blighty has crossed the Rubicon. When our borders are porous already then having some twat in Brussels change a few letterheads is just bureaucratic hubris. However, it's the Germans who are dead against it so I wouldn't be surprised if a bean-counter was squirreling away working on the best deal; I seem to have it in mind that Labour pushed for Turkish entry so that's probably official FCO opinion.

The fact that the Balkans are lining up is as culturally significant but without any of the stability that Turkey offers. The problem is their internals and their direction toward a more Islamically adherent governance and on that I dunno - always liked Erdogan though, seems like a well trained politician and an all round good egg. Good pop at the Israelis over the hippy boat that took lefties to Palestine - it was bloody rude to storm it and kill people rather than cuff 'em and slap 'em. Turkey's role in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the wider near to middle east has never been more important. If it is to be war with Iran, which it certainly seems like UK, US & Israel want then Turkey has to be supported. If the Iraq incursion has taught any twat anything it's to at least plan for eventualities and it must be a prospect of migration and war right on Turkey's eastern flank.

The Syria thing is interesting in that the Arab League have, for the first time, started doing something. With the Arab spring going off around and oil hitting natural highs it seems that Turkey has navigated a successful course whilst every daft bastard around them has either imploded or lost the plot.

I can't imagine the internal politics of Turkey but they have a noble and proud history and we haven't had that many wars with them except WW1 really, which is a little surprising, and that was just railways and supply. If I was Turkey, i'd be talking about some esoteric domestic shit too as their neighbours are wankers. We've got the French, the Chinks have got the Ruskies, Americans got the Mexicans and Turkey's got a big piece of shit. Good luck to 'em and patience is defo on their side.

andrew said...

i think we need turkey more than turkey needs us.

morals are a fast moving target. 45 years ago we put gays in prision, sex discrimination was legal and anyone who disagreed generally kept their head down. Now, anyone who thinks the opposite generally keeps their head down.

it would be unwise to judge a country by looking at where it is now

the question is, is their society moving in the same direction

Graeme said...

I am biased probably from experiencing in London and Amsterdam, horrible "Italian" food from Turkish resturateurs. Why do they not purvey proper Turkish food?

asquith said...

Andrew, have you ever considered that most people consider the changes you cite to be the better? We are no longer the people who hounded war hero Alan Turing to his death, or ruined millions of lives for no good reason. "Morals" indeed.

Until the Turks prosper (which I think they will), the direction of travel will all be one way for immigration, which is the reason I wouldn't want to admit Turkey to the EU. Not to say that I have any objection to Turkish people, just what I would view as a sensible and pragmatic reaction.

You can, of course, view the Islamicisation thing too ways. Firstly, the faith-heads are outbreeeding the secular in Turkey, which is making the country more Islamic. But also, the urbanisation is hopefully making the country more Islamic and secular, as the children of Anatolia leave to seek their fortune in cities.

At any rate, I would no more want to share open borders and political union with Turkey than I would with India, or Brazil, or any of the countries with which we should be cultivating trade relationships. I veto their application thus.

Personally I don't know any Turks (though to echo Graeme's comment, I've seen some behind the counter on my visits to some chip shops), btw, the minorities I've encountered have usually been from the Indian subcontinent and more recently Africans.

asquith said...

"more Islamic and secular"

I meant more modern and secular of course.

Dick the Prick said...

@Asquith - i'm really not sure it matters. I remember about 15 years ago now being in a boozer all afternoon with the boys playing pool with some Serbians and generally getting wasted. Long story short, turned out they were war veterans who killed quite a few chaps and it sort of dawned on me, 'well what the fuckety fuck are you doing here?' How on earth do Somalians get in when there's a fair bet they assissted in sociocide? As EK says, as long as benefits and the NHS operate universal service no questions asked then it kinda seems a bit irrelevant if we open up to Turkey; just some legal shit that no one seems to give a flying fuck about anyway. Could get a bit depressed by it all, really.

agricultural investments said...

Having been to Istanbul myself a few years ago, I would also add that the restaurants at the time seemed unbelievably cheap compared to here! I wonder with Turkey's rapid economic growth that is still the case? As for the question "should Turkey be in the EU?", frankly speaking I'd ask the same thing about the UK. Some type of associative agreement largely focused on free trade - as both Norway and the Swiss have with the EU I believe - seems about right for both countries.

hatfield girl said...

There is more than one objective for European union: the global governance aim, with its multicultural commitments and permanent political elite administration who push for ever-larger Europe as a step on the way; the common market aim which is what the UK signed up to and would like to return to as a reasonable state of relationship with the Continent; the European idealists and culturalists whose aim is ever-closer union and assertion of European identity (and whose distaste for globalist objectives is as marked as is some UK distaste for European integration.)

You write, ND, that post-Ataturk Turkey is of interest as as a candidate member of the EU and has much to offer; I would write that the cultural contributions Turkey has made to Europe, which can be heard in the music from Venice, from Austria, the influence on painting and ceramics, the contributions to intellectual, particularly philosophical and mathematical pursuits, not to mention cuisine, are all pre-Ataturk. And Europe made its political views on Turkey clear at Lepanto. No. Not political union.

You write of the military strengths of modern Turkey but those are of interest to globlistas not the Europe Europeans want to reinstate. You write of Turkish economic growth; they need it - their hinterland is a primitive lifestyle with an awful standard of living and a nasty attitude to women.

Europeans have other politico-economic problems, of distribution and wealth, equity, environment but we don't have underdevelopment. Or a need for rapid growth.

Turkey is not European: it is Asia. Another world with other values and other needs.