Before I came to live in Turkey I was fully in support of their EU membership bid. Turkey has a strong and growing economy and it is one of the most modern secular countries with a vast majority Islamic population.
I thought that with the current economic crises facing Europe and the growing wave of Islamophobia throughout Europe that having this modern thinking and ‘successful’ country join its ranks that we in Europe would see that actually we are all the same and that their inclusion is of great benefit to us all.
Now, having lived in Turkey for just over a year I think pretty much the opposite.
Why the sudden turnaround I hear? Well…
As I briefly mentioned before in two earlier posts (1 year in Turkey & European Identity) it soon became clear that we (Europeans and Turks) are not all the same deep down and that Turkey really isn’t a modern and progressive country.
I oppose Turkey joining the European Union because of many things but ultimately it can be put down to one thing, Turkey isn’t European.
What I mean by this is not its geographical location and not its peoples’ religious views but the values they have are just so incompatible with European values. From my experiences of living here in Turkey (where I still reside) I can provide numerous examples of such differences but mostly it comes down to free will.
Before people jump the gun ‘free will’ means:
The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.
People in Turkey have to sneak around with their partners if they’re not married for fear of reprisal. Even if you are engaged to your partner you still can’t live with them. You can’t rent an apartment as an unmarried couple. These are not actual laws enforced by the government but are unofficial rules enforced by the people themselves. If you express your views, religious, political, cultural etc you can expect anything up to being murdered (again not by the government but by normal everyday Turks). This cannot be any further from the European values of do what you like, no-one cares, no-one is staring at you, no-one will kill you for kissing the same sex in public etc.
Speaking to people in Turkey, young and old alike there is a uniformed attitude and response to the Armenian genocide issue which is simple that there was no Armenian genocide, there was a civil war and people on both sides were killed and that the Armenian genocide issue is a conspiracy by the whole world against Turkey (paranoid!).
This one is a little more tricky, while arguably you could say the problems stem from the Greek-Cypriots coup attempt which gave Turkey no choice but to invade Cyprus to ‘protect’ the Turkish-Cypriots the fact is that the Turkish military didn’t leave the island after the coup attempt failed and normal democracy was restored. The occupied territory in the North did however vote to unify the island but the Republic South voted against it. The occupied territories of northern Cyprus are even today only recognised by Turkey leaving the situation a long way from being resolved and neither side of the issue willing to budge.
The Armenian and Cyprus issues are two of the biggest issues facing Turkey’s long standing EU negotiations.
A month ago in Berlin Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the EU will lose Turkey if it isn’t granted EU membership by 2023.
Well Mr Erdogan, there is a reason why Turkey hasn’t been granted EU membership and will never be granted membership while Turkey’s values and attitudes remain so incompatible with ours.