Tag Archives: Cyprus

Turkey’s attitude – The EU and beyond

Turkish FlagToday’s news from Turkey (reported here from the Turkish media and here from the UK media) is about comments Egemen Bağış has made. Mr Bağış is the Turkish minister for EU Affairs and chief negotiator of Turkey’s accession talks with the European Union.

Mr Bağış is currently under investigation by Swiss authorities for genocide denial with comments he made in 2012 in Switzerland in reference to the Armenian genocide carried out by the Ottomans in 1915.

Mr Bağış has said that he believes that Turkey will never become a full member of the European Union , citing ‘stiff opposition’ and ‘European prejudices’. There is certainly strong opposition to Turkey’s application to join the EU but it’s not prejudice.

As I have written about before and has been well documented the opposition to Turkey’s application is mainly due to several specific issues such as:

The Cyprus issue
The Armenian genocide
Freedom of speech
Freedom of the press

However some of the opposition is more general, the European Union is a union of countries that share the same or similar values. Yes the union is an economic union, a financial union, a political union but it is also a social union, a union of shared culture and values.

Any European who has lived in Turkey or spent a reasonable amount of time in Turkey will know that Turkey isn’t a European country. This is not about geography, this is about culture, values and attitudes.

I want to focus on the general attitude of the Turkish people and their government (as I have already covered in part about the other aspects)…

The attitude is one of irresponsibility and denial, one of misplaced arrogance. This can be seen both past and present but we cannot change the past so let’s think about the present.
This can be seen by their words and actions in relation to the listed above issues but also from a personal perspective I have seen this when working with Turkish people and living in Turkey (mentioned in previous blog posts).

They have the attitude of male superiority over women, that their influence and history is greater than that of other nations and the complete failure to recognise their own failings at both the individual and national level. The Turkish people fail to accept any global reports that reflect badly on Turkey (such as HDI, freedom of the press etc) saying that they are a conspiracy. It’s hard to provide examples with evidence as these are from conversations I have had personally but here are a few just from the last couple of days (in the news)…

Turkey sets up ‘Turkvision’ because it keeps losing the EuroVision song contest.

Turkey gets humiliated at the EuroBasket (European basketball competition) after it’s best player is sent home for exercising free speech.

Mr Bağış blames Europe for Turkey not recognising and dealing with its own problem (Armenia, freedom, Cyprus etc) because they are ‘prejudice’.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames foreigners for the Gezi Park protests.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames prejudice for not winning the right to hold the Olympic games

Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames anyone and everyone for anything and everything (except himself or his party)

Something the Turkish people should learn is what ‘prejudice’ means:

Prejudice – Preconceived opinion not based on reason or experience.

Europe is NOT prejudice because its reasons ARE based on reason and experience.

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Turkey & the EU

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.

Armenian Genocide

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!).

Cyprus

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.