Tag Archives: freedom

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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European Identity

A couple of questions I want answered:

1. Is there a European identity, more than one European identity or just national identities?

2. Who exactly shares this identity/these identities?

Firstly I think we need to look at two things, what does identity really mean and what exactly is a European?

What is a European?
Someone who holds a European passport? Someone of European heritage? Someone who shares a set of basic common values within the specified geographical region?

If a second generation immigrant who holds European passport but still holds true their parents values (cultural or otherwise) are they to be considered a European and accepted as one?

What is identity?
While books have been written on the subject ultimately the concept is rather simple, identity is the way in which one sees themselves and considers themselves to fit/affiliate with certain groups with shared values. This could be anything from a child identity, adult, political, national, cultural, sub-cultural, race, ethnicity etc.

What are the basic shared European values?
Europe has many languages, different cultures and deep, rich history and while its citizens hold many different opinions and perspectives as represented by the vast swath of political parties across the many nations there are some basic common values that are not (unfortunately) global.

1. You are free to express your thoughts and opinions without repercussion.
This means if you say the prime minister is an arsehole or that god doesn’t exist no-one will put you in prison or kill you.
2. Welfare, Europeans accept that there must be at least a basic level of welfare to look after those who can’t look after themselves. Be it for the unemployed or those with children, education, healthcare etc.
3. If you are tolerant, you will be tolerated. If you are intolerant you will not be tolerated. People are not discriminated against because they are female, black, white etc. People are treated the same.
4. Justice, again people are treated equally and penalised equally.
5. Democracy, enough said.
6. Willingness to adapt and integrate into the European values.

There is something else about the European that must be mentioned but however seemingly cannot be put into words, a feeling, a clear sense of understanding yet not able to be articulated into words. A sense that one can easily identify a European and a non-European.

Back to the original questions…

Is there a European identity, more than one European identity or just national identities?

Yes, there is a European identity, there are also clear divisions within that identity for example:
The Mediterranean identity
The Eastern European identity (or Slavic identity)
The central European identity
The Nordic/Scandinavian identity

Who exactly shares this identity/these identities?

A line can be drawn on the map, starting at the top with Finland to the west and Russia to the east of that line going south keeping the Baltic states on the west and Russia still on the east. Following down from the Baltic states keeping Poland on the west and Belarus on the east, continuing south keeping Slovakia on the west and Ukraine on the east. Following down the Black sea keeping Greece on the west and Turkey on the east.
The rest of the European countries are in (including the Republic of Cyprus).
Europe
Summary:

Having lived in China and Turkey it is very clear that these countries are not European, that may be obvious straight from the outset or it may not be.

A part of identifying what is European is identifying what is not European.
China aside lets focus on Turkey, it borders the European and Asian continents and for some time now has been trying to get into the European Union. However this is definitely not a ‘European’ country, with corruption sky high and a complete lack of democracy or respect for the rights of individuals. Funding pulled for the arts for insulting the PM’s daughter, government officials saying publicly that women should kill themselves rather than have an abortion and blaming women if they get raped stating that they obviously provoked the man/men to do it.