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   Vol. 68/No. 36           October 5, 2004  
‘Old Europe’ balks at accepting Turkey in European Union;
British, U.S. rulers campaign for entry
(front page)
If Turkey were to join the European Union (EU), “the liberation of Vienna in 1683 would have been in vain.” This is what EU internal market commissioner Frits Bolkestein, from the Netherlands, said September 6.

The EU official was referring to the siege of Vienna in July 1683 by 200,000 Turkish troops that the Ottoman Empire had dispatched there. The siege was crushed about two months later by a joint force of the Austrian and Polish armies, “thereby saving Christendom from further incursion by Islam,” as an editorial in the September 18 Spectator, a conservative British magazine, put it.

Bolkestein’s racist remarks were largely accepted by EU leaders—especially in the countries U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has described as the “Old Europe,” led by Paris and Berlin. This reflects the widespread reluctance by the majority of capitalist politicians in the EU to approve Turkey’s entry into the European Union, and the outright opposition by many others to Ankara’s request for admission.

Washington and its junior partner across the Atlantic, London, on the other hand, are the main imperialist powers that have been campaigning for Turkey’s admittance. In the United Kingdom, both the Blair government and the Tory opposition are adamantly in favor of Ankara’s entry into the EU.

The government of Turkey has been trying to join the European Union since 1987. It became a candidate for membership in 1999. Even by optimistic estimates, negotiations for its entry are expected to take up to 10 years to complete, once they begin, according to the London Independent.  
Bolkestein’s remarks not unique
Bolkestein’s remarks and stance toward Turkey are not unique in Europe.

The September 22 Guardian, a British daily, published an article titled, “In 1683 Turkey was the invader. In 2004 much of Europe still sees it that way.”

Author Ian Traynor interviewed several people sipping red wine on a hillside terrace high above Vienna, where the 1683 clash with the Ottoman troops took place.

“I know one Turkish bloke,” said an Austrian social worker the Guardian identified as Helmut. “He’s got two wives. Neither of them can speak a word of German. He beats them up. He’s got two sons as well. They’re terrified of him. They’re just different from us. We’re Christians. They’re Muslims. And these Muslims are getting more and more extreme. It’s time to make a choice. I’m against it,” he said, referring to Turkey joining the EU.

“This is Europe and we’re in danger of losing our identity with all these people from Turkey and Africa,” added Gerhard, the landlord serving Helmut wine, the Guardian said. “We Christians are losing our faith while the Muslims are getting more fundamentalist.”

While such views may be on the extreme side of the spectrum of bourgeois politics in Europe, they are expressed in various forms by top political figures.

“Turkey isn’t European enough in terms of geography, culture, or history to become a member of the EU, say government leaders, including French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel,” the Bloomberg News Service reported September 20.

Opponents of accepting Turkey into the EU have begun to mobilize recently, both inside their own countries and within the European Commission.

Austria’s ultrarightist Freedom Party, for example, threatened in Vienna September 20 to quit the coalition government if Chancellor Schüssel agreed to Turkish membership. Opinion polls in Austria show two-thirds against admitting Turkey, and only one in five in favor, according to the Guardian.

In Germany, opposition leader Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union has been lobbying fellow conservatives in the EU to offer Ankara a loose “partnership” rather than allowing it to join.

France’s president, Jacques Chirac, and German chancellor Gerhard Schröder are formally on record in favor of admitting Ankara. But officials in both administrations have expressed open opposition without being called to order by their superiors. The French finance minister is one such example.

And when U.S. president George Bush, while in Turkey in June for the NATO summit, called for admitting Ankara, Chirac shot back: “Not only did [Bush] go too far, but he went into territory that isn’t his…. It is not his purpose and his goal to give any advice to the EU, and in this area it was a bit as if I were to tell Americans how they should handle their relationship with Mexico.”

In France, the most vocal opponent of accepting Turkey into the EU is Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, “the architect of the new European constitution, which some claim is specifically designed to keep Turkey out,” as the Guardian put it. Last year, the former French president declared that Turkish membership would signal “the end of the EU.”

Not only conservatives, but many Social Democrats are at best skeptical. “Turkey must reform its penal code or have its EU accession rejected, warned German Martin Schulz, the Socialist leader of the European Parliament,” said a September 21 news item by Xinhuanet, a Chinese news service. It quoted Schulz saying, “We cannot even contemplate the possibility of accession talks with Turkey until these reforms are in place.”  
Turkey’s slim prospects for EU entry
This mobilization of bourgeois public opinion against Turkish membership into the EU took place as Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was preparing a trip to Belgium. As this issue went to press, Erdogan was on his way to Brussels for meetings with EU officials, starting September 23, on whether they would set a date to begin talks on Ankara’s application to join.

The prospects are not bright.

A spokesman for Günther Verheugen, EU commissioner for enlargement, said September 21 that “accession negotiations cannot start” because the Turkish parliament had shelved a vote on reforming the country’s penal code along lines acceptable to the European Union. At the center of this dispute, capitalist politicians in the EU say, is an attempt by Erdogan’s party to pass a law that would make adultery a crime punishable with up to two years imprisonment.

The EU does not have a right to “involve itself in [Turkey’s] internal affairs,” Erdogan replied. “We are Turkey and the Turks. We’ll make our own decisions, in our own parliament.”

The same day, incoming European Commission president José Manuel Barroso said that Ankara had not done enough to start talks on EU membership.

The EU-prescribed penal code that was under consideration by the Turkish parliament would reportedly lengthen sentences for people found guilty of torture, rape, or “honor” crimes against women committed by family members. The reform was shelved when a feud broke out within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after one wing insisted that a law criminalizing adultery be included in the code.

Behind the façade of concern for human rights by EU leaders, however, there are other, more substantial reasons for balking at the prospect of Turkish membership.

“The EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, warned Tuesday that Turkey’s accession to the EU would open up a swathe of problems and difficulties for the bloc’s agricultural policies,” said an article in the September 22 International Herald Tribune. “Fischler, who has warned that the EU must have a ‘Plan B’ as an alternative to opening talks with Turkey, said the majority Muslim state’s sheer size was cause for much concern.”

With nearly 69 million people, Turkey would be second only to Germany in population in the European Union if it were admitted to membership. At the same time, Turkey is a semicolonial nation with a foreign debt equaling more than a quarter of its gross domestic product and inflation that exceeded 18 percent last year. In 2001, agriculture still accounted for 40 percent of total employment. Turkey’s membership in the EU—which subsidizes farm products and uses this policy to dump cheap agricultural goods onto the markets of semicolonial countries, destroying the livelihoods of peasants there—would undermine the European Union’s protection of capitalist agriculture in the more powerful member states.

“Turkey is an ally of Europe in every respect, save perhaps if you are a French maize-grower or a metal-basher in Germany’s rust belt,” said the Spectator editorial. “This perhaps is the subtext to the outbursts of Mr. Bolkestein and others: they fear the loss of European protectionism. We say that if the entry to the EU were finally to undermine the Common Agricultural Policy, then that is one more reason for supporting Turkey’s entry.”  
Anglo-American campaign
“To its credit, the Blair government—together with the Tories—has supported Turkey’s application for membership of the EU,” the Spectator continued. “Ministers should go one step further and do as they would if the British National Party had made a cheap remark about Turkish Muslims: say that there is no place in the European Commission for bigoted remarks such as those made by Frits Bolkestein. He should leave and Turkey should join.”

The conservative British magazine also said: “The admission of Turkey to the EU would send a powerful signal to moderate Muslims that the war against terror really is that and nothing more. Snub the Turks, on the other hand, and we will appear to be refighting the religious wars of the Middle Ages.

“President Bush, that alleged Islamophobe, realises this, which is why in June he took the trouble to visit Turkey to praise its democratic and social reforms and to encourage its entry to the EU.”

While in Ankara in June, Bush praised Turkey as “a Muslim country and at the same time a country which embraces democracy,” and added, “As Turkey meets the EU standards for membership, the European Union should begin talks that will lead to full membership for the Republic of Turkey.” This was the remark that so infuriated Chirac.

The Spectator said that the Blair-Bush course is the only way to solve conflicts around the national question, such as in Kurdistan or Cyprus, in a way that favors Anglo-American strategic interests and imperialism in general. “Start a dialogue on Turkey’s entry to the EU and those reforms will continue, along with the work towards a solution in Cyprus. Refuse the dialogue and there is a serious risk that the country might retreat into Islamic fundamentalism.”

The Bush administration is in fact using the imperialist “war on terrorism” to impose bourgeois democratic forms around the world—from Indonesia to Pakistan and Yemen—and to settle every national question in a way that serves U.S. imperialism’s strategic interests.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly September 21, Bush made a coherent argument for this course regarding the Palestinian national liberation struggle.

Bush praised the Anglo-American wars on Afghanistan and Iraq the last three years and claimed that “these two nations will be a model for the broader Middle East” following the U.S.-led occupations.

He then said, in a not-so-hidden attack on the Arafat leadership of the Palestinian National Authority, “Commitment to democratic reform is essential to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate corruption, and maintain ties to terrorist groups.”
Related articles:
How to defeat ‘Bush Doctrine’  
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