The Europeans consider the Turkish citizens to be white

Matthes Buhbe
Turkey and the limits of European integration

Preliminary version

In the following it is argued that the closeness currently achieved between the European Union and Turkey will endure. For the foreseeable future, factors will dominate that will prevent Turkey from drifting away from Europe as well as full EU membership. The partnership with Europe will continue.

The case of Turkey shows the limits of European integration. The enlargement of the EU is being postponed for fear of losing internal cohesion. In order to enlarge the Union, it must be institutionally deepened or - what is to be excluded here - the goal of integration must be given up. As will be argued below, Turkey has too many deficits in this phase. Under current conditions, the pressure from the United States of America to close the remaining gap as quickly as possible and treat Turkey as the first candidate for full membership in the upcoming enlargement round has no prospect of success. This would overburden the EU's ability to integrate in the long term. For the time being, pushing the EU's external border to Syria, Iraq and Iran is beyond the imagination of the European Union.

Conversely, the argument that a Turkey disappointed in Europe will find the future tomorrow "in Islam", in a Pan-Turkish empire or in a neo-Ottoman project, has little plausibility. For such empires not only historical parallels are missing, but also the partners, the resources and the majorities in Turkey. However, it must be admitted that the European Union would have security disadvantages if Turkey nevertheless turned away. If Turkey were thrown back on itself, it would be feared that the crisis region of the Middle East would be expanded by a major element of uncertainty.

A dilemma of Turkish identity lies in the gap between spatial and social location. The land mass of Turkey only touches the EU on the periphery. It is sandwiched between the Middle East in the south, Russia and Ukraine in the north, and Iran in the east. There are more distant Turkish-speaking neighbors between the Caucasus and China. But the economic, historical, constitutional and foreign policy location cannot be described with this geography. The western orientation has deep roots. A rapprochement with the "Russian North" would be hardly less troublesome than severing ties with Western EU Europe. Nor is any Arab or Middle Eastern state waiting to welcome Turkey as a leading power in the "Islamic world", and it is too big to play a minor role.

A sketch of the location of Turkey, the problem of Kemal Ataturk's fading model, the search for roles after the end of the Cold War, relations with Europe beyond classic security issues, economic and social development, the changes in the European and regional environment form essential parts of the chain of arguments for the "Half-distance" claimed at the beginning, which characterizes the partnership between the European Union and Turkey.

Position determination after 75 years of the Republic of Turkey

Turkey is a young state. On October 29, 1923 the republic was proclaimed and the first nation-state of the Turks was founded. It is to be expected that the 75th anniversary in 1998 will be under the monumental image of the state's founder, Kemal Ataturk. The speeches will be different depending on the political direction. Some on the left will remember his words that there is no opposition between Orient and Occident, only that of backwardness and modernity. Ataturk would never have believed in this or that possible combination that could bring Western technology and civilization together with the traditional religion and culture of the Orient. He would have considered the overwhelming power of the West in all areas to be historically proven and would therefore have considered it his political duty to save Turkey through uncompromising westernization. Others will remember his proud expression that anyone who can say that they are Turkish should be considered lucky. For these right-wing and military speakers, the will to assert themselves and the nation-building process associated with Ataturk's name come first. Finally, the pro-Islamic representatives of the now banned welfare party will renew their bold thesis that an Ataturk who is still alive today would be a supporter of their movement and opponent of Kemalism, which is named after him.

Western and democratic states do not mean the same thing. The state principles established by Ataturk and his followers reflected the western world in the first third of the twentieth century. It was about the permanent defense against the colonial powers France and England and the hegemonic claims of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. The state that emerged at that time symbolizes successful self-assertion against the overwhelming power of the West. In Turkey, the nation-state project therefore ranks way ahead of the democratic restructuring program that began a few years after the founder's death.

The European Union wants to be the union of the democracies of Europe. Turkey wants to participate in this project on an equal footing, but is still fighting for the primacy of a civil society democracy. The priority of the Kemalist institutions determines the current social conflicts. Islamism and Kurdish nationalism are rising in response to the fact that, in disregard of the prehistory of the republic and the dynamism of open, democratic societies, rigid norms are maintained that were created for a different purpose. Apparently timeless, the state apparatus hovers over social forces and draws the line between legitimate conflicts that characterize a democracy and illegitimate conflicts that arise from violent enemies of the state. In truth, the machine can easily get out of hand. Too many dwarf Ataturks are ready to save the state from its internal and external enemies. Parts of the security apparatus have started to use their enormous freedom at their own expense for personal punitive actions. In addition, the handling of the sometimes flexible legal institutions by the judiciary is difficult to predict.

Many European states stand on the ruins of multinational empires. The states outside the Balkans that emerged after 1918 appear consolidated in 1998. The Turkish nation is not united. There is considerable tension between the titular nation, which is also intended to serve as the ideological foundation for a unitary state, and the Turkish state people, whose nationality is also often portrayed as an ethnic mosaic by nationalist ideologues. Ataturk's wisdom is therefore not redeemed: "Peace at home means peace in the world." Above all, Kurdistan, located deep in the hinterland of the Ottoman Empire and border area between Turkey, Iran and Iraq since 1923, repeatedly brings Turkey to the brink of civil war. For the guardians of the Grail of Kemalism, the Turkish Kurdish region is part of the "national Grail": minority privileges should never again weaken the state or even lead to secession: every part of the country must therefore become Turkish in every respect.

If Ataturk and his colleagues had renounced upper Mesopotamia, the new state would have seemed too small to them. Following the Peace of Lausanne, they successfully prevented the integration of all Ottoman Kurds in the British mandate of Iraq. The area around Diyarbakir went to Turkey. Shortly afterwards, on October 13, 1923, Ataturk moved the capital from Istanbul in Europe to Ankara in Asia Minor. The geographical step proved to be insufficient for the planned westernization of the new state. In terms of development economics, Europe did not move along. Today there is a degree of backwardness in the Kurdish region that exceeds that of neighboring Anatolia. Ankara's hinterland as a whole is in the midst of the underdevelopment that the Kemalists had set out to overcome.

The intertwined struggle for Turkish national territory and the rights of the Turks is still not unraveled. The population exchange regulated in Lausanne between Christian Orthodox (Greek) and Muslim (Turkish) residents of the Aegean and Asia Minor did not apply to a large group of Muslims in Rumelia (Bulgaria and Eastern Greece) and on the then British island of Cyprus. Ethnic Turks who were harassed by a non-Turkish state power or fellow population in their homeland served as an argument for military actions by the Turkish state. In the Aegean and Cyprus conflicts and in the Sandjak question, which still affects relations with Syria today, individual provocations can trigger high national emotions, which are typical for young nation-states. Even if the causes of the conflict are often not ethnic, the sea borders near the islands and the European land borders of Turkey are still areas of tension today. A periodic clash of Greek and Turkish nationalism is still destroying the attempts at peaceful coexistence on the south-eastern European fringes of the EU. In 1974, the violent separation of the population even continued when several causes of conflict clashed in Cyprus and led to the division.

The young state solved the question of its external security very successfully. He has not had to wage war or lose territory for 75 years. In terms of alliance politics, Turkey gave up its neutrality after 1945. Stalin had become so powerful that the support of the at least as powerful USA was sought and found in the form of joining NATO in 1952 and CENTO. Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1949. Later she also became a member of two organizations in which no European-Western state is represented: the Organization of Islamic States OIC and the more economically oriented ECO. In 1992 she initiated the establishment of the Black Sea economic cooperation. The three last-named organizations have so far only had a limited importance, but show three alternatives to EU Europe: Islamic World (OIC), Turanian-Iranian Middle East (ECO) and Neo-Ottomanism (Black Sea).

However, Turkey paid a high price for its security policy. It repeatedly ran into limited conflicts with all of its neighboring countries, if not at the same time. At present, the particularly close cooperation with the USA, which goes beyond NATO structures, is not only directed against Russia. In addition to its NATO role, the US sees Turkey as a counterweight to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Turkish-Syrian opposition contributes to a better understanding between Turkey and Israel. The US ties isolate Turkey to the east and south, while the EU state and NATO partner Greece is the cause of constant tensions on the western border. The two NATO states are hopelessly at odds over the Cyprus and Aegean issues.

In economic terms, Turkey is deeply anchored to the west. The EU is by far the most important trading partner, and Turkey entered into a customs union with it in 1996. In the western Turkish triangle of Istanbul-Bursa-Izmir, more than half of the gross national product is generated. The per capita income here roughly corresponds to that of Greece. Some private companies in the Istanbul business and media world operate on an economic scale that cannot be achieved by any group in smaller European countries. Five opposing parties have appointed the mayors of Istanbul over the past 20 years without actually governing the city. Urban life has long dominated urban politics and dictated a cosmopolitan rhythm of westernization.

With its security and economic success, 75 years of the republic brought about major social change. The agrarian state, ruled authoritarian by the sultan and the military bureaucracy, has become a typical emerging country with a high degree of constitutional principles and democratic pluralism. Education and health systems are understood as state tasks, the expansion of which the population demands from politicians. "Transparent police stations" and "Prosperity for all" are at least proving themselves as campaign topics. On a negative note, and also typical of an emerging market, the incomparably high internal differences in regional economic and social development compared to the richer OECD countries. In the hinterland, entire tracts of land are still under the tutelage of landlords, and tribal communities there still enjoy the highest levels of loyalty. In the megacities of Ankara and Adana, Istanbul and Izmir, urban individuality and rural values ​​clash across families. The metropolitan areas offer a picture of rapid pace and dynamism. The social upheaval determines urban Turkey less than the social contradictions. This is also reflected in the world of believers, who can reconcile their understanding of Islam with "modernity" and in this respect also with the republican nation-state very well, not at all or at least somehow. Therefore, the thesis that the citizens of Turkey belong to a different cultural group than the citizens of the EU is by no means illuminating. Analogously, one would otherwise have to put a certain Catholicism of the Poles or parts of the Orthodoxy in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe to the test of cultural compatibility, something no one has done so far.

Economy, politics and society thus reflect the neighborhood to Europe. The location of Turkey just outlined is, as will be shown in the following, more permanent than is often assumed.

The European Union project

A large and growing number of EU citizens complain that the Union is cumbersome and remote from the citizenry. The number of those who reject the idea of ​​union as such is much smaller. In addition to national identities, there is a feeling of togetherness and a growing trust in the possibilities of peaceful cooperation among Europeans. The organization of this idea into a political project began at the same time as the Cold War, when Europe was cut up in power politics. But the vision went far beyond defensive purposes. The Western European democracies wanted to override two tendencies after 1945: that European states inevitably rival due to geopolitical laws and that European peace always requires a pact system that represents a balance of power between rival states. The instability of alliance policy had led to two world wars. The logic of equilibrium was also deprived of its foundation, since the definition of the borders of Europe in the Cold War required for it was purely academic.

The spirit of the Treaty of Rome did not correspond to military alliance thinking - a task that was assigned to NATO in place of the failed European Defense Community. The community should not be directed against others. It should be open to all European democracies with the same vision of collective security in freedom. For the concept of a European peace through voluntary cooperation of all nations that have a non-totalitarian form of government compatible with it, the citizens had to reckon with special support because the battlefields of two world wars lay on the territory of the founding states.

The great success of the project helped to overcome two bottlenecks for a long time: to make the vision practicable by formulating a common foreign and security policy and to reduce the Union's disparities in economic, social and civil rights terms. One difficulty was masked by the bipolar world of the Cold War. The leadership of the United States was undisputed and strategic planning within NATO was a priority. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union collapsed and EU-Europe had to reposition itself. At least now the question of the common foreign and security policy arose with all urgency. Above all, a workable integration policy had to be formulated that brought the European vision into harmony with the limited integrative power of the member states and with their varying degrees of willingness to reorganize the EU. Before one could agree on European interests outside Europe, one had to agree on what exactly was meant by "European". This required a more precise definition of Europe's borders. On this basis, new security considerations could be made that affected the transatlantic alliance and conditions outside of Europe.

The other difficulty was masked for many years by brilliant socio-economic development.Today accession offers are being made to socio-economically weak economic areas, the stabilization of which requires considerable EU efforts, while the Union is in an unforeseeable economic crisis with growing mass unemployment. The EU citizens are less and less convinced that the outflow of resources in the direction of future accession states is even necessary and that further accessions really correspond to their original idea of ​​Europe. A successful integration policy needs citizen-oriented successes also and especially in the old member states. The equivalent of the diminution of national sovereignty rights in the deepening of political institutions must be made tangible enough so that the necessary degree of democratic approval is maintained for the overall project of an enlarged Union. Minimum prerequisites should be that there is no economic disadvantage for the citizens of the Union and a noticeable improvement in non-economic areas. This equivalent value will have to consist, among other things, in the fact that the regulation of everyday risks in living together is more successful and that EU citizenship status creates greater freedom of action. The expansion of the scope of social rights and safeguards are part of this equivalent. And EU citizens demand that they can move in every corner of the Union more and more "harmoniously" like a national and expect the same legal security. Trust must grow in the feeling that Europe has better answers to economic, social and political change than its own nation-state alone.

A large and growing number of EU citizens complain that the Union fails to provide these answers. With regard to enlargement, one sees the advantages one-sided with the acceding states and the burdens with the existing Union. The EU project shows signs of saturation. It does not define a fortress Europe with definitive borders and repelling front lines. But it can only remain effective if it takes its regional limitations into account.

Security considerations that counteract full membership

When it comes to security issues, people first think of NATO, the end of the Cold War, the crises in the Middle East and geopolitical issues. At the moment the forces are shifting so enormously that the EU can no longer do without a jointly represented strategy if it wants to help shape the path to a new world order. Europe must be able to speak with one voice, including security issues.

For common security and for the strategic consensus on how to maintain it, the accession of Turkey to the EU could be a win for both sides, for only one side, or for neither side. While this observation is trivial, it indicates the need to justify why the EU should be less secure without Turkey. If there has been a security deficit up to now, this factor certainly did not lead to EU membership. Turkey was already a NATO partner of some European countries when the EU did not even exist. Nevertheless, she did not become a founding member or a member of any of the subsequent enlargements. In the future, too, it will remain possible that their admission in the accession area will result in either no or insufficient additional security to overcome other obstacles to accession.

The main problem, however, is that until the turn of the millennium the EU will not even have clearly defined security policy goals with a corresponding common strategy. The debate got underway after the division of Europe through the agreement between the Allies and Germany ended, the Soviet troops withdrew and disarmament in Europe continued. For what and against whom further defense efforts should be made are open questions for the old and the new states of Europe. The necessity of such a debate is also shown by the fact that with Sweden, Finland and Austria, alliance-neutral states have become EU members and the new NATO members Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are prime candidates for EU accession. The failure of the EU to come up with a sustainable strategy in good time in the Balkans conflict has increased the pressure to reach an agreement. The basis for the current approach in the Balkans is still too narrow, however, and agreement on a resounding EU-specific action plan is not yet in sight. The inclusion of Turkey at this stage would add considerably to the complexity of the task. It is hardly possible to calculate the gain in security if you have not yet reached a security consensus within the existing EU.

Indeed, in contrast to the new NATO members Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, Turkey would bring a number of conflict-laden issues into the EU. For each of these problems there are doubts as to whether solving them is a high priority for Europe and, if so, whether it will be easier to solve with Turkey's membership in the EU.

It is this doubt itself, rather than the justification for it in individual cases, that contributes to the postponement of Turkey's EU membership. Therefore only a few problems should be listed here, not analyzed.

  • Turkey was able to move its southern border in 1920-39 at the expense of the British and French mandated areas of Iraq and Syria. Syria calls this loss of territory an injustice that must be reversed. In addition, Syria is demanding contractual regulations with regard to the Ataturk Dam and other water projects on the Turkish side, which, along with the Euphrates, affect a lifeline in Syria. In order to be able to exert pressure, Syria is giving shelter to Kurdish separatists.
  • It is true that Turkey has a common interest with Iraq, as well as Iran, in suppressing Kurdish aspirations for independence. Other bilateral rivalries between these states, however, periodically lead the Kurds to oppose the other state. After the Iraqi defeat in the war for Kuwait, Turkish troops repeatedly advanced into the Kurdish northern Iraq. The army and government repeatedly spoke of the possibility of annexing larger areas for security reasons
  • Although Iran and Turkey have not fought major wars for regional supremacy in centuries, friendly relations have not developed, and economic ties are weak.
  • Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are new border neighbors in Transcaucasia instead of the Soviet Union. Each of these states is destabilized by separatist movements that extend into the Russian Federation or receive support from there. As an old neighboring country, Turkey has been affected in many ways and is struggling not to be drawn into the conflicts. Relations with Armenia, which is waging a massive territorial conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh with Turkish-speaking Azerbaijan, are particularly difficult. In geopolitical terms, the Caucasus has always been considered the gateway to Central Asia. The ethnic diversity of its population and its mountain ranges, which are difficult to negotiate, also form a huge barrier and have turned it into a typical conflict region.
  • Despite many centuries of separation from the political developments in Central Asia, Turkey sees itself as a bridge to the Turkic-speaking peoples in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. These post-Soviet states form the sparsely populated area between the Caspian Sea and western China. Turkey wants to play a stabilizing role where otherwise a power vacuum could arise. To do this, it needs economically strong strategic partners who have not yet been found. Central Asia poses risks due to the political and economic weakness of its authoritarian-led states and its position between Russia and China. The regional instability is currently evident on the southern edge as a civil war in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

In addition to the Asian problem area, there are intra-European conflicts in which Turkey is involved. Turkey could provide solutions in the Balkans, Aegean and Cyprus. For example, a deal would be conceivable in which Turkey, in return for its full membership, would make the decisive contribution to settling the Greek-Turkish differences. In order to exchange more security for everyone, the Turkish-Greek conflict would have to be of a relative nature and not of a fundamental nature. Such an irreconcilable conflict of interest was previously considered in the North Atlantic Alliance as a reason why no solution could be found. Can Greece, together with the EU, still give Turkey guarantees and can Turkey then make something in return so that the ongoing conflict with EU membership disappears? A relaxation in the Eastern Mediterranean depends on this question, not on EU membership as such.

The Cyprus question shows this most clearly. Neither the multiple rounds of negotiations led by the Secretary-General of the United Nations nor the efforts within NATO were able to resolve the conflict. All of the EU's efforts have also been in vain. Turkey, one of the three guarantee powers for the independence of the island state and for the peaceful coexistence of the two ethnic groups of Cyprus, indicates, in addition to its protective role, its own vital security interests that oppose all previous solution models. A hostile or accessible Cyprus to enemies of Turkey would make the constriction of Turkey from the Mediterranean perfect. The nautical mile zones around Cyprus and around the Greek islands cover the water and air space in front of the land mass of Turkey. The islands are considered to be the forward bases of a potential enemy. If this enemy can also be the NATO partner Greece, this problem would not simply be off the table through EU membership.

Regrettably, in 1997 the EU intensified the conflict with the Luxembourg decision to include Cyprus in the first row of candidate countries and not to mention Turkey as a candidate country at all. It brings the island Turks between centrifugal forces. It increases the pressure on them to cooperate with the island Greeks, as otherwise they would have the accession negotiations in their own hands. On the other hand, it intensifies Ankara's pressure on them to refuse any rapprochement with the EU as long as Turkey's interests could be negatively affected. The absurd result is likely to be Ankara's decisive action against an approach of the EU to the Turkish southern border, which would be connected with the admission of Cyprus. The idea that moving the EU and Turkey closer together will stabilize security is thus turned into its opposite.

Other factors that counteract membership

The EU has no fixed admission statute. But there are undoubtedly core requirements that can be named as follows:

  • Parliamentary democracy and political pluralism prevail in the acceding state.
  • Minority rights, free media and basic civil rights are protected.
  • Economic stability and competitiveness are sufficient.
  • There is a high degree of agreement with the objectives and the ability to integrate into the European institutions. This does not include "anchoring in the Christian culture of the West". Voices from Turkey critical of the EU rightly state that this colorful term plays a subliminal role for some Europeans.

Ankara is not only ready to meet these requirements, but also believes that it will meet them to a high degree. The following factors counteract this and postpone full membership:

  1. Political party competition has been practiced in Turkey for 50 years, making it one of the older democracies in Southeast Europe. The constantly recurring criticism by the EU of Turkey's democratic deficit has a paradoxical cause. The same forces that consider themselves to be the guardians of Ataturk's orientation towards the West are seen as the embodiment of the deficit in Europe: The Turkish security apparatus with the leadership of the armed forces at its head. They define the framework and extent for democracy. You have intervened several times since 1960 and, according to your own understanding, want to act in the future too, if the democratically legitimized politicians deviate from the path of virtue. The consequences of the military dictatorship 1980-83 with the constitution of 1982 are extensive manipulation of democratic processes and actors, as they appear unacceptable in Europe. Particularly uncomfortable is the prospect that parliamentary majorities that change the constitution will also become irrelevant as soon as this becomes a mistake for the military. Such an unstable political system cannot be trusted to implement the democratization that has been announced again and again on its own
  2. In Turkey there is a growing number of economic freedoms that have a positive effect. The media is developing at a rapid pace and has largely slipped out of state control. Freedom of expression has increased, the power of the censors and prosecutors has decreased. The example of the Kurdish problem shows, however, that the protection of basic civil rights will be inadequate for a long time according to EU ideas. A considerable part of the population and members of parliament are not aware of any human rights violations when reports of such incidents in the Kurdish regions and in some large city districts. They justify the state's action and are of the opinion that there is no Kurdish problem at all, but only a problem with terrorists. That has also been the view of all governments since 1980. They support the line of the armed forces to fight terror with all means and thus accept that harming uninvolved persons is also accepted. Martial law and the state of emergency have been suspending civil rights in the Kurdish provinces for decades. The entire population has to bear the burden of the conflict there. One of the consequences is a surge in internal migration to western Turkey and the flight from poverty and persecution to Europe. Quite a few courts in the EU states evaluate Ankara's actions as a war against their own citizens and therefore grant political asylum. The untenable situation has arisen that a state is applying for EU membership whose citizens are seeking political asylum in the EU. The Kurdish problem, which Ankara believes does not exist, is also contributing to the alienation through Turkish allegations that the Europeans wanted to destabilize Turkey. The terror would have been defeated long ago, it is suspected that the Kurdish separatists did not find support in Europe.
  3. Economically, Turkey has an advantage over some of its neighboring countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania. It sees itself as so competitive that it entered into the customs union with the EU in 1996. The foreign trade integration is highest with the EU states. Germany is by far the most important export country for Turkey, and Turkey ranks eleventh in terms of German exports of goods. Nevertheless, there are economic factors that not only counteract the EU requirements in the short term. First, Turkey's economic strength, measured by per capita income, is many times below the EU average and cannot grow significantly faster than in EU Europe as long as Turkey's high population growth continues. A permanent redistribution of the EU budget towards Turkey is to be expected - with considerable financial volume due to the weight of the population. The redistributive effect is reinforced by the dramatic regional development gap within Turkey. No other EU country shows such high income disparities. Thirdly, the public finance system has flaws that are particularly conducive to the informal economy and contribute to a chronic budget deficit. The result is double-digit inflation for thirty years, an undersupply of public goods and an underdeveloped payment behavior for taxes and duties. At such a stage, high economic dynamism generates high mobility and, fourthly, migration flows of people from rural and economically weak provinces to urban agglomerations. With free movement, they continue to migrate to the growth centers of the EU. The export of unemployment only leads to additional employment in the immigration area under full employment conditions, conditions that are lacking for the foreseeable future. This is known in Ankara and offers to restrict the free choice of job and place of residence outside of Turkey or to restrict the move from Turkey. But such a regulation damaged EU law and thus the power of integration. It would set the EU back.
  4. One would think that Turkey's willingness to integrate and its approval of the EU's goals is beyond any doubt. It signed an association agreement in 1963, applied for full membership in 1987 and entered the customs union in 1996. In doing so, she accepted a "membership without voting rights".The willingness to integrate cannot be denied, at most the ability to participate in the same community of values ​​with corresponding political goals. However, the EU has no criteria for such an alleged deficiency. One can refer to the unifying bond of European cultural and intellectual history if one would like to expand the EU treaties by some fundamentals that preceded the treaty objectives. But one shouldn't forget Hitler and Stalin. The negation of European barbarism is just as much a part of the EU's order of values ​​as Roman law or Latin Christianity. Other elements are added. Those who cannot recognize Christian Orthodoxy or Islam in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as components of European identity are opposing the political vision of the EU. The EU borders have nothing to do with religious borders, any more than the history of Christianity has inevitably resulted in democracy. The European institutions are not designed as a Christian club, but Turkey is not an Islamic state either. For Turkey, the Kemalist institutions are more indicative than the mosque. In all parts of the world, including within EU democracies, "Kulturkampf" is constantly taking place, although less violently in France than in Turkey. French democracy can be described more as more mature cousins ​​of Turkish democracy, they do not form a cultural pair of opposites. If one regards the European community of culture and values ​​as the decisive factor which enables the growing together into a political union, then this does not in itself work against a full membership of Turkey. It is the factors mentioned above.

Limits to the drifting apart of the European Union and Turkey

There are not only factors that prevent Turkey from becoming more integrated. Possible disintegration also has its limits.

The security question is at the top of Turkish politics and has been answered for over 40 years with NATO membership. Increasing alienation from Europe could lead to the exit from NATO, with the result that Turkey would have to secure its security alone or with new partners. On its own, Turkey would have to pursue one of the following scenarios:

  • neutral regional power with all-round bridging function;
  • Integration of the economic area around the Black Sea;
  • Union of the Turkic peoples;
  • Union of Islamic Neighboring States;
  • Tiger Club with Far Asia;
  • non-European alliance power of the USA.

Neutral regional power option. In order to fulfill the role of a strictly neutral regional power, Ankara must build bridges to Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, Iran and Arabia without the support of the EU and NATO. With the end of the Cold War, there is no doubt that the opportunities to conclude neutrality and friendship agreements on all sides have increased. A distancing from the EU and NATO could improve these possibilities even more. However, this is associated with considerable stability risks, which Ankara will urge to be cautious about. The protective shield and armaments aid from NATO are no longer applicable, although the Turkish military cannot simply be dismantled. As a regional power, Turkey needs both military strength and economic efficiency. Otherwise it creates a hollow space between other powers in the region that could be crushed by them. Incidentally, strengthening the economy at the expense of military efforts could hardly be negotiated with the argument that all efforts must be put into non-military economic development. In the end, Ankara would have to rely on a swing policy one way or another. The prospect of shuttling back and forth between the post-Soviet space and the Near and Middle East due to weakness is curbing the tendency to turn away from Europe.

Black Sea Union option. A Black Sea Union could be imagined, similar to the EU, on the basis of a political vision that overcomes the bitter experiences of past wars in an economic cooperation project. In 1992, eleven states signed a declaration in this direction in Istanbul. The further development of the project opened up an interesting perspective. Instead of with the EU, Turkey would form a special alliance with the hereditary enemy Russia and integrate the other states in the region with it. In the meantime, the initial enthusiasm has subsided. The Turkish-Russian understanding did not progress, and none of the regional problems were resolved. Not only current conflicts between the partner states, primarily the Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but above all the geopolitical nonsense of tying the entire Eurasian land mass of Russia to the Black Sea region speak against the medium-term success. Russia's interests between the Pacific and Atlantic cannot be subordinated to an inland sea region. One could now think of excluding the Russian Federation entirely or with the exception of insignificant provincial districts. One would then have a neo-Ottoman union of Muslim and Christian peoples of the lost Ottoman Empire. Without stable EU ties, this smaller group is just as absurd, because it prevents the necessary alliance between the two most important countries bordering the Black Sea. The attraction of Turkey alone is definitely too low to pull Greece out of the EU or Ukraine out of the Russian and Central European zone of influence. Therefore, the Black Sea Union is not an option that creates special incentives for growing distancing from the EU.

Turkic network option. The Greater Turkish approach is based on the Central Asian region of origin of the Turkish language and the Turkic peoples as a cultural community. The associated turning away from Europe is being slowed down by several factors. Firstly, the inconsistencies in the Pan-Turkish idea cause tensions in the Greater Turkish region, no different from those in Pan-Germanism or Pan-Slavism. In "Turkestan" (South Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and in the Caucasus (Azerbaijan), no Greater Turkish Empire is remembered that existed under the leadership of Ankara or under any other power. You don't want to exchange Russian for Turkish tutelage. The process of rapprochement after 1990 also came to a standstill for these reasons. Second, other states and peoples in this area feel threatened - little Armenia as well as great Russia or Iran. China doesn't want to lose Xinjiang. Third, it would fuel the internal conflict between Kurds and Turks. For this reason, too, many "non-Kurdish" Turks would reject turning to Central Asia. Fourth, Turkey, as the economically strongest part of the country, would have the task of supporting the Greater Turkish Union with additional resources. If Ankara only made use of the mineral resources in the post-Soviet space, the Union would quickly disintegrate. On the other hand, since Turkey has so far not even been able to reduce its internal development gap, the additional task of integration would in reality be an explosive device. For this reason, turning away from Europe on the basis of Greater Turkey’s plans is likely to encounter massive political counter-forces.

Islamic Regional Alliance option. There are also a number of reasons that speak against increasing rapprochement with neighboring states with the aim of a union that invokes Islam. The Kemalist state doctrine would have to collapse. The pro-Islamic forces would have to successfully redirect Turkish nationalism to the vision of Muslim internationalism. The reorientation should be geared towards specific partner states. For their part, the potential partners would have to approach Turkey. If any of these developments fail to materialize, the process of Islamic integration will stall. Neither the Islamic historical epoch of the Near and Middle East nor the current relations of the states with the Muslim majority of the population indicate that a successful integration process is imminent. Turkey is a member of the Organization of the Islamic World of Nations, OIC, which stretches from Nigeria and Mali to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan to Bangladesh and Indonesia. There is little prospect that the OIC's hitherto weak ability to integrate can noticeably increase through increased Turkish efforts. Turkey is also a member of the ECO with the core states Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, which has an Iranian-Turkic character after the admission of a number of post-Soviet republics. What was originally an instrument of US containment policy could now become an Islamic middle power between the Arab world and India. The prerequisite for this would be the final overcoming of the rivalry between Iran and Turkey and Turkestan on the one hand, Afghanistan and Pakistan on the other. The conditions for this would be particularly unfavorable under Islamic auspices. The division of the Sunni area by Shah Ismail I 500 years ago, whose Shiite belief became the state religion of Iran, continues to this day. The sharp dividing line to the west that was drawn in the Peace of Amasya in 1555 is still the border between Turkey and Iran today. It is thus an expression of a balance of power between regional rivals. The border population, made up predominantly of Armenians, Azeris and Kurds, represents an "ethnic-religious intermediate zone". As a counterpart, the multiple conflicts in eastern Iran in Afghanistan and Tajikistan are an expression of an imbalance. The power struggles cannot be brought under control by the post-Soviet states or the USA, neither by the Islamic Republic of Iran nor by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In this respect, the ECO room offers no reference point for Islam as a unifying bond of peoples. Similar considerations arise with regard to the Arab region. Unlike Iran, today's Arab states were part of the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs associate negative memories with this period, which significantly impede reintegration under the banner of Islam. The Arab League has made little headway in the past few decades. An Islamic League from the Muslim successor states of the Ottoman Empire is likely to encounter even greater difficulties.

Tiger Club option. The fact that the political-economic model of South Korea or of "tiger states" like Malaysia and Thailand is also attractive for Turkey has had a declining following since the East Asian financial crisis in 1997. In the past, Turkey was not that far removed from a capitalist development dictatorship, in which democratization was only envisaged when the economic growth success would have been satisfactory. However, it embarked on the path to democracy earlier than the "tiger states". In order to switch to their course, they would not need a connection there, since such states do not seek any ties with one another. What would be necessary would be a special Turkish path back to the development dictatorship. Whether the military, arguably the only possible carrier for this, will find enough partners in the economy, must be strongly doubted, and after 50 years of democratization there would be strong resistance from all classes.

Option special alliance with the USA. Theoretically, Turkey could strategically tie itself to the US even without NATO membership. With a US security guarantee behind her, she could act as a Middle Eastern police officer. Without integration into NATO structures, however, this would be unattractive for both sides. In the current constellation, Turkey would have to take a position for Israel and against its own neighboring states. These would move closer together in order to cope better with the additional front. It is possible that they would, for their part, take hostile actions in the direction of Turkey if they do not want or cannot hit Israel or the USA directly. There are also direct conflicts that already exist between Turkey and its neighbors. This increases the chances of the United States being involuntarily drawn into regional conflicts. Tensions would likely rise over Cyprus and Greece as well, as Turkey would be free from NATO commitments and EU considerations. Ultimately, the destabilizing effects for both the "US baton" Turkey and the guarantee power USA are incalculable.

The example of security and international relations shows that there are clear limits to disintegration. In the event of a political development that threatens to exceed these limits, strong opposing forces can be expected. Ultimately, the overall effect would be uncertain, but an increasing distance from Europe must be considered unlikely.

Turkey's European perspective

It has been argued that Turkey will neither soon become an EU member state nor will it move far away from the EU. This results in an indefinite closeness that must not be confused with good neighborliness or equal partnership. The specific policies of the governments help to determine which neighborly and partnership relationships arise.

It is in the Union's interest to keep improving Turkey's European perspective. It should therefore have a weakening effect on factors that it can influence and that oppose this perspective. In addition to the factors mentioned in this article, a Turkish policy should combat the risks of "inner well-being". It should act actively against blockade regulations in the Union states as well as react appropriately to the anti-western aspects of the re-Islamization in Turkey. It is imperative that it do something to counter the false impression that the EU is doing nothing for Turkey because it considers its western orientation to be irrefutable anyway.

The European perspective is endangered by moods within the EU, which are caused by social declassification and social competition, xenophobia and fear of outside regulation. EU foreigners could increasingly become the scapegoat for all sorts of undesirable developments. The EU expansion plans could be countered: "First we come!" If the steadily growing proportion of Muslim Europeans were to lead to increased civil conflicts, the partnership with Turkey would also be jeopardized. Aside from disaster scenarios, EU domestic policy is faced with a solvable task. The paradox of growing alienation through closer proximity, which the Muslim diaspora could evoke in the Union, has only limited realism. Coexistence has contributed to more tolerance and has strengthened civil society in many places. Debates on the philosophy of culture as to whether the differences between Islamic and Western civilization are insurmountable or not have now come to nothing. You can only live freely in the EU, but you can only become an EU member state if you conform to the applicable legal standards. This yardstick is better than the history of ideas. Incidentally, western civilization emerged widely spread over time and space. Your values ​​were once less present in Spain than in Turkey. That is why the derivation of European identity from occidental values, to which the Islamic cultural area behaves antagonistically, can hardly be justified historically and sociologically. Europe's arrogance about Islam is a risk factor, and ignorance phobia is a deeper cause.

On the other hand, it is true that in Turkey at present the propagandists of an alleged antagonism of civilizations are gaining popularity and threatening the European perspective. In the perception of some western observers, this influx is being reduced to the formula of a rising trend in Islamic fundamentalism. If the EU reacts inappropriately to the "re-Islamization" linked to this observation, it will destabilize the partnership with Turkey. Basically, the existing danger does not exist in Islam, but in the politicization of the tension between tradition and modernity. The roots of the rise of the pro-Islamic Welfare Party are certainly complex, and an anti-establishment movement has evolved from them. The "inner state", which is characterized by fears and disappointments, economic hardship and alienation from familiar behavioral patterns, is translated into the simple formula that Islam, which is suppressed by the Turkish state, offers the solution. The anti-modern, anti-pluralist forces in the Welfare Party should not be underestimated in judging their success, but the following restrictions should also not be ignored. The faith and political parties that advertise with the faith are to be distinguished. Christianity and a Christian people's party live in a similar tense relationship as Islam and a pro-Islamic political movement. Accordingly, one must distinguish between Islam and Islamism. Islam knows innumerable forms, so that even within Turkey there are sharp religious differences, especially between Sunnis and Alevites.Islamism shows itself in political programs, which find their answers in self-chosen interpretations of Islam. In this respect it is hardly surprising that Turkish Islamism is not united. Some are nationally religiously fixated on the great Ottoman past "under the banner of Islam" and are mainly committed to traditional values. A part of the Greater Turks is fixated on the glorious achievements of the Turkic peoples and committed to Islam only as the "religion of the Turks". A part is socially-culturally and anti-nationally fixed on the "universal values" of the Orient and is mainly anti-Kemalist oriented. Erbakan was able to hold these parts together with great skill; without it, bundling becomes even more difficult. Another important limitation concerns the political actors. As the history of parties and parliament shows, ideological positions are not the only driving force behind Turkish politics. Politicians do take advantage of opportunities.

Finally, it should not be overlooked that the politicization of Turkish Islam is a long process. The recent electoral successes of the Welfare Party hide the fact that this process was not openly revealed over long periods of time due to frequent party bans in Turkey. Islamists have always been a major factor in other parties and have successfully operated against the Kemalist goal of ousting Islam from state and society. The state-decreed secularization had to come up against these opposing forces; because it accelerates the opposition between tradition and modernity created by secularization. The Islamists are antagonists of the secularists in Turkish democracy, but there are other dimensions of politics. That is why both groups, both secularists and Islamists, can be found in the center-right parties. The current fragmentation of the political majority, which has been outside of Kemal Ataturk's party since 1950, has strengthened the Islamist factor. However, it does not determine the Turkish identity for a long time.

Kemalists speak of an identity crisis into which the country has been plunged by internal Turkish enemies of the Western orientation, by Kurdish nationalism incited by external enemies and by the hostile attitude of EU-Europe. This mood has spread to large sections of the nationally minded public. The nationalist tones are on the rise, with the decisions of the Luxembourg summit of December 1997 serving as evidence. Turkey should not accept to be nothing more than a vicarious agent of Western security policy; it must therefore close the gates to EU Europe for its part. In contrast, the EU states should make it unmistakably clear that they cannot have any interest in a destabilized or anti-western Turkey and that an EU policy with such consequences would be foolish. Apart from the clarification that it is not discriminatory to share a common security policy interest, but to have different views of European integration, the EU should demonstrate its will to improve the accession prospects through an active Turkey policy on the basis of existing accession criteria. Instead of the speechlessness of Luxembourg, the EU should conduct an open dialogue about the deficits and establish bindingly the way in which it wants to participate in the elimination of the deficits. A credible dialogue must include a comparison with the countries of East Central Europe, which in Luxembourg had better prospects of accession than Turkey. Their undoubtedly high willingness to enter into dialogue is just as insufficient for their accession as their current economic situation. This is another reason why the dialogue with Turkey is so important.