Around that track
Long ago, I wrote that people draw their strengths from others' weaknesses. A position of power is only possible if one has subordinates. And usually, these little luxuries are gained after years of hard work. That's why people have little incentives to help newcomers or outsiders. People want to enjoy some exclusivity, because they paid the price for it.
Over the past couple of days, I have been reading about an argument I completely overlooked before. Up to now, I dismissed the argument that Turkey and the European Union are incompatible, because they belong to different value systems. I thought this was fatalistic, I thought it robbed Turkey (and other countries who are admittedly behind) the chance to reform their ways. I thought countries should be allowed to climb the world's civilization ladder if they are willing to do so. It was the only way the EU would have a meaning and future greater than itself, the only way forward. That's why arguments emphasizing the irreconcilable differences in identity and values seemed lazy to me (just like it is lazy for Turkish nationalists to argue that we are too different.) I rallied against the fact that Turkish accession would have to be approved in popular referenda even if it met all accession criteria. Europeans raised hurdles like the Cyprus issue just to discourage Turkey from pursuing membership. They weren't honest, they didn't act in good faith.
After a couple of days' worth of reading, now I see how identities and values matter for European people (like everyone else), and how they may feel like the enlargement process is imposing upon them something they shouldn't have to endure.
Researchers group people's and countries' "attitudes" towards the enlargement issue in three categories. The first one is a rational cost-benefit analysis, where people weigh potential socio-economic and security benefits against potential costs. The second one is identity considerations, where people look at whether Turkey's values are compatible with European values. The third one is "post-nationalism," which permits accession as long as Turkey internalizes the common values the EU is built upon, democracy and human rights being the foremost. In other words, Turkey should be allowed in if it fulfills all the accession criteria.
Member states' attitude towards enlargement is largely determined by the kind of future they envision for the EU, and we go back to the "enlargement" versus "deepening" dichotomy. Countries like the UK and Sweden argue for a loose union. They believe there is no reason to push for commitment where it is too costly. The EU is already quite large, and it unavoidably involves members with different foreign policy and economic interests. They would follow a rational, post-national attitude. Even if irreconcilable differences between value systems exist, they would claim that this is beside the point as long as each member state respects the common values of democracy and human rights.
The right wing in countries like France, Germany and Austria, on the other hand, believes that the EU can be a powerful player only as a stronger political union, and homogeneity is required for it to become one. Here are some voices from this camp, taken from Hakan Yilmaz's article Turkish identity on the road to the EU: basic elements of French and German oppositional discourses (Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, December 2007).
"A political union needs something like a we-feeling. This we-feeling is something more than a commitment to democracy and human rights. It has to do with a centuries-old shared history: Greek antiquity, Roman law, the conflict between the Pope and the German Kaiser in the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, all these that give Europe its specific character." Friedbert Pflüger, CDU
"Christianity is understood not so much as a belief system or a theology but as a civilizational idea, political culture and lifestyle. As such, for example, it is believed that the cultural roots of some fundamental secular European values, such as the separation of spiritual and worldly affairs, the separation between the public and the private spheres, the idea of natural rights protecting the individual against the state, and, following Max Weber, the culture of capitalism, all have their roots in Europe's Christian heritage." Hakan Yilmaz, page 298.
"In principle, a non-Western and non-Christian country like Turkey can adopt Western values, without sharing Christianity and Western history. However, this westernization will take a very long time and it will not be completed in ten to fifteen years. A long time is necessary." Professor Heinrich August Winkler, Humboldt University
"By underestimating the concrete difficulties our societies have to properly integrate Muslims already living in our communities, [if we admit Turkey into the EU] we could in the end be increasing the risk of a 'clash of civilizations' within Europe, instead of avoiding it." Sylvie Goulard.
There is yet another question. Would Turkey's cultural and religious heritage, its history prevent it from internalizing democratic values in the timeframe envisioned for possible accession (10-15 years), tying the hands of even post-nationalist supporters of accession?
"Even the long-standing secular tradition of Muslim Turkey does not make it any more 'integrateable' to Europe, because it is generally believed that Turkish secularism is fake, it is artificial, it has been assimilated by a small Westernized elite, it has not submerged into the 'cultural genes' of the larger Turkish society, and it has been protected only by the force of arms." Hakan Yilmaz
I have to accept that these views are correct in this moment in history. However, they reflect a static view of history, they reflect conservatism. What I call for is not tolerance for values and practices that cannot be tolerated. What I call for is faith in that values and practices that should be reformed can be reformed - in due course. Because idealism is necessary to work for something better. Especially if you don't happen to be a European citizen.