"Why did We Expel the Turks from Vienna if We Were to Welcome them Later"

Yasin Yağcı
Progress report on Turkey was finally released by the European Commission. Although it is basically a recommendation letter, it was regarded as a manifestation of victory in Turkey.
The Council is clearly advising European Commission to start negotiations as soon as possible. However, one should not forget that this is only a recommendation. The report can be perceived as a preliminary one, helping to understand how the public reaction in member countries will be. After the report was announced, arguments against Turkey’s entry in the EU gained momentum, especially from senior members France and Germany. There is opposition from other countries such as the Netherlands.

Although the Commission is indeed recommending the Union to start accession negotiations with Turkey, there are some strings attached. Governments of 25 member countries will decide on the final report, which will show whether negotiations will start or not.

There are some obvious examples about this confusion. France, for instance, announced that they will conduct a referendum about Turkey’s membership. Merkel, leader of German Christian Democrats, propose a special status for Turkey rather than full membership. Since the Netherlands, Austria and Cypriot Greeks are definitely against Turkey’s membership, while France and Germany has strong reservations about it, one can understand how difficult this process is.

Why does the majority of public opinion in European Union oppose the idea of Turkey’s full membership? Although the EU was conceived as a balancing power against the US in the beginning, it is more of an economic union. That’s why when strong wind blow in Germany, France get the flue. The recent wave of economic recessions in member countries led their respective citizens to take more cautious positions and to think more in personal welfare terms. Moreover, the impression that the vast majority of Europeans has about Turkey is portrayed by the Turkish workers, who went there 40 years ago. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to argue that for most Europeans, what they know about Turkey remained unchanged over the past years. A substantial part of people genuinely believe that immigrants –especially Turkish immigrants- are actually the reason of the economic problems.  These people argue that Turkey’s membership will trigger a large scale wave of immigration, which would in turn damage the economy. This concern underlies the Commission report’s restriction on free travel.

In fact, this fear is groundless. Reports that are prepared by the European Union’s research centers as well as the realties of our times make it an irrelevant concern. Most of the studies conducted by the EU indicate that Turkey’s full membership would not trigger dreadful immigration wave from this country to Europe. These reports even argue that Turkey would actually be the recipient of immigrants.

In the past, they hired uneducated people who couldn’t speak their language, because they needed it. Today everything is different.

Another argument that the opponents to Turkey’s entry support is religion. Although it is publicly denied, there is no doubt that the EU has a religious identity that cannot be ignored. Frits Bolkestein, a Dutch commissioner and one of two commissioners who voted against the commission Report, asks “Why did we expel the Turks from Vienna in 1683 if we were going to welcome them to Europe today?” Don’t even think that he is the only one with this opinion; this proposition finds strong support from the public. Of course, it is not possible to overcome all concerns and preconceptions. They will fade away when the time comes. That will be the time when Turkey enters the EU, smoothly and on its own.

(April 2005, 16th Issue)

Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07