By Allen Wolfe
The European Union (EU) recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its genesis. At the celebration, the cake was divided up amongst invited guests, with most of the countries in the EU and most of the candidate countries eating and enjoying themselves. The Republic of Turkey, a long-standing and controversy-ridden applicant for accession, was not invited to the birthday celebration.
Considering Turkey’s long history of involvement in European political and economic affairs, many citizens are left wondering why they have not been invited to join the EU.
Yucel Guclu, a spokesman for the Turkish Embassy, sounded empathetic to the plight of the Turkish people and expressed “hope that an invitation would be extended in the future.”
However, many view the elongated process of Turkish accession as stemming from the fact that Turkey is the only candidate country with a Muslim majority.
With a population over 71 million, it has a Muslim citizenry that constitutes more than 99 percent of the population.
Bulent Kiziltan, president of the Turkish Student Association at UC Santa Cruz, explained that from a Turkish perspective, the EU has frozen the accession process for a sort of “political leverage.”
France and Germany, major powers in the EU, may endure a loss of political clout with the potential induction of Turkey, one of the most populated candidate countries.
Gabriel Brahm, a professor of American studies at UCSC who has lived and taught classes in Turkey, cites a political power struggle similar to that to which Kiziltan referred. However, Brahm emphasized that the “concern about a Muslim majority” influenced the EU’s reluctance to grant admittance to Turkey.
The possible power struggle in the EU is a potential reflection of the “fear of Islam as a political movement which advocates theocracy,” Brahm said. He reiterated the common paranoia of any religion creating a majority within the political spectrum of Europe.
The European sway against the accession of Turkey might have some anti-Muslim overtones, or “irrational Islam-a-phobia,” Brahm said. The main issue certainly appears to be a struggle for power in the political sphere of the EU.
The Turkish Embassy denies any connection between religious discrimination and the tedious process of gaining admittance to the EU.
According to Kiziltan, cultural and religious differences are not a problem for the Turkish people, unlike many of the countries in the EU. Turkey has long been a country of meshing cultures and accepting religious differences.
“Democracy, freedom, free-market, and rule of law,” Yucel Guclu of the Turkish Embassy explained, should be the values the EU holds to be sacred. “Christianity should not.”