Islam is quite frightening. Not the actual religion, of course, but the perception most people in the West have of it is pretty darn scary. It’s no wonder then that even after about two decades of lobbying, Turkey still isn’t even close to becoming an EU member, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change any time soon. Europeans seem to be strongly opposed to the idea of having this alien, “Islamic” country as some sort of ally. But would it really be such a problem?
The simple answer is “of course not.” The only problem you could expect is people becoming even more scared of Islam and anyone associated with it if they feel like Turkish immigrants are becoming more numerous. Then again, as any scientific study will tell us, being in contact with minority groups will greatly reduce our negative perception of them, because suddenly we’ll find that these people aren’t so dangerous after all. The only problem is that currently most EU citizens are still stuck in that ignorant little bubble in which Turkey looks like an alien threat, and there’s nobody to prove them otherwise.
The reality is that Western Europe needs immigrants. People don’t like to admit this, but whereas the current belief seems to be that immigrants steal our jobs, the truth is that they take the jobs we no longer want to do. Except rather than thanking them for it we greet them with distrust, contempt and hostility. Not very polite, to say the least.
For a long time now Western Europe has seen its population age, and the point at which every working individual has to support 5 non-working individuals is approaching rapidly. Never before have we needed immigrants more than we do now, because never before was there such a need for young workers willing to perform low-skilled jobs. People who are willing to work here and pay taxes so that our grandparents can live well into their 90s while their own grandparents died back home at the age of 70.
But we don’t want them. Nah… too scary. Different culture, different religion, it wouldn’t work. It’s not like there are any examples of people with different religions living in harmony. Terrorism, that’s all Islam leads to. So that’s why we don’t want them: we don’t want to fill the enormous labour gap, we don’t want to make Turkey into a strong ally that might even connect us better with the Middle East and we don’t want to improve our trade relations, all because it’s too frightening.
It’s a little weak, really. Of course, there are plenty of excuses. After all, Turkey doesn’t have freedom of speech! Neither do we, because the West is equally skilled at batting down things we don’t like if the democratic method doesn’t work (think Ireland or student protests in Germany, or take a look at history), but that’s irrelevant. And then there’s the issue of women’s rights. Legally, it isn’t a problem, but in practice, it’s awful! And surely that affects us in the West so very much, and it isn’t at all as if cooperation with the EU would improve women’s rights! No, we better humour them a little, and keep them out of our community, because surely that won’t radicalise Turkey’s citizens.
There are so many reasons to keep blocking Turkey’s accession to the EU, but ultimately they are all pointless. They either have nothing to do with the EU or they are issues that also plague other current member countries. The truth is that Turkey is a European country (or at least more than Cyprus is) that can be of great value to the EU if only it wasn’t rejected because of its religion and its size. We are throwing away an opportunity, both for the EU and for Turkey, just because we’re scared, and that’s actually rather sad.
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