Turkey and the European Union: Why Exclusion is Wrong

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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More on this topic from Dean Richards:

Things You Shouldn’t Think You Know About Islam

We Are All Ignorant: Social Media and the News

Why The Qur’an Could Be Deceiving

About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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4 Responses to Turkey and the European Union: Why Exclusion is Wrong

  1. Mirna says:

    I tend to get very frustrated every time I try to get a point across about the bad effects of prejudice against islamic countries which of course impends my argumentation. I loved this article because it conveyed the message in a simple and efficient way. Which I couldn’t do, because I was too busy grumbling incoherently in frustration. It makes me happy. Thanks.

  2. Elena says:

    Pray tell what your opinion is about the fact that Turkey is still currently occupying half of an island (the Cyprus you have mentioned as being less European than Turkey) that they forcefully invaded in 1974? Because while I agree with you that xenophobia and racism and this perception of Islam as “terrorists!” is a real and problematic issue, you haven’t even mentioned one of the biggest arguments against Turkey being in the EU. The self-recognized Turkish Republic of Cyprus.

    • You are absolutely right about that, the issue of Cyprus is rather problematic. Since writing this post I have done an academic paper on the topic, and from that I definitely learned how important the issue has been for the negotiations. However, I do think that there are some important considerations.

      For instance, it is fairly obvious that Turkey will have to change its relations with Cyprus before it will be able to join the European Union. Therefore, the fact that that has not happened yet should not exclude them from negotiations already. After all, it will change, just not on the short term, because that’s how it goes with politics.

      After all, it’s not like the issue in Cyprus has a very simple solution: the truth remains that the north-eastern part of the Island has a very different culture, more associated with Turkish culture than with for example Greek culture.

      Ultimately, they might have done the wrong thing in 1974, but that only makes the solution right now problematic. I don’t think it should be so big an issue that Turkish accession should be ruled out entirely: it is just an issue that will be resolved before the negotiations are completed.

    • Although I’m not even going to try and reply on Tumblr because that never works properly, I will reply to some of your comments on here. See, the problem is that the both of you are very close to the problem. For you, Turkey is basically the enemy, and the issue of Cyprus is, for you, indeed not a tiny unimportant thing. For the European Union, however, I wouldn’t say it’s a tiny unimportant thing, but it definitely isn’t an important thing.

      Also, the fact that it happened “as recently as 39 years ago” is quite irrelevant: World War II happened only sixty years ago and the Vietnam war was at its worst around 1974. Yet we don’t go around boycotting the Germans or the US. In fact, until about twenty years ago, many of the current EU Member States were soviet enemies, yet they have been accepted well before Turkey has.

      On top of that, you also mentioned the many things the Turkish government has done. Of course I’m aware of those. I did just say I wrote a paper on the subject, so I did do A LOT of reading. However, there are two things to keep in mind:
      1. Whereas Turkey has made many mistakes in the past, they have made extremely rapid improvement through the AKP government in recent years.
      2. If Turkey is supported by the European Union and membership remains a possibility, the Turkish people will remain positive about it. EU Membership is seen as a goal in Turkey, something to strive for, and as long as that is the case, reform will have support of the majority and Turkey will keep improving. We have seen that over the past two decades: Its Human Rights record is improving, education is improving, the separation between state and church is becoming more and more real and even the Kurdish problems seem to be given some attention rather than being fully ignored. And all that is happened because of the prospect of becoming an EU member.

      Now, if we were to take that away, the AKP government would not last for very long. They would most likely be replaced by Islamist parties and the reforms would either stop or even be reversed.

      In the end, as much as you might hate Turkey, it is also in YOUR interest if Turkey is accepted into the European Union. After all, as I already mentioned, Turkey cannot join the European Union without making concessions to Cyprus, so the further this goes, the bigger the chance that something will actually be done about the situation in Cyprus. And isn’t that what we actually want? Would you rather go around hating an entire country, with millions of people in it who have nothing to do with all those mistakes that were made, or would you rather have this country improve and stop doing these terrible things, so that those millions of Turkish people also get the chance to live in a proper country?

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