Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Turkey and the EU : Cultural incompatibility

This is the first article in a series of articles I will write about Turkey and the EU and in which I will explain the reasons why Turkey doesn’t belong and shouldn’t join the EU.

“Je considérerai comme européens tous les peoples qui ont subi, au cours de l’Histoire, les trois influences que je vais dire. La première est celle de Rome(…) modèle eternel de la puissance organisée et stable, la seconde est celle du christianisme, qui vit et atteint progressivement le profond de la conscience(…) enfin l’apport de la Grèce est ce qu’il n’y a de plus distinctif dans notre civilisation. Nous lui devons une méthode de penser qui tend à rapporter toutes choses à l’homme, à l’homme complet ”
Paul Valery 1922, université de Zurich

In this famous speech given in the Zurich university, The French thinker Paul Valery stresses out that European identity is based upon three major influences through the course of history, which are by order the Greek civilization and it’s way of thinking, Rome and the organization and the order it established and finally the Christianity that reaches the deep of the human consciousness.
When the European Union was founded it was mainly an economic institution with the main objective of promoting economic growth and stability for its members. The time of the vision towards a unified Europe was dominated by increased competition for raw materials in the rapidly industrializing world after the WWII. Thus the 1st step came with the formation of the European Coal and steel community (ECSC) by the Treaty of Paris 1951, the founding members were: Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg), France and Germany. The ECSC was transformed by the Treaty of Rome into European Economic Community on March 25, 1957 during the same year the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy community also came to light. With the years, a political integration was needed and gradually the European common market evolved into the modern European Union in 1993.
In the new Union, economic motifs weren’t the sole condition for membership. A new vision was established, it promoted, beside economic development, political stability, cultural exchange, military cooperation… The new Union was meant to be a form of a unified state with a common European cultural background. But what is culture?
“Culture includes language, beliefs, ideas, institutions, techniques, customs, codes, tools, and works of art, rituals and ceremonies of a society.” Samuel Huntington Clash of civilizations
When it comes to Turkey, is the Turkish culture a European one??? The answer is simply NO.
Turkey was founded on the ruins of the glorious Byzantine Empire but it’s not the successor of the Byzantine culture. Turks are originated in central Asia, they came to the middle east upon successive waves since the 11th century, they adopted the Islam as their religion from their contact with the Arabs and established their first empire (Seljuk empire in Persia) which later evolved into Ottoman empire that expanded over the Byzantine empire in the region until the fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453. So the Turkish culture is an Islamic Asian culture and not a European one. Even After the fall of Constantinople Turks didn’t adapt the Greek Byzantine culture , on the opposite side they destructed all the churches and Byzantine monasteries , and Only Hagia Sofia was spared to be transformed into a mosque with the 4 minarets added along with the koraniq scripts and verses.
The Turkish culture nowadays tries to show as a western culture but in fact it’s “a product of efforts to be "modern" and Western, combined with the necessity felt to maintain traditional religious and historical values”.
Let’s review the basic components of Turkish culture:
Language: The Turkish language is a member of the ancient Oghuz subdivision of Turkic languages, which in turn is a branch of the proposed Altaic language family. The Semitic alphabet was in use in all the course of its history until Ataturk banned it in 1932.
Religion: Islam
Architecture: Ottoman architecture which has influence from Seljuk, Islamic Arab, Persian and Byzantine architecture.
Arts: Islamic artistic traditions and Calligraphy
Ceremonies and rituals: Islamic holidays and feasts are celebrated in turkey
So in conclusion the Turkish culture has nothing to do with the western European culture and that’s the most basic obstacle that inhibits the integration of turkey in the EU, it’s culturally indigestible within Europe.


  1. Although I respect your opinion,I am sorry but this is such an unacademic and biased article..

  2. Thanks a lot for your comment. But where i did go wrong, all i did was citing the components of turkish culture and comparing it with european one.
    I think turkey's futur is much better with middle eastern nations that share the same heritage and culture with turkey.

  3. Hi Charbel, as you know, the idea of European Union is based on heritage of so called Enlightenment thinking. It s secular and universalist understanding, which means it has nothing to do with Christianity. It means as long as you are committed to have human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of choice, you have right to enter EU. Only additional requirement is that you need to be in the map of Europe. And with the treaty of Helsinki in 1999, Turkey is considered as the European soil. Now the borders of EU starts not from Straits but from the Armenian border of Turkey. I am not saying that Turkey doesnt have problem, but we are in a process of development. We have secular government since 1923, and now improving the rights of Kurdish people, discussing the Cypriot and Aegean disputes. And problems regarding to Cyprus and Aegean is not one sided. Turkey did not attack Cyprus just to occupy the lands. Greek fascists in the island millitarily overthrowed the Archbishop Makarios,who was elected by Cypriots, and declared the Enosis(unification) with Greece. It was against the treaty of London and Turkey was one of the referee of that treaty. I dont wanna sound as nationalist but no one could guarantee if Cyprus would not become a Bosnia if Turkish army did not intervene the events. Nevertheless, Turkey now support every peace solutions made by United Nations. But Greek side, having the EU aids, seems like do not care about the current position of the island. To sum up,Turkey is in the process of integrating with EU, we are actually partially in European Union. Our teams are playing in champions league, for example I went to Erasmus exchange program last semester in spain, and Turkey is in the Tax Union for 15 years now, and we began to get considerable amount of money from the EU. Do you think EU does this just because they love us? It s because EU needs Turkey, they have old population, no army but only money, and technology. If they want to be world power and compete with USA and China, they need both work power and millitary power. And as you know Turkish army is the second biggest army in NATO and the youngest population in Europe.

  4. Well it is true that in order to join the EU you should be committed to ensure human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of choice. But also the EU now is becoming more than that, it is trying to shape itself as a nation rather that an association, it wants to establish a common constitution based on common values and common heritage and history. No nation can define itself regardless of it's past.
    Geographically speaking (not politically ), the borders of Europe are on to the Black Sea; the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, and the Aegean Sea conclude the Asian boundary, so only a small part of turkey is in Europe , the other part is asian, and you can check the refrences...In the past this land was called ASIA minor.
    Officially Turkey is a secular state , yes that's true, but what about the islamisation in the recent years and the rise in power of The Justice and Development Party (AK) and their actions in banning alcohol in parts of ankara and insisting on islamic values.. the PM's wife wear a scarf and the PM is a conservative muslim and lately we saw the tensions and the protests in the streets ..
    About Turkey playing in the Champions league, well Israel which is on the border with Egypt plays also in the champions!! as well as Azerbaijan that plays with the Europe qualifications...
    Nowadays Turkey is getting more and more involved in the middle east(ban on Israeli war planes because of Gaza) and it's where it can play a major role because it belongs historically to the region.
    Turkey has a bright future but not in the EU, she can send immigrants to the EU because they need labor force and cooperates economically but not be a EU full member because the EU is more than an economic block it's a new vision for a new Superpower , which needs some common background to compete internationally.

  5. well i guess it would be better if i make my counter arguements in order:
    1) it s not true that AKP (Justice and Development Party) banned alcohol in any part of Turkey. One mayor came up with idea prohibiding the selling of alcohol after 10 o'clock in night just like in Spain. But because of the protests of public opinion it has not approved. So comsumption of alcohol is allowed 7/24 in every corners of Turkeys.
    2) AKP is not a Islamist Party, it has nothing more religious than Christian Democrats of Germany. And big majority of Turkish population is for secular state. No one denies most of the Turkish population is Muslim, but being an Islamist is different thing.
    3) Yes PM's wife wears scarf. I think 40-45 percent of Turkish women wear scarf, but it doesnt show anything by itself. For majority of Turkey, it s culture oriented than religon.Moreover, did you know no one can wear scarf in Turkish highschools and universities? It s not allowed. I guess if we had such a fundamentalist society, we wouldnot be having that law now..
    4) Turkish Prime minister's objection against Israel is the reflection of Turkish societies against the killing of civilians and children in Gaza Strip. It s not about being a Muslim,and the Leftist public opinion in Turkey fully supported Erdoğan for that.And after this rejection it would be hypocracy if we let Israel to train it s pilots in Turkey.
    5) Turkey wants to be a regional power. Maybe you dont see in the media, but we now take responsibility for the events in Caucasus and Balkans also. Erdogan showed similiar reaction against Russia when she attacked Georgia. And There is no more natural thing that we have political connection with Middle Eastern Countries. And now Turkey is getting ready for being a intermediary between Iran and USA. As Obama saw, isolating Iran does not help anyone. It doesnt show that Turkey is getting Islamist.
    6) Which one is more ethical in European or Christian belief; trying to understand the somehow and somewhat "other" and promote integration and understanding Or not being honest and breaking all the treaties which are promising to Turkey for full membership, and promote isolation and so called clash of civilizations intstead of alliance of them.