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Turkey symbolizes Europe's east-west divide

by fredouil Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 03:48:14 AM EST

I already made some comments on eurotrib about Turkey membership in Europe :

For this moment i am absolutely opposed to it, not because i am racist, not because i do not like turkey (i like this country and i crossed it until Syria) but because i strongly fell than it does not make sense for the Europe i dream, the identity i want, affinity i need.

I do not accept without support the strange idea that this membership can solve an hypothetical clash of civilization and i do not believe that i must be the purpose and burden of Europe (as organisation).

I want you opinion about it and post this article that sound right for me, as bloody french.

thanks


07:41 PM CDT on Saturday, July 9, 2005
ISTANBUL - Move from austere Paris to this anarchic city as I have done this summer, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that the idea of integrating Turkey into the European Union is and always has been ludicrous. Turkey is not Europe, and it is certainly not France.I do not say this merely because the phones, electricity, hot water and front-door lock have failed on me, serially, since my arrival, along with the Internet, refrigerator and stove. I say this because every Turk to whom I've spoken wants nothing more than the chance to become part of the predicted flood of cheap, unskilled labor that would almost certainly destabilize the economies and social orders of the Northern European welfare states if Europe and its periphery were to be glued together and all the borders thrown open.
The French understood that when they voted non last month to the European Union constitution, as did the Dutch when they followed suit with their nee. Contrary to the assurances of many of their politicians, people in those countries recognized that their core national values were under threat by the prospect of an expanded and unified Europe.
Istanbul is a fantastic city, don't get me wrong - it's utterly alive, messy and exotic. But it is sobering to reflect that supposedly thoughtful politicians have been considering the idea that France and Turkey might within our lifetimes be merged into one harmonious entity. Indeed, it is an indicator of the level of delusion that has accompanied the EU dream.
Deep down, the ordinary Frenchman doesn't believe that Turks, or Eastern Europeans for that matter, cherish the values he holds most dear.
Profound ideological differences were on vivid display recently in a revealing drama on a Paris sidewalk.
A shady-looking character ran up the street. Suddenly, a man wearing the familiar outfit of a French waiter rushed up behind him, yelling at him to stop, then charged into him, knocking him to the ground with a clatter. The waiter straddled the man and began slapping his face, calling him a filthy thief.
A police motorcycle roared up. Off hopped a cop who could not have been more than 25. He interposed himself between the thief and the waiter and then, with his finger in the air, began a lecture. Never raising his voice, he told the infuriated waiter that no matter what the thief might have stolen, he had no right to settle matters privately.
Then he said, slowly and quite distinctly: "In France, we have the law."
As these words rolled over the waiter - they were repeated several times - his face registered first embarrassment, then unease and then what was unmistakably a deep sense of shame. In France, we have the law. Not, "There are laws against that, buddy," as a New York cop might have said, but, "In France, we have the law," almost as if, as the representative of the state, the policeman was addressing the untamed aspect of the human heart itself. And then, with the alleged thief in custody, the policeman adjusted his sunglasses and was off.
Take note first of the "we" in the policeman's declaration - it's we the French, not we the Europeans. And second, notice his appeal to the law: These easily mocked people with their passion for abstractions really do take some things seriously. Shame registered on the waiter's face because he realized that he had violated a social contract to which he owed his allegiance.
Sooner or later, of course, France will have to come to terms with the reality of the modern world: Its extensive social welfare system, its 35-hour workweek and its highly regulated economy cannot be sustained indefinitely. But many concerns that drove French voters to reject the European constitution make perfect sense. French politicians may have delivered enthusiastic encomiums to European unity for the past half-century, but it seems that the French people do indeed cherish their sovereignty - their distinct cultural identity, their legal and educational traditions and their social stability.
The one thing the vote surely expressed is the unwillingness of the French to cede any more of their national identity to the fantasy of a unified Europe. It is a fantasy, of course, of very old standing. No effort to unify Europe has ever succeeded. Most have ended in blood.
That's because the treaties that established the EU work at cross-purposes with the essential character of the nation-state system that has been evolving in Europe since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The modern nation-state is predicated, precisely as the term suggests, on this idea: one nation, one state. The nation includes those who share a particular historical, linguistic and cultural heritage. Unsurprisingly, it is difficult to cobble nation-states together into a grand transnational entity. Also unsurprisingly, they do not take well to the prospect of large-scale immigration.
What seems obvious to me, sitting in darkened rooms at night after the Istanbul power fails, is obvious to the French electorate. The electricity supply here has been unreliable because my neighbors are diverting it, causing blackouts. Here, we do not have the law.
Nobody in the French elite has been prepared to say what French voters said clearly - that, even if the EU makes sense economically, it makes no sense historically. All of European history - all of world history - argues against a federation with no force to back it up and no way to impose its will on member states. The French voters recognized this even as the French elite failed to. No matter how hard EU bureaucrats try to turn the French identity into a European one, the people just aren't buying it.
Claire Berlinski, a novelist and writer living in Paris and Istanbul, can be contacted at claire@berlinski.com. Her next book, "Blackmailed by History," which explores the reawakening of repressed conflicts in Europe, will be published by Crown Forum in 2006.

Poll
What is your opinion about this membership ?
. A good move for Europe 66%
. A mistake 0%
. A torpedo against Europe 33%
. A solution to civilization clash 0%
. i do not care at all 0%

Votes: 3
Results | Other Polls
Display:
I've been following the Turkey diaries as well, and I can't recall that anyone has advocated membership as a solution to a "hypothetical clash of civilizations".

But be that as it may:

I agree that neither Turkey nor the EU are ready for each other - at present. But if Turkey keeps making progress, then membership in 15 to 20 years looks more feasible. It's a matter of political will on the part of the Turks.

Likewise, the EU as presently constituted is in no position to keep adding member states and continue to function effectively. But there is no reason it cannot become so - it's all a matter of political will on the part of the Europeans.

Your quote from Clair Berlinski respecting the nation state:

The nation includes those who share a particular historical, linguistic and cultural heritage.

overlooks, IMO, the arbitrary nature of the "nation". At what point do people decide they have more sameness than differences? In the case of France, when did people stop thinking of themselves as Acquitainians and Burgundians (both groups with greatly different "linguistic heritages", IIRC) and consider themselves French. More recently, the idea of the "German nation" practically didn't exist before the Napoleonic Wars, and the invention of the Italian nation under the King of Savoy came even later.

Consequently, Berlinski's assertion:

Unsurprisingly, it is difficult to cobble nation-states together into a grand transnational entity.

is not entirely accurate historically: that is just what the "Germans" and the "Italians" chose to do.

BTW, I find Berlinski's explanation for the French rejection of the EU constitutional treaties disingenuous:

All of European history - all of world history - argues against a federation with no force to back it up and no way to impose its will on member states.

So that is why they voted against a measure that would strengthen the central authority?

Turkey can qualify for Europe. And Europe can become an effective political entity. Why not?

You speak of ...the Europe i dream, the identity i want, affinity i need. Perhaps you could describe these?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 07:01:29 AM EST
I want to respond to fredouil's post, and to your well thought out response, dvx.

First, fredouil, I think it is important that you are posing an opinion that clearly states your discomfort with Turkey entering the EU, as I believe it is important to hear all sides on this issue, and have dialogue about it. So thank you, this is valuable. As I reflect on it, I think it is important to be careful about interpreting the meaning of a whole countries' vote, as there are likely as many meanings as there were voters...and, in fact, I think it is a fairly safe statement to make, that a good number of "non" voters weren't even thinking of Turkey when they made their decision, but rather, about a whole number of other "issues", including (but not limited to): feelings about Chirac; feelings about protecting the French social system; feelings about not wanting "elite" politicians making decisions for all of Europe without taking in consideration the real concerns or needs of the people (not just big business); feelings about ageeing on a huge constitution that was attempting to do too much, etc., etc., etc. It seems clear to me that you feel strongly about Turkey not being in the EU, and I'm sure that others do too, which is everyone's right to state their opinion (which is why I'm glad there has been votes, frânkly). I am curious, though, to hear what you feel would be needed to be accomplished by Turkey (or for that matter, any of the other new countries applying for entry into the EU), in order for you to feel comfortable with their entry? Or are you feeling like you don't like the EU idea at all, and/or want to stay/return to France only status, or what? Would be interested to hear more about what you are for, as opposed to what you are against. I get the sense (though I may be wrong) that you are philosophically against the idea of the EU, and prefer to remain a French only nation. Yes?

(Oh, and on your rating system, I couldn't answer, as I feel there needs to be a question like "not sure yet" and "we need more time")

And dvx, I relate to your response to fredouil (selfishly, I admit, as it is closer to my view)...I particularly appreciated a couple of your statements:

Likewise, the EU as presently constituted is in no position to keep adding member states and continue to function effectively. But there is no reason it cannot become so - it's all a matter of political will on the part of the Europeans.

which makes sense to me, in that in a basic practical sense, the non and nee votes basically asked that the process on the EU growth be slowed down, whatever the individual intention of voters may have been. I tend to also hold a more optimistic view that the EU idea is a great one, in that it is a group of countries trying to create a new kind of democracy (and that the idea of what a democracy is, is not solely how America views it or uses it), which I think is necessary. I also believe there can be a balance where the individual nation can remain true to itself, while also cooperating with other nations for the greater good. It's really exciting to see...but it is going to take time to sort out the details of how something like this will work.

Turkey can qualify for Europe. And Europe can become an effective political entity. Why not?

This is more along the lines that I think about the EU and Turkey, myself. Why not? Why can't this great idea work?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 10:31:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good comments from both of you, I only add a few things.

Deep down, the ordinary Frenchman doesn't believe that Turks, or Eastern Europeans for that matter, cherish the values he holds most dear.

Wellthankyou. The article was full of nationalistic elements and sweeping generalisations (the latter ironically reminding me of Thomas "FlatEarther" Friedman's taxi driver stories), but this projection made my day.

I looked up who the author is. Claire Berlinski is a soft version of Ann Coulter: a conservative American who also lived in Britain, France and East Asia, and who has written to the Weekly Standard (the neocon flagship), and the National Review (until recently paleocon hard-right), plus Manager Magazine.

In short, no surprise at all...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 12:28:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to react to the article as well, as it is full of contradictions and wishful thinking.

The French are right to defend their national model because that's where real sovereignty and democracy is, but at the same time their model is fucked up and they need a serious wake up call from being coddled and over protected... Right.

This is a case of a right wing anglo euroskeptic (what's the right spelling of that word, btw?!) writer whose racism (Turks are poor and messy) overwhelms the desire to smack the French for being obsolete... Strange bedfellows.

Anyway, i recommended the diary because we should keep on discussing this topic, but I strongly disagree with the idea that Turkish membership will start a wave of immigration to rich Europe (I agree that the fear exists, and that politicians play that card a lot, but I think it is utterly false). Again:

  • the Turks are already here in Europe;
  • the experience of previous enlargements, especially Spain and Portugal, shows that it triggers migrations the other way round as people go back to take advantage of the opportunities in their home country;
  • quite simply, we are very likely to need them to stave off population decline in countries like Germany.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 01:57:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
quite simply, we are very likely to need them to stave off population decline in countries like Germany.

A need, as you probably remember, I don't believe in :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 02:19:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
euroskeptic (what's the right spelling of that word, btw?!)

If you're American it's with the "k", if you're British it's with the "c".

Pax

Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 03:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I looked up who the author is. Claire Berlinski is a soft version of Ann Coulter: a conservative American who also lived in Britain, France and East Asia, and who has written to the Weekly Standard (the neocon flagship), and the National Review (until recently paleocon hard-right), plus Manager Magazine.

Ugh...good catch on this...a neo-con saying something on behalf of the French?!?! Uh, yea...

Be careful about who you choose use as resources on your opinion pieces.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 03:44:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Something tells me that you wouldn't vote for Turkey if it was transformed overnight into a replica of Marseilles.
by Upstate NY on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 10:29:00 AM EST
As an American I don't have a say in this, nor any direct personal concerns about it one way or the other. It is a curious situation to compare, say, Hawaii to Maine. Hawaii is an Island paradise (except Honolulu) with a tropical climate, plenty of brown-skinned Hawaiians and Asians, and a relaxed culture. Maine is a wilderness (except Portland) of untamed forest, with a nasty climate 10 months of the year, an almost entirely caucasian population, and a work ethic based on "if you don't work now while it's warm, you'll freeze to death this winter."

On the other hand, both states have McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Chevrolet/Toyota SUVs, similar tax systems, similar attitudes towards politics, and everybody watches the same TV programs and pays the same interest rate for loans.

We're heterogeneous in some ways, and homogeneous in others. We pretty much all speak the same language, we use the same money, we vote in the same national elections. We can move freely from one state or another, but I bet that 99% of Mainiacs would not even consider moving to Hawaii, nor 99% of Hawaiians to Maine.

So in our federal system there is still a big contrast between states, and freedom of movement, but that movement has already pretty much taken place. (Exception: A general slow migration towards the southwest.)

What would it take to get France and Turkey "equalized" in such a fashion?

by asdf on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 10:32:56 AM EST
I guess the enforcement of the same; however, I don't wish such an 'equalizement' in the EU (viva la différence and al that). In fact, I don't wish such within a nation state either.

BTW, I wonder how the USA would look today, had there not been the big state-sponsored building of suburbia from after WWII. The programme, in part motivated by the wish to spread the population to increase the number of potential survivors of a nuclear war, in part as a measure to both settle and please returning GIs, first created the uniform living conditions that made moving much much easier, and thus also levelled cultural differences.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 12:38:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I never heard that suburbanization had anything to do with surviving a nuclear war.

I thought it was to give the returning GIs the opportunity to fulfill the American Dream, i.e. detached house and a car. If you go out of the east coast cities into the midwest, you'll find that most people, when they get the money, build 1500 square foot houses on quarter acre lots. That's pretty much been a standard since the beginning of the country: That's how New England was built in colonial times and that's how Mound City Missouri was built, for example.

One other point is that as America grew there was a lot of open space. So people who wanted to stay in the east coast cities did so and the ones who wanted out of the cities moved west. That's still an option--there are huge, huge, huge tracts of undeveloped land throughout the western part of this country. And a big chunk of the country where the population is declining. In fact, there is consideration of gradually building a new "Buffalo Commons" national park that would cover around 1,000,000 square kilometers. (Estimated based on 5 * area of South Dakota.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Commons

Interesting gardening observation: If you go to a garden shop in the high parts of Idaho, Colorado, Utah, etc. you'll find that lots of the plant varieties are "Siberian" this or that--because the climate of the high prarie in the U.S. is comparable to parts of rural Russia. It's ironic that there are many people in America who dream of retiring to Montana but so very few people in Europe who voluntarily choose to live in the Krasnoyarsk Krai.

by asdf on Sun Jul 10th, 2005 at 02:45:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Assuming everything goes well Turkey is due to join in ten or twelve years. Hmmh. Care to cast your mind back on Spain or Portugal a dozen years before membership? You know, just emerging from dictatorship with still considerable irredentist right wing blocks along with large and powerful communist parties.  Places which were basically rich third world countries whose citizens were just ending a tradition of emigration to South America in search of a better life.  Greece and Ireland were also incredibly poor.  Hell, have you been to southern Italy even now?

Or to name a place I am personally familiar with - Poland. I remember my phone back in the early nineties; a phone which had a mind of its own.  Some days it worked pretty well. Most days, however, were... interesting.  The days when there was simply no dial tone were perhaps the best. Much better than the times the phone fixated on some random number, no matter what you actually dialed (I remember one morning when I needed to call in sick and the phone insisted on calling some increasingly iritated hungover guy) or the ones when it dialed all sorts of numbers, any number, just not the one you were calling.  Rules and regulations - you've got to be kidding me. The bazaars sold anything and everything. Mostly dirt cheap and horrible quality food and clothing, but also guns, porn, id's, pirated music and movies, illegal cigarettes, prostitutes... everything, right in the open in broad daylight. Getting around by car at night was fun - the streetlights in Warsaw all turned off around 11 - enjoy the free for all.Or the police force - hah.   And the poverty - sweet god. Poland is still an incredibly poor place by Western standards in the countryside and the small towns, but back then it was worse and even the cities were destitute. Doctors and engineers travelling to Western Europe to earn money as casual labourers.

So sorry, I don't think much of the article.

by MarekNYC on Mon Jul 11th, 2005 at 01:02:15 AM EST


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