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Erdogan's visit to Helsinki and the Cyprus thorn
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-10-21 08:47:15
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The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is touring around Europe waving the results of the latest referendum in Turkey and expecting the European to reward his effect for a change with promises for a future EU full membership. That’s the one side the other side is that the Turkish Prime Minister knows well that the Cypriot thorn has become much more than an Achilles heal to the Turkish European dreams and the more time spent without a solution the more further away the European highway looks.

The last two days we saw the Turkish Prime Minister in Helsinki which actually marks the first visit of a Turkish prime minister to the Finnish capital the last thirty-two years; actually it marks the Turkish desperation for allies especially after the latest EU decision for direct trade with Northern Cyprus. Friends and allies is something Turkey needs in Europe and things lately don’t help. Merkel had often targeted the Turkish minority in Germany and she was the first to talk about a non member relationship with privileges something that the Turks strongly reject. France had never been a strong Turkish membership supporter and Sarkozy is following Chirac’s policy regarding Turkey, keep them in the hall way for the eternity.

Belgium, Holland and Denmark have changed a lot the last few years and with Austria in the club they don’t feel comfortable with a Turkish membership mainly scared of the waves of Turks that might decide that an EU passport opens new possibilities in countries that have already problem with immigration. In Italy it is Berlusconi but when you have Berlusconi for an ally you don’t need foes and Britain has always been an ally due to purely geopolitical reasons and not because they really feel as allies. After all Britain keeping away from the Maastricht treaty has made sure that not all the EU laws including immigrants movement applies in British soil. So for Cameron and every British government the last thirty years help to Turkey is just another diplomacy game.

The easts European have been always suspicious to a Turkish membership and that’s why Turkish diplomacy has kept diplomatically away from them. Some of them have still alive memories from the Ottoman Empire period and they find it difficult to forget. Spaniards and Portuguese are positive but the same time is in stand by motion waiting to see how the northerners will react. For most of them Turkey looked very attractive the last three decades as the hundred million people market but then two things made them more careful, first of all the political situation with the army in a very dark role often making things very complicate for trade and then the real trade market of the Turkish people who doesn’t seem to be in the levels of other nations even African or south American.

Oddly what is left to the Turks is Greece – which is not exactly an encouraging sign – and the Greek support depends a lot in the Turkish behaviour to a series of issues including the disputes in the Aegean sea and of course the Cyprus issue. And of course the other possible allies in the effect for a membership are the Scandinavians; but here the problems have a different dimension. Sweden traditionally has been very sensitive to human rights issues and the Turkish record regarding human rights is probably Europe’s worst by far. Finland from the other side is more flexible, without having a critical vote in the EU decision making centres can be a good ally as long Finnish products – including army products – find their way in the Turkish market and in the situation Turkey’s membership has fallen at the moment any ally is a good ally and a visit of a Turkish Prime minister the first after thirty-two years is worth its money. At least here in Finland Erdogan knows that he will face some soft criticism but mostly he will find a friendly solder to cry and complain that despite all his effects the other Europeans don’t seem to appreciate him and his country.

The truth is that under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan a lot of things have change in Turkey and hopefully after the latest referendum to do the necessary constitutional changes much more will change; furthermore a victory at the coming election for the Turkish parliament will establish Erdogan as the man who brought Turkey to the 21st century. This is great for the Turkish republic and the Turkish people but it is not enough for an EU membership, and they might satisfy the geopolitical margins of the British government but they will never suppression the fears of the British, French, German public and the British, French and German elect the governments and whatever we say politicians take in serious account public opinion. So Turkey has a long way before persuading the European public that they can be EU members.

And then it is the Cypriot thorn. Leaving apart that there was an invasion and there is an occupation in European soil leaving Europeans numb in front of the problem, Turkey has complicate the situation as much Israel complicated the situation in the Gaza strip the last three decades. Since 1974 nearly a hundred thousands settlers have moved from the further east and poorest sides of Turkey armed with a lot of nationalism, plenty of money and endless promises for life in paradise to Northern Cyprus. These people were moved there to establish a new reality and they have creating more problems to Turkey than to any other in long term. Most of them already second generation enjoying the endless funding and support from mother Turkey soppy from a blind chauvinism are not willing to do any compromises creating problems not only to the negotiations for a united Cyprus but also to the Turkish minority that lived in Cyprus for centuries since suddenly they reduce the real minority into a second class citizens.

Of course there negotiations under the observation and supervise of the United Nations for a united Cyprus and these negotiations go on for the last thirty years but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a Turkish occupation army in Cyprus, a nation full member in European Union with veto in the Turkish candidacy for membership. So what is northern Cyprus? Part of a country member or a foreign soil inside Europe? Very correctly the EU decided that in trade relations with northern Cyprus they cannot follow procedures of direct trading but doing it through the legal and EU member Cypriot government. Another pressure for Erdogan who sees the small island, a group of settlers, blind chauvinism and mistakes of the past becoming the brakes of Turkish European ambitions.

I have often repeat the issue of the Turkish chauvinism but nationalism and chauvinism is the characteristic of all Turkish political parties despite their position in the Turkish political spectrum. You see having the army for decades playing the puppeteer behind the curtains of the Turkish politics and with a threat of a military dictatorship – something that unfortunately the Turkish army practiced often even the last decades – then nationalism becomes case of survival from every Turkish politician and anything beyond this nationalism and chauvinism becomes punishable treason literally. Even Erdogan has personal experience of the punishment serving time in prison. So now we are not just talking about the Achilles heal but the danger to lose both legs.

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visit to Helsinki doesn’t only mark the first visit of a Turkish Prime Minister the last thirty-two years but the desperation of the Turkish diplomacy in front a European dream that looks day after day further and further away.

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Anastasios2010-10-21 21:37:25

I would like to emphasize that the determining factor why Turkey will most likely not get her foot in Europe's club is Turkey’s texture itself. I mean specifically it is because of its population, fused with an undesirable socio-political state of being. The Turks like to view this as prejudice against them. Partly it could be so, but it does work against them. All the beautifying arguments about a growing emerging market that is so youthful, and a population that will end up being good customers to Europe’s industries are weak when one looks at what Turkey is - a staunchly backward state with an illusion of grandeur at the expense of others, whose many citizens may choose to move to Europe, if given a chance. No European likes this prospect.

But there is one thing that impresses me in a very negative way. It is the Cyprus situation and the arguments posed by the Turks. Let us argue that whatever they claim about Greece’s intentions on Cyprus were true. That indeed Greece at some point tried t annex Cyprus. I am referring to the idiotic Ioannidis, who I think ended up dying in jail, for high treason. So, how is this justifying you, another country to occupy a foreign land’s territory on the premise that someone else tried to do the same thing? Mind you, when this argument runs they resort to the one about Turkish Cypriots being oppressed by the Turks? So, how is this justifying you to occupy a foreign land’s territory? How? Why would I ever want you to become a close partner, under such circumstances?

Equally sad is my realization that the issue of the occupied Cypriot territory by the Turks is not an honest reason way Europeans keep Turkey out. Cyprus is, and will be used as an excuse, when there is a need. Moreover, if Europe indeed wanted Turkey in they would twist Cyprus’s arm in unforgettable ways, the moment Cyprus objected… I would like to close with the following: I have been to many European countries as well as had the opportunity to spend time in Turkey for business purposes. Turks are not Europeans. They do not have a positive view of Europeans and most importantly they do not think as Europeans.

Anastasios2010-10-21 21:42:52
I am sorry for an error in the 2nd paragraph. I actually meant:

"Turkish Cypriots being oppressed by the Greek Cypriots"

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