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Accueil > Articles > Articles 2009 > 02 - Deuxième trimestre 2009 > EU - Turkey : Drawing a sketch

EU - Turkey : Drawing a sketch

mardi 14 avril 2009, par Hans-Peter Geissen

As could be expected, a look in the local-regional German press -which in general is closer to the average citizen than to theories- reveals that the Nato-incidents are seen as expression of Turkey’s « non-European character ».

The Bavarian CSU, which has been in steady decline for some time, will definitely build their federal and particularly the European election campaigns on rejection of Turkey’s EU accession. While their chances appear quite promising so far, this is of secondary interest. It can only slightly change the overall situation.

But what is this instinctively felt « un-Europeanness » ? It can be used or misused without much effort, but can be changed only if it is understood. On the other hand, if it cannot be changed we must give up.

Looking at the Turkish side, the problem seems to be with the role of freedom. There is a lot of talk about peace, values, respect and the like, and of the freedom which is only allowed if it is used responsibly.

But who decides this ?

Well, everybody can, obviously. But this does not resolve our problem. There we have opinions about opinions, but no authority to implement it.

So, in whose binding authority is it to say that your opinion is responsible and may be expressed, and your’s is not and may not ?

There are some usual suspects : The State. A religious authority. A party. A military. Or, mind you, the neighborhood. The pater familias, also known as the despot in Greek. Yet it may be more complicated and involve them all.

Reading through Turkish comments, everything seems clear and unequivocal -values, responsibility, peace, respect- except freedom, which is the dependent variable. You can have freedom as long as you behave (as I wish). Some freedom, actually, or as we might say, an illusion of freedom.

In Denmark and elsewhere in Europe it’s mostly the other way around. You may have peace, but it depends on your respect for my freedom. Freedom is the condition, and all the other values are variables depending on freedom to chose them.

Besides peace, the most revered value must be love. Can there be freedom without love ? Certainly yes, though it may not be the best of all worlds.

Now the other way around : Can there be love without freedom ?

We tend to think that this can only be pathological : Addiction, rape, captivity -including « Stockholm Syndrome »- or such. There is always a victim, and sometimes more.

So it seems that so-called values, without freedom to value them or not, are just impositions, maladies, or even heavy crimes. The difference is, obviously, fundamental.

Does that mean that we should not act with love, peace, respect or responsibility in mind ? Certainly not. But the first responsibility, then, is to respect freedom, our own as well as that of others.

Yesterday I saw, for the first time, those incriminated « Danish cartoons ». Thanks to Erdogan. To be serious, I found one of them quite witty (I guess you can imagine which). The rest was boring. Subjectively I could not feel what caused the outcry, but naturally, as an agnostic I’m not a good witness on that. Yet I can imagine that they were not liked. Furthermore, at the time I read that they violated the Islamic ban of idolatry ; but sincerely, it didn’t look so much like idolatry, either.

Rather, the occurrence of this argument seems to suggest that the whole rage was make-up.

The more interesting thing was the argumentation of the actual cartoonists. They said they felt increasing (« neighborhood- ») pressure of « radical Muslims » in Denmark on freedom to discuss issues connected with Islam, so they felt responsible to raise attention and caution against those threats to freedom of expression. (At this point I anticipate the argument that this is not the right kind of responsibility as it cares for freedom rather than good manners.)

So far it was a local issue, though with some wider implications. How did it grow into a « globalized neighborhood pressue » ? There were some reports at the time I don’t remember in detail, but one multiplicator was very visible to all : The Turkish government, along with some others.

It may be too far-fetched to speak of « governmental neighborhood pressure », but something like that appeared in the outskirts of our imagination. To make it short : Virtually nobody wants something like that in the EU, including many or most EU-Turks.

So the question, politically and culturally in the broadest sense, is whether Turkey can understand this, whether it can be made understandable that the first and uppermost value, on which all other values depend, is freedom. And that this freedom, which includes all values -even conflicting ones- , must be protected the most.

To me it seems more important for Turkey, for a wide variety of issues and for virtually everybody, than just for EU matters.
So, is it possible ?

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