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Germans are coming, Germans are going

Friday 11 May 2007, by Kerem Balci

Source : Today’s Zaman, 05-04-2007

Put yourselves in the place of a German politician supporting Turkey’s EU membership nowadays. A journalist like Hrant Dink is killed in this country; a writer with a Nobel Prize is spending time in court. You would know how hard the task of such a politician is.

I met seven such politicians yesterday. In fact my first paragraph was actually the words of one of them, Thomas Kossendey, head of the German-Turkish Parliamentary Friendship Group and the deputy defense minister of his country. Ankara representatives of several newspapers were invited to a working lunch with the friendship group. The seven-member group included Sevim Dağdelen, a leftist German politician of Turkish origin, and Claudia Roth, the often controversial Green Party deputy.

The unfortunate fact about this distinguished group was that not all the members believed in Turkey’s future EU membership. Johannes Kahrs even mentioned a possible interim period of “privileged partnership,” since full membership seems to be far away. And we all know that should Roth find a way to take the Kurds of Turkey in the EU without giving membership to Turkey, she would opt for that.

The friendship group was in Turkey to observe the developments in this year of double elections. Observation is good. But more often than not Europeans come to Turkey to find the object of their already-made observations.

Roth had already formulated her observations into a list of recommendations: “The reform process should continue; you should observe the Copenhagen criteria not only in Ankara and İstanbul, but also in Diyarbakır; this almost racist nationalism should not rise any more; you should take the Dink murder as a warning sign; you should not compromise on democratization.” There is nothing wrong with such lists, apart from the fact that they are not produced in Turkey after a neutral observation, but in Germany.

“Don’t concern yourself with what Sarkozy says”

Though critical of her style I have to submit to the fact that Roth seemed to me to be sincere in giving direction. “Turkey needs to be more self-confident,” said Roth. “You shouldn’t concern yourself with what [French presidential hopeful Nicolas] Sarkozy said. You should continue on your way with determined steps without bothering yourselves with external influences. Turkey should regard its sub-identities as a source of richness. I don’t see a problem of increasing religiosity in Turkey. Kemalism and the headscarf need not clash head-to-head. You have to find a way not to make the headscarf a problem.

The German politicians were not ready to accept any responsibility for the growing nationalism in Turkey. Dağdelen accepts that there is a rising nationalism and racism in Europe but does not accept that the Turkish nationalism is a response to it. Her remarks regarding European racism as a legitimizing pretext for Turkish racism are all welcomed. “Racism should be fought against, wherever it emerges,” Dağdelen said. “It is not logical to say that we have it because you have it.” Dağdelen believes that Turkish nationalism owes its ascent more to the regional issues like Iraq, than to the EU.

Roth agreed with Dağdelen and added that Europe had nothing to do with what Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal said about Article 301 or with what Baykal said about Cyprus or with what Baykal said about the Kurdish issue. When the Turkish journalists said nobody was condemning Europe, “Oh I know that,” Roth replied, “I just wanted to say something to Baykal. That is all.

The joke of the lunch came from Murat Yetkin, Ankara representative of Turkish daily Radikal, when the deputy defense secretary had to leave early due to a call from a German general who was in Turkey for official meetings. “So in your country also, when the general calls, the parliamentarian goes,” said Yetkin.

The Germans are coming, the Germans are going. With more and more contact, we realize that our differences are not that unbridgeable.

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