Tuesday, October 04, 2005

# Posted 8:54 AM by Patrick Belton  

MAIL BAG 1 - PATRICK, YOU TURKEY: I've been eager to support the accession of Turkey to the EU on this blog, believing it as I do to be the correct course for reasons both of principle (viz, taking a stand Europe is more about liberal democracy than it is about either race or religion; rewarding and encouraging a speedily reforming Muslim-majority democracy which passes the 'Roman ruins test') and pragmatic considerations of policy (e.g., Turkish contributions to the labour markets and pension funds of a greying Europe). A friend and reader of ours, Mathieu Vasseur, a bonafide Frenchie, writes in with a witty and well-rendered set of counterarguments to represent the other side of the question. I still hold to my support for Turkey, but yield for equal time to my right honourable friend from la France:
Hello Patrick

Tu quoque, you are jumping on the Turkey-in-Europe bandwagon!

I find it extraordinary that, 3 months after our political leaders admirably faked humility and said, for the umpteenth time that, from now on, "we have to listen to the people, we cannot make Europe against their will" etc., they go on with a policy that is fervently opposed by an overwhelming majority of the Europeans. And nobody can pretend that it is "too difficult to be properly understood by the people", this time, since the question is quite simple. A great gift to Eursoskeptics I must say.

The EU is a club. Any club can choose its members. Nobody has offered to sponsor me for membership of the Rotary Club, so I am not a member of it. That is their right. Likewise, France is not a member of the Commonwealth. That is OK too. On the other side, the UK has not been offered membership of "la Francophonie". Fine. If you want to start a silk-painting group, you will choose who may belong to it. So what is wrong with telling Turkey: "sorry, you are very nice, but we don't think that you would quite fit in"? That would make us a "Christian club"? OK, so what? I am not allowed to visit the Mecca, since I am not a Muslim, and I completely respect that.

As for the argument that "Turkey would provide a sharply greying Europe with a massive infusion of cheap, young labour which it desperately needs": frankly, let's be honest, I don't think that a massive Muslim immigration would be quite advisable, do you? Try polling the French, the Germans, the Dutch or the Belgians and ask them if they want it, and prepare to be pelted with tomatoes. A great gift for all European Le Pens out there. Anyway, if we do want mass Muslim immigration, we can get it very easily, we don't need to have Turkey in Europe. As a Frenchman, I am quite sure that France could easily get 3 or 4 million immigrants per year just by opening its borders, if that is what we want (we don't!!!). Moroccans died recently, because they were desperately trying to get into Spain. There is no shortage of willing candidates, don't you worry. Anyway, if mass immigration is what our leaders want, let them say so! Come on, Mr Chirac, please go on TV and say it!

Then you hear the argument that "Turkey has made great progress, it is liberal and secular" etc. Great, until you hear the same people warning you darkly that "if we turn our backs on Turkey, they risk becoming preys to Muslim fundamentalism". So, not so liberal after all, if all that keeps them on the "right" path is the EU carrot, as opposed to their own inclination? Or we hear that they made such efforts to liberalise and democratise, it would be unfair to spurn them now. If liberalism and democracy are such a burden for them, then I am worried. Freedom should be its own reward, if the EU has helped them reaching it already, they should be grateful to us, not consider that we "owe" them somehow.

When Erdogan proposed to criminalize adultery, he was apparently supported by 80% of the population. Well, can you imagine France without adultery? The economy is gloomy enough, please let us retain a few pleasures!

I am all in favour of free trade and good relationships with Turkey, but sharing supranationality with it, which means accepting that they will have a say in our internal matters (especially since they will be the biggest member), quite frankly, no. Would Americans accept to pool sovereignty with Mexico? E.g. 3 out of 9 Supremes would be named by Mexico [does that mean I'd get Gonazales? put me down for that one! sorry, i'm interrupting my right honourable friend, i yield back - ed.], social law would have to be decided in common, foreign policy would be pooled etc.? So why can't they bloody well let us, Europeans, decide who we want to pool sovereignty with?

Turkey's accession to the negotiating table is a perfect example of the cowardliness and the dodging of accountability that comes from committee decision. Everybody hopes that the negotiations will fail, politicians make commitments on the basis that it is their successors who will have to honour them, by which time of course these successors will claim that it is too late to renege, the people seethe with anger, democracy is trampled upon and Europe falls into contempt. And all the time, the self-proclaimed elite arrogantly proclaims, based on spurious and half-baked arguments, that they represent reason and enlightenment, and all their opponents are "populists" who rely upon "fear" and "ignorance".

As Maggie once said, in a different context: "No, no, no".
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