Turkey in the EU?

Turkey in the EU?

Following the EU’s recent de facto decision to open membership talks with Turkey in 2005, those fiercly opposed to Turkish membership will probably be very interested in funding field research of the country’s social reality now. Such research will certainly produce a picture quite different from the one painted by Turkish diplomats.

Tonight, AFP tells us about a study conducted by the Turkish chamber of medical doctors (link in German) revealing that at least 58% of women in Turkey are subject to domestic violence. Now I don’t know whether the study is reliable or the comparable figures for Western Europe – but I am quite confident they will be a tiny fraction of the Turkish figure.

And there’s one more thing – definitions. While there’s no justification for any kind of domestic violence, I suspect that those interviewed do have a more relaxed understanding of the term “violence” than most people over here. Thus, the figure is likely a lot higher from a western point of view than even the 58% revealed now.

Such firmly socialised behavior will not easily change, even if Europe would agree to make “real”, as opposed to “formal”, social change a prerequisite of Turkish membership (which it certainly won’t). Paper is patient. On paper, Turkish women and men have the same legal status since 1923.

But apart from geo-strategic arguments, the most important argument of those promoting Turkish membership is that of membership as “change-agent”, of importing “real” modern governance and modern social institutions through economic and political integration. It is an argument that certainly deserves to be taken seriously.

But I have to say that I have serious doubts about its actual validity in the Turkish case. EU membership would probably help to reduce culturally induced problems like domestic violence a little bit (well, changing statistical methods and perception might also cause it to rise statistically), especially through extended economic exchange. But such change would certainly take much longer than the time horizon of any European politician can possibly be.

So, geo-strategy aside for the moment, the big question behind the Turkish entry is whether the EU want to either embark on a huge benevolent neo-colonialist adventure to prove that it is not a “Christian Club” or simply ignore such cultural practices in a member state. Both alternatives cannot be appealing to a community that considers itself a ommunity of values, not just treaties. It’s a big catch 22, that Turkish membership application.

Currently, I am against the adventure. But the debate has only just begun. And I am always open to suggestions.