EU — what’s the reality?

This Article was published in "The Post"

Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

During discussion with my Professor about the possibility of the major Muslim countries like Pakistan, Turkey and Iran integrating into an Economic Union, I was faced with a veiled rebuke. My Professor, while terming such a possibility as non-starter in the first place, forbade me to mix religion with economy. His contention was that religion was a hindrance rather than an enabling factor in forming any economic union.

In reply to my mention of European Union as being ‘Christian Club’ held together by the factor of religious homogeneity and its persistent refusal to allow Turkey in, he got infuriated and took strong exception to my argument. The Professor could not offer even a single argument to support his viewpoint and negate mine.

My labeling of the European Union being a Christian Union is not driven by any bias or hatred or emotions. Turkey’s unsuccessful bids to find a place in the EU illustrate it too authoritatively. It is ironic that the countries of the Eastern Europe, which were part of the much-demonized Soviet Club, have been accepted as the full members but the entry of Turkey is being delayed on newer counts. A recount of Ankara’s association with EU would be instructive:

Turkey applied for associate membership of European Economic Community (ECC) way back in 1959. The ECC signed Association Agreement with it in 1963. However, Ankara submitted application for full membership in ECC in 1987. Final agreement on EU-Turkey Customs Union was singed in 1995.

It was in 1999 that Turkey was recognized as EU candidate officially. The formal opening of accession negotiation took place in 2005. EU identified 35 areas or to be more precise chapters for talks with Ankara. In 2007, the talks were suspended on eight areas with Turkey for its failure to open its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft.

As Turkey made strenuous efforts to meet the criterion laid down by the European Union, more and more strings continued to be attached for its entry into the EU. There has been a clear-cut divide among the EU member states about allowing Turkey admission in the All-Christian Union. Those of the countries which ganged up to stop Ankara’s entry put forward the following reasons, which on a microscopic scrutiny appear religiously motivated:

Firstly, the opponents of Turkey’s admission into EU state that its culture and values differ from those of the European Union as a whole. They point out that Turkey’s 99.08% Muslim population is too different from Christian-based Europe. Former president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, is on record as having stated that the EU is mainly a “Christian Club”.

Secondly, naysayers are of the opinion that Turkey is mostly out of Europe both population-wise and geographically. Therefore it does not deserve to be part of EU.

Thirdly, the case against Turkey’s entry into EU rests on non-recognition of Cyprus, which became a bull-fledged member of the European Union. Turkey is required to open its ports and airports for the Cypriot ships and planes, which otherwise borders on withdrawal of Turkish stance on the controversial issue.

Fourthly, Ankara is said to be cutting poor performance on the human rights and democracy. Turkish people especially Kurds are bereft of civil rights and fundamental freedoms. It is said that Turkey should improve upon its behaviour to be able to qualify for the membership of EU.

Lastly, there are strong fears and apprehensions among the powers that be of the European Union that Turkey’s large population would alter the balance of power in the European Union. After all, Germany’s population (the largest country in the EU) is the only at 82 million and declining. Turkey would be the second largest country (and perhaps eventually the largest with its much higher growth rate) in the EU and would have considerable influence in the European Union. This influence would be especially profound in the population-based European Parliament.

The above-mentioned facts represent the crux of the problem. It is Turkey’s Islamic identity that is at the heart of its non-entry into EU. Negotiating framework clearly states that “these negotiations are an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand.” The stringent conditions are only meant to serve as a smokescreen for what seems to have been clearly established a “Christian Club”.