Muslim Turkey abandoning hopes to join Christian EU

Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The European parliament on 24 November voted overwhelmingly to end EU accession talks with Turkey. The majority of lawmakers in the European Parliament voted to halt membership talks with Turkey after Ankara's post-coup crackdown on the opposition with potential ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.  

More than 110,000 people in Turkey - including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists and Kurdish leaders - have been suspended from their positions or dismissed over their alleged backing for the plotters of a failed military coup in July. Some 36,000 have been arrested and media outlets have been shut.

The European parliament members voting in Strasbourg said the parliament "strongly condemns the disproportionate repressive measures taken in Turkey since the failed military coup attempt (in July last)." The anti-Turkey resolution was approved by 479 votes to 37, with 107 abstentions.

The Turkish EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, reacted promptly to the vote, calling it "null and void" and saying it "breached basic European values." He said that the European Parliament "loses perspective when it comes to Turkey."

His comments echo those of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the vote.

Addressing a meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on Wednesday, President Erdogan said: "Let me say this in advance... Whatever the result is, in our eyes this vote has no value."

"This country's struggle for its stability and future won't be interrupted by (European legislators') raising and lowering their hands," Erdogan said. "This nation has shown the world (during the failed coup attempt) that it is not a fair-weather democrat and that it will risk its life for its rights, its freedoms and its honor."

Erdogan called on countries of the OIC to stand up to the West where, he said, Muslims were being confronted with "double standards, prejudice, alienation" and were being attacked.

 Erdogan has suggested that Turkey could hold a referendum on the future of Turkey's EU negotiations and that his country could join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia and China, as an alternative to the EU.

Nearly three decades after its official bid to join the European club, Turkey is not yet a European Union member. Talks on possible EU membership for Turkey have been taking place since 1963, when Ankara and Brussels drafted an association agreement stating the country would aim to be a member of the bloc.

According to Reuters, President Erdogan, and many Turks, were angered by the Western response to the failed coup, viewing it as more concerned about the rights of the plotters than the gravity of the events themselves, in which more than 240 people were killed as rogue soldiers commandeered fighter jets and tanks.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has revived his pet topic of joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in place of the European Union, Turkish journalist Semih Idiz says adding: His call comes at a time when Turkey's ties with the West are at an all-time low because of Ankara's refusal to meet Western standards of democracy, veering toward authoritarian rule instead.

The SCO is defined as "a Eurasian political, economic and military organization." Joining it would mean a radical change of sides for Turkey, Idiz said and warned that if it were to happen, it would also have serious regional and global ramifications, since Ankara would most probably have to not only give up on its EU bid, but also its NATO membership.

Europe, in turn, is reluctant to clamp down on political supporters or alleged members of the so-called Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization, the group accused by Ankara of planning the failed coup on July 15, Idiz pointed out. The same reluctance is seen with regard to political supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), despite the fact that the EU has also listed the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Erdogan said he had broached the subject with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. "If Turkey takes its place in the Shanghai 5, this will enable it to act with greater ease," Erdogan said.

Turkey is currently a "dialogue partner" of the SCO, which is dominated by Russia and China. The other members are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan are currently undergoing accession processes. Iran also wants to join.

There were cautiously encouraging responses from Russia and China to Erdogan. Aleksey Pushkov, the chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a Tweet, "Membership in the SCO would be a logical step for Erdogan" because "unlike the EU, SCO members are totally independent." Pushkov added, however, that "the SCO is different than the EU, which it couldn't replace."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said they attached great importance to Turkey's wish to strengthen its ties with the SCO. "We are willing, together with other members of the [SCO] and in accordance with the rules of its legal documents, to seriously study [Erdogan's call] on the basis of consensus consultation," Geng said.
In December 2010, The Guardian reported that previously secret cables sent from the US embassy to the Holy See in Rome indicated that the pope is responsible for the Vatican's growing hostility towards Turkey joining the EU.

In 2004 Cardinal Ratzinger, the future pope, spoke out against letting a Muslim state join, although at the time the Vatican was formally neutral on the question.

The cable released by WikiLeaks shows that Ratzinger was the leading voice behind the Holy See's unsuccessful drive to secure a reference to Europe's "Christian roots" in the EU constitution. The US diplomat noted that Ratzinger "clearly understands that allowing a Muslim country into the EU would further weaken his case for Europe's Christian foundations".

The Vatican's acting foreign minister, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, responded by telling US diplomats that Ratzinger's comments were his own rather than the official Vatican position.

But by 2006 Parolin was working for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and his tone had distinctly chilled. "Neither the pope nor the Vatican have endorsed Turkey's EU membership per se," he told the American charge d'affaires. "

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011@

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2016 on page no. 16

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