Last week's decisive defeats for the European Constutional referendums in France and the Netherlands were widely attributed in the media to unwillingness of Western European citizens to accept more immigrants particularly from Muslim countries into their nations. How ironic it is that following years of America bashing in the European press, it is the European citizens that are appearing to be increasingly nativist and zenophobic?
The underlying issue affecting the EU as it moves forward is whether to admit Turkey, who is a majority Muslim nation into the European Union. The Franco-German alliance that runs the EU for all intents and purposes has been hesitant to admit Turkey. Ever since the Ottoman Turks under Sulyeman the Great first appeared at the gates of Vienna in the 1540's, Europe has been terrified of the Turks. In many European texts of the eighteen and nineteenth centuries demean the Turks as an inferior race of people whose barbarism must be eradicated by Europe.
Ottoman Turkey was always a more open and tolerant society than those of Western Europe prior to World War I. For example, Jews who faced much discrimination in the west were given special status within the Ottoman Empire, which controlled the area which is now the nation of Israel. In fact, the sultanate kept several Jewish advisors, and it was these advisors who blamed by many a British leader for Turkey's decision to align with Germany during World War I. Following the defeat of Turkey in WWI, the allies attempted to carve up Turkey (with the encouragement of Woodrow Wilson who wanted the US to control Istanbul and the strategic straits) but Kemel Attaturk, the father of modern Turkey, and the US Senate intervened, and Turkey was liberated from potential allied domination.
Kemel Attaturk was a remarkable visionary, who saw Turkey's future lied with Europe and modernized the nation. The Turks were an invaluable American ally during the cold war, and tended to be absent of the anti-Americanism that has swept Europe since the 1980s.
Europeans continue to advocate that they are the voice of tolerance and liberalism throughout the world. Considering this, why are Western European nations still so unwilling to admit Turkey to the EU, while admiting several small, and relatively inconsequential Eastern European states? Beyond the specter of unchecked Turkish immigration, lies the continued resistance of anything American in Europe. Contrary to Bill Kristol's misplaced editorial in last weeks conservative, Weekly Standard, the French were in fact voting against Americanism in rejecting the EU constitution. The French citizens contrary to Kristol's assessment don't find European nations as "failing welfare states," and are not tired of the "continued Franco-German effort to undermine the United States." The French public remains as staunchly American as is possible in Europe. The continuing quagmire in Iraq has the French public emboldened against the United States, not against Jacques Chirac as so many American Conservatives have claimed.
Two factors led to the rejection of the constitution. The first was islamphobia which is sweeping Europe, more so than the more insulated and isolated United States. The second factor, was the continued U.S. efforts to force the EU to admit Turkey, which after all has until the Iraq war resembled from the foreign policy standpoint, more of American puppet state than anything else. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in early 2001 implored Europeans to admit Turkey to the EU. Rumsfeld even became belligerent to the point of threatening US retaliation if some timetable for Turkish admission was not granted.
Turkey belongs in Europe because it is modernizing secular state which is the gateway to the Middle East and potentially a peaceful coexistence with that part of the world. Turkey belongs in Europe, because of its strategic military position in the event the Russians ever become hostile again. Turkey belongs in Europe because it is more vital state than some of the smaller Eastern European states now being admitted to the EU. Finally, from the American perspective it is important to have a nation that has been typically pro-American and open to American military demands in the European Union.
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- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.