At least, it is one of the two major members of the European Union that we have been trying to join for 52 years. Throughout history we have developed important relations with this country, being affected positively or negatively by its culture, art, language and philosophers. In a sense, it is the homeland of many values perceived as the “West” that continued to dazzle the eyes of the world for a very long time.
It has a special place in our trade relations. It ranks third in terms of the volume of investments in Turkey. It was the second-biggest importer of Turkish goods in 2009. It owns nuclear weapons and possesses nuclear technology. It is one of the five privileged members of the United Nations Security Council with veto power. It is the homeland of a revolution that had effects worldwide and of leaders who were the brainchildren of the EU project that offered a vision of coexistence for war-battered Europe. It is the term president of the G20, of which Turkey is also a member. It is in ninth place on a list that ranks countries by economic size, while Turkey boasts of being ranked 16th. It is also a G7 member.
Given such an important history, a big economy, a heavy weight in world politics and vast intellectual accomplishments, whoever presides over this country will not degrade its importance. Being angry with France due to our problems with Nicolas Sarkozy, belittling this great country and nation and changing our EU politics so as to please him or his likes, would be utterly wrong. However, I cannot make the same assertion about Sarkozy himself. Indeed, presiding over a country does not automatically make one valuable or esteemed.
Actually, we did not have to wait for the interview he gave to Mehmet Ali Birand and the statement he made during his meeting with President Abdullah Gül to conclude he is a perfect example of a new type of shallow European politician. Sarkozy said Turkey’s EU membership would be beneficial neither to Europe nor to Turkey. He generously asserted that Turkey’s place is in the Middle East, not in Europe. He said Turkey should not expect to become a member, but negotiations should be maintained -- whatever this means. Turkey is a good bridge, etc.
Now that Sarkozy opted for taking a short cut and adopt childish and populist wording --which suits him fine -- ignoring all the rights involved, the principle of pacta sunt servanda, and the documents signed by a number of previous French leaders, including De Gaulle and Chirac, I do not intend to prolong the debate. In my opinion, a leader who fails to recognize Turkey’s importance and the benefits of Turkey’s EU membership to both sides or who chooses to act in this way because of his short-term political plans and who ignores the principle of pacta sunt servanda, a fundamental principle in international relations, will be beneficial neither to France nor to Europe or Turkey.
I don’t like to make overblown statements but it appears Islamophobia, which haunts European politics today, populism and Turkey’s sparkle have blinded Sarkozy. Otherwise, he would not be so obstinate in not seeing how radically İstanbul, Bursa and Antalya, which he last saw many years ago, have changed. And he would not have insisted on squeezing his visit into just five hours. He should not forget that with this approach, the loser won’t be Turkey, but his own country and the semi-sacred notion of Europe, enshrined in the hearts of elites for two centuries. Just as it is wrong to belittle France and the French people, it is equally wrong to underestimate Turkey and the Turkish people and to make a fool of them so obviously. President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should be congratulated for keeping their temper and receiving and hosting this dwarf politician in accordance with Turkish hospitality and not revealing any weak spot that might prove his ominous theses. Indeed, this is what suits us, although he does not deserve it. As you see, I have already filled up our quota with this very insignificant matter. Yet my intention was to write about the Middle East as the real agenda item. At a time when everyone is focusing on Libya, I will discuss who is next and whether Iran is likely to be affected by this wave of social movements. Never mind, I will do it next week if I have a chance.