Enter NATO with us. Give us your military strength so that we can together defend our borders. We will contain Communism, coming from Russia. We will confront the nationalist currents that are dangerous to us and to Israel. It is no matter if religion is used in this battle. Spread your moderate Islam in the Middle East. But do not come near our European Union, for you are, despite your moderation, backward and different.
This is a summary of European-Turkish relations ever since Kamal Ataturk declared in 1923 his affiliation with the old continent, deluded into thinking that replacing Arabic letters with Latin ones and eliminating the tarboush and the hijab would forge a new identity and erase the long history of enmity between the two sides. It was a relationship that turned Turkey, with its strategic and historical weight, into a mere military arm of NATO.
The best expression of the racist view toward Ankara, despite the need for it, might have come in the speech by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, answering President Barack Obama's call on the EU to admit Turkey as a member. During the Euro-American Summit in Prague, Sarkozy said, "I work hand in hand with President Obama, but with regard to Turkey's joining the EU, the decision lies with member states." He added: "I have always opposed this membership and will continue to do so. I believe that the overwhelming majority of EU states supports France's position… Turkey is a very big country and an ally of NATO and of the U.S., and should remain a privileged partner. However, my position will not change."
Privileged partnership is not the position of the French right alone, as the left shares this vision. In his book "Yes to Turkey," the French Socialist Michel Rocard (prime minister under Francois Mitterand and a deputy in the European Parliament) maintained that Ankara's joining the EU was "a life insurance policy" for Europe. But at the same time, he said that this gift should come in 2023, on the centennial celebration of Turkey's founding, after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. Until then, the EU should work on gradually absorbing Turkey into its institutions, through a privileged partnership that will see it abandon its cultural criteria, to be in line with European standards. Rocard does not forget to recommend that it join, beginning now, common security policies, in order to participate in achieving geopolitical goals for Europe. These include standing up to Iran, and assisting in the control of sources of oil.
The European left and right want Ataturk's military, but not its culture. The ruling Justice and Development Party, with its moderate Islam, will remain outside the gates, to fend off attacks and spread its message in its own surroundings. It has now begun to play this role, by trying to recover the Ottoman relations, albeit modified, with the Middle East and Central Asia.
*Published in the London-based AL-HAYAT on April 7.