Liberté, egalité, fraternité - et realité

False: If the French did not object to Turkey’s European Union membership everything would come up roses and Ankara would win a well-deserved nod for accession.

True: In 2009, EU candidate Turkey is still oceans away from having truly absorbed the values cherished in the club it hopes to join one day Ğ or so it pretends. If Turkey’s all too visible short-comings have not been fairly put under a magnifier over the past few years, it is because of its "nuisance value," or, in more polite words, its "strategic importance."

False: Some Europeans don’t want Turkey in because it’s Muslim.

True: The same Europeans will sooner rather than later (but most likely before Turkey) admit Muslim Bosnia as a full member. Islam per se is not an obstacle for EU membership. Its archaic, dogmatic, political interpretations can be.

False: The biggest single obstacle to Turkish membership is France.

True: The biggest single obstacle to Turkish membership is Turkey.

False: Europe is negatively discriminating Turkey.

True: Europe is positively discriminating in favor of Turkey.

If a Turk and a Frenchman met at a bar, the Turk would probably think the Frenchman owed him a lot of money because he would reflexively think that the Frenchman was the barrier to the fat salary he would be earning in Berlin, Paris or London. The Turk would also think that this Frenchman was not only blocking his nice salary but was also torturing him in long visa queues. Ah, Antoine, what have I done to you to deserve this torment?

Does Ankara want to win French hearts and minds? Yes. Can it? Not with the current state of "Turkish affairs." Most recent public opinion polls put the French support for Turkish membership at 35 percent, with the ’mais non!’ group hovering at around 55 percent. Various other researches also reveal that a majority of the ’s’il vous plait’ camp consists of the French left. Yes, the French left could have been Turkey’s only hope of winning France. Too bad, there are signs that the French left no longer buys into the illusion that Turkey is run by liberal Muslims.

It was not in vain that Bernard Kouchner, France’s socialist foreign minister and until recently a keen supporter of Turkish membership, has remarked that Turkey, which would be the EU’s first Muslim member, was actually heading towards "a reinforcement of religion and a lessened affirmation of secularity?" Why did Mr Kouchner "betray" his Turkish friends? Optimists would cite French domestic politics, European Parliament elections and Mr Kouchner’s desire to look pretty to President Nicolas Sarkozy and therefore to escape losing his cabinet seat. All of which would make for make another "false." The truth is Mr Kouchner said so only because that’s what he thinks. Turkey is on the way of losing the tiny support it got from the country with which it established its first ever diplomatic relations Ğ back in the 16th century Ğ because even the most na?ve French intellectual increasingly tends to believe that Turkey’s Islamists with the masks tagged "hey-we-are-the-real-democrats-not-the-others" have been embarrassingly unmasked.

"We genuinely believed thatÉ the Turkish government deserved a chanceÉ We feared we would otherwise have behaved unethically. Today we only regret being too na?ve. Turkey has just sailed towards Islamic autocracy, pretending it was sailing westwards," a senior French diplomat told me in Paris. "At times when we were the strongest advocates of a democratic, European Turkey we were teased. We shouted back, loud and clearÉ The same teasing goes on today. And we just bow our heads and keep silent." Where we stand on the Ankara-Paris axis today is the accumulation of unpleasant Turkish affairs in the last few years. You can expect the Frenchman who is sympathetic to the idea of Turkish membership to ignore Turkey when the Turkish prime minister, commenting on a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights, publicly declares that the Court should have taken advice from the Ulema (Islamic scholars). You can expect him to delete from his memory the fact that the Turkish prime minister holds the title of having sued a record number of writers, journalists and cartoonistsÉ Or that he once asked for a prison sentence for a female protestor because she had held out a placard that read "Whose prime minister are you?"

But the Frenchman could not just turn around and whistle when his knowledge of Turkish affairs becomes overwhelmingly dominated by bits and pieces of Islamic autocracy. He does not. This is exactly where the Americans are miscalculating. France is not Georgia where one could orchestrate any color of popular movement. When the French should go to the polls for Turkey, they won’t vote to open Europe’s doors to a country run by political Islam disguised as a democracy.

Putting all that into real-life language? Easy. The Sept. 10, 2008 issue of the French humor magazine drew the Pope and Mr Sarkozy together under the headline "Rencontre au sommet entre Pape et Sarkozy (Summit meeting between the Pope and Sarkozy). A second line read: "Le suppositoire et le trou du cul." That line is probably not fit for printing in EU candidate Turkey, so I shall leave it to the curious reader to find out what it quite vulgarly means.

The heart of the matter isÉ France is an overwhelmingly Catholic country; and Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim. France is an EU member state; and Turkey is an EU member candidate. Could anyone even in the distant future reasonably expect the Turkish government to make legal and mental amendments in the country so that one day the Islamic/Turkish version of the same caricature could appear in a Turkish magazine without prosecution Ğ and possibly torching and fists and bullets too? Turkey will certainly deserve membershipÉ just when it governmentally and nationally is prepared to democratically absorb a cartoon that shows, say, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen with the same title and the same line underneath, or even a much lighter version of the same caricature. Ah, that’s just hundreds of years ahead? Peut-etreÉ
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