Saturday, November 13, 2010

Republic of Turkey

The Republic of Turkey is a Eurasian country about the size of Texas. After WWI, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and parts of it were occupied by the Allies. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk led a successful resistance and established the modern country in 1923. Today, Turkey is a democratic, secular country.

Only 3% of Turkey is in Europe. The rest is in Asia, really the Middle East.  However Turkey participates in all European sporting events and contests. In 2005 the country began full membership negotiations to join the EU but the earliest it would be allowed to join is in 2013. There are pros and cons for Europe if Turkey joins the EU but it looks like it will take a while.

Cyprus is a major obstacle to Turkey joining the EU. Turkey is the only country in the world to recognize the de facto "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" - basically ethnic Turks in Cyprus. Since Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 (along with the Czech Republic and Slovakia) it has a say in whether Turkey joins or not. This also means that Turkey would have to open its ports and airports to Cyprus.

Turkey has to bring all of its laws in line with European standards and the country does not exactly have the most liberal freedom of speech. Human rights is another issue. From 1998 to 2008 the European Court of Human Rights made +1,600 judgments against Turkey for human rights violations. In order to move closer to the EU, the country has abolished capital punishment, reformed its police force and given rights to the minority Kurdish population.

I've heard lots of arguments from Czechs, Germans, Brits and French that, culturally, Turkey is not European. I think this is code for Muslim. Another fear is that there will be a wave of Turkish immigration. With its 70 million people, if Turkey joined the EU today, only Germany would be bigger. This would make Turkey a power player in the EU. Another concern I've heard is that the country is too poor and that the rest of the EU will end up having to pay.

I'm not an EU citizen so it doesn't really phase me if Turkey joins or not. However, considering that 99% of the country is Muslim, I think that this would help relations between the West and the Muslim world. It could also fuel economic growth by bringing a young workforce to the EU. Geographically, it would be easier for Russian energy to directly enter the EU instead of having to travel via Ukraine.

Turkey has other things to worry about besides trying to join the EU. There is still no diplomatic relations with neighboring Armenia. This all has to do with the Armenian Genocide that took place during the Ottoman Empire and just after WWI when 1.5 million Armenians were killed. This is acknowledged as one of the first modern genocides. Turkey was created after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and does not feel that what happened was genocide and won't say that it was. So that stalemate continues.

Turkey only just lifted its ban on YouTube. I don't know how I could survive without YouTube.

And just over a week ago a Kurdish suicide bomber killed several people in Istanbul at Taxsim Square. Mom is worried about my upcoming vacation in Istanbul so I hope that she missed this one on CNN. The thing to remember is that things can happen anywhere so all one can do is try to be careful. But I am getting really excited about my upcoming trip to Istanbul.

In the 80's there was a song by They Might Be Giants called Istanbul (Not Constantinople). Unfortunately, the dang song is stuck in my head. I found it out on enjoy this blast from the past.

Update: In 2022, the country's short name changed to Türkiye.


  1. Always when I come across mentioning the song Instanbul (Not Constantinopol) a scene from the movie Young Frankenstein pops up in my mind :-) where Young Frankenstein and the monster dance and sing in a theater.


  2. Chrıs, what an excellent post you have written explaining the issues that have been unresolved for years and the issues surrounding Turkey's entry into the European Union.

    As someone who lives in Istanbul, I am grateful that there are more opportunities for North Americans because EU citizens aren't here yet in droves. Turkish citizens seem somewhat isolated to me because of that.

    I agree with you that Turkey's entry into the EU would be a great thing. Right now these issues between Christians and Muslims get tip-toed around. Far better to just start dealing with actually living together and sharing space as fellow EU members because it's going to happen anyway whether Turkey is in the EU or not.

  3. İ'm sad we missed each other in Istanbul. Next time!

    Oh, I should add one thing too. Since I witnessed the suicide bombing in Istanbul, here's my link to the post about it.

  4. There is already almost 10 million Turks living in Europe, 3.5 million in Germany alone. One third of newborns in Germany are born to immigrant parents. People fear that as Muslims rapidly increase their numbers Europe will become muslimised. They will then demand Islamic/Quranic/Sharia law.