The other side of the coin: the growing opposition in turkey against to the european union accession

V.3. Decrease in Interest to the European Union Accession

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V.3. Decrease in Interest to the European Union Accession

On the other hand, it is important to analyze why the public support to the EU accession in Turkey is dramatically decreasing with regard to the indicators on referendum tendencies of individuals. As it was mentioned earlier, the decline is 24,8 % in general, by comparing the data in 2004 and 2012. The reasons of this decrease can be varied in accordance with the thoughts of individuals. However, the people, who would like to vote against membership in a case of referendum, meet in several points of view by believing and presenting very similar arguments.

These arguments are beyond a simple action-reaction (or stimulus-response) attitude. In other words, their arguments are not formed due to the negative critiques or approaches that have been made by the member states, politicians and institutions of the EU since the application of Turkey in 1987.96 If these nugatory attitudes had been an effective factor on people’s decision, the votes of against membership would have been more even in 2004. In this context, it is obvious that the attitudes of the EU are not very effective on Turkish people's decision, namely there are more influential factors.
The arguments of the people, who do not support the EU accession process, comprise deep and important issues. The main argument is perception of threats to national sovereignty by being a member of the EU. In other words, a country that joins to the EU, lose its national sovereignty. The others are taking shape around this central argument by perceiving interference the EU in internal affairs of Turkey.
In addition to the arguments of the people, who are against to the prospective EU membership; the importance and respectability of Turkey is increasing at international level. Therefore, Turkey started to give priority to its own clear benefits on the dialogues between the counties that can also be seen from the stated declarations of Turkish government. The advancement of Turkey is another fact that has influence on public opinion about the EU accession. On one side Turkey is rising with its power whilst on the other side EU is facing economic problems in Eurozone. These should be taken into consideration while analyzing public opinion in Turkey about the European Union.

In this context, the declining interest of Turkish people to the EU accession will be examined in two main sections. The first part will focus on the arguments of people who see the EU as a threat to national sovereignty. In the second section, Turkey will be analyzed as a rising power at international level by taking into account the relations between Turkey and the European Union.

As it was stated before, the people who are against to the EU membership meet in several points of view that they believe and present the same or very similar arguments. After doing a detailed research, it was seen that these people come under one roof in accordance of four main issues which were decided to emphasise in this same chapter. The first main argument is can be simply describe as the EU tries to take Turkey under control like the Western Europe did to the Ottoman Empire. This argument is presented as a comparative perspective by mostly paraphrasing the arguments of Prof. Manisalı. In other words, his ideas were mostly expressed in author’s own words. The second argument is based on one of the hardest explicable issues, namely the minorities issues in Turkey, especially Armenian and Kurdish questions. The chapter of these arguments tries to examine and analyse the issue from the point of view of the people who do not support the EU accesion. The third main argument indicates the problems between the EU and Turkey in terms of Cyprus island. Finally, the fourth one is the Customs Union that presents its influences to Turkish economy.

VI.1. A Comparative Perspective: Ottoman Empire and Turkey's Relations with Western Countries
Prof. Manisalı97 compares agreements between Ottoman Empire and European countries during 19th century with between the EU and Turkey that had been started after the establishment of European Economic Community; besides taking attention “progressive and modernized” changes on judicial system. He indicated that Treaty of Balta Liman (1838), Tanzimât Fermânı (1839) and Islâhat Fermânı (1856)98 brought about the impact and control of the European countries on economic, political, cultural, and military areas of Ottoman Empire. Afterwards, Europeans started to divide and share the territories of Ottoman Empire.99 Turkey was established on October 29, 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who determined a balance policy not only on the relations with the Western countries but also Eastern countries that comprise the basis of the protection of mutual interests. Furthermore, Mustafa Kemal cooperated with Soviet Union against to the European imperialism to block the demands of Europe on Republic of Turkey.100
After the Second World War, Turkey was not enrolled only in NATO but also the other international organizations that were established by Western (Europe and USA) countries. Prof. Manisalı underlines that Turkey was taking under control step by step. The bureaucracy in Turkey had started to have pro-Western thoughts that caused to create one-sided politics in Turkey. Besides criticizing the Ankara Agreement with ECC on September 1963 as a mistake; he points out that Turkey signed this agreement by aiming to block relations between the Greece and the Western countries. In in middle of the 1950s, Turkey and Greece started to be in competition on the Western relations. However, as the result of this competition, Greece became full member of the EEC in 1981 and thenceforward Greece started to drive Turkey into a corner. Prof. Manisalı also determines that Greece gained the Aegean islands and Cyprus through the EU.101 Meanwhile, Turkey was started to connect to the EU with one-sided relations of Western countries.
During the period, which Ankara Agreement was signed, European countries were under the political and economic guidance of USA and the future plans on the relations with European countries were not exist at that time in Turkey. Nevertheless, in course of time, EEC developed in economic and political issues and became EU in accordance with the Maastricht Treaty (1991) by changing its structures and features after the collapse of Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the policies, with regard to Turkey, of the EU and the USA speed up and the relations between Turkey and the EU were also differentiated as well. As Prof. Manisalı stated “the territory to be brought under control without taking in” the way of perception was started in EU with the relations with Turkey. As the results of these developments, the separatist and fundamentalist people, as well as people who are not nationalist, in Turkey became a part of the Western politics that divided Turkey in two main groups such as “Nationalist” and “the people who give the green light to demands of the EU and the USA”.102

VI.2.1. Minorities Issues
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, minority rights became more important on the changed relations between Turkey and the EU. The requests of the EU from Turkey were not only limited anymore with the economic issues such as market economy. Under the names of democracy, rule of law, human rights and protection of minority rights; the EU determined several criteria that needed more reforms in Turkey. However, those expected reforms were directly related with internal affairs of Turkey. In other words, if Turkey wants to become a member country of the EU, it has to solve its domestic issues that became the major obstacles for Turkish accession into the EU. Prof. Manisalı criticizes these criteria by declaring that Turkey will fall to pieces if it fulfills the requests of the EU.103
On the other hand, the issues of minorities, especially, have greatest importance for the European Union. By pointing out the EU’s interest of minorities in Turkey, Prof. Manisalı also indicates that European Union is in an attempt to divide and split according to ethnic groups in Turkish nation that composed of different ethnic backgrounds. In the Treaty of Lausanne, that was signed in 1923 with countries which some of them are also among the EU member states, Armenians, Greeks and Jews were clearly stated as minorities in Turkey. European Union, however, evaluates various ethnicities, which form Turkish nation, under the title of minorities and provides support to the separatists.104 It is important to denote that he is just one of many who think the same way. The people who are against to EU membership of Turkey share the same or similar arguments.
In addition to these arguments, under the title of “Vulnerable/Target Groups” the issues of minorities and Treaty of Lausanne were also stated on the latest report of The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) about Turkey.

ECRI Report on Turkey (2011), Article 82:

“… as the Turkish legal system presently stands, the term “minorities” is understood to refer only to certain specific non-Muslim minorities covered by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. This treaty has been interpreted restrictively in Turkey, having been deemed to apply only to Armenians, Greeks and Jews (sometimes collectively referred to as the “Lausanne minorities”). Persons having other ethnic origins – such as Assyrians, Caferis, Circassians, Ezidis, Kurds, Laz and Roma – are not officially recognised as belonging to a national or ethnic minority, and are not beneficiaries of the rights granted to the Lausanne minorities, although Turkey has, for example, acknowledged that there are “Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin” and “Turkish citizens of Roma origin” on its territory. Nor are Muslim Turkish citizens who are not Sunni Muslims considered to be minorities under Turkish law. In the present report and in keeping with its usual practice, ECRI has generally referred to all groups within Turkish society that have a distinct religion, national or ethnic origin, language or colour – regardless of whether they are recognised as minorities protected by the Treaty of Lausanne – as “minority groups”. The rights recognised to persons belonging to the various minority groups vary considerably, however, notably as a function of whether the group is or is not recognised under Turkish law as a minority covered by the Treaty of Lausanne.”105

The claims of EU relating to democratization are comprehended as a revitalization project of Treaty of Sèvres106, which comprised division of Ottoman Empire, that creates a threat to national sovereignty by most of the people who are against to the EU accession of Turkey. Two main articles of the treaty were pointing out creation of countries for Armenians and Kurds. In this context, two main questions or problems are come into prominence that need to analyze, namely the questions of Armenians as the most populated minority and Kurds as the most populated ethnic group. Therefore, the chapter will focus on these two problems by taking into consideration as major obstacles for Turkish accession into the EU.
Once again, it should be noted at this point to clarify that the perspectives and arguments which are stated in under this chapter, of course, does not cover the whole Turkey. These opinions do not belong to every Turkish citizen, not even maybe the majority of people in Turkey. However, these same or similar arguments can be found almost in every opposition researches which were made against to the EU accession. Therefore, the chapter just tries to present the general opinion of people who do not support the EU accession and who do not want to see Turkey as a member country of the EU.
VI.2.1.1. The Armenian Question
In accordance with the fourth report on Turkey of The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), “the Armenian population in Turkey is estimated at between 50 000 and 93 500 persons”.107 (ECRI Report on Turkey, 2011: 30) As it is stated, this information is based only to some forecasts. The reason is explained as “It is difficult to ascertain the sizes of the various minority groups living in Turkey at present, as the most recent publicly available official estimates date from 2000 and do not cover all relevant groups”.108 (ECRI Report on Turkey, 2011: 30) However, even if a possible Armenian population growth, the difference of the stated numbers is very large that does not reflect the reality.
On December 2008, namely two years before from this report, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted a report to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on December 2008 about the non-Muslim minorities in Turkey that in total there are 89 000 people live in Turkey as minority. These non-Muslim minorities are determined as Armenians, Jews and Greeks.109 The forecast numbers are differentiated about the Armenian population in Turkey by comparing the ECRI Report. According to report of Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is estimated that there are 60 000 of Armenian people in Turkey that 45 000 Armenians live in Istanbul. Besides the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, total of 55 churches open for worship (Gregorian, Catholic, and Protestant). As belonging to Armenians, there are one nursery school, seventeen elementary schools and five high schools that 2 thousand 906 students are studying in their own language by 488 teachers who work in these institutions. Furthermore, 52 Armenian Foundations are working freely. The Armenian community publishes 5 newspapers and one magazine, besides having two hospitals. 110
Additionally, Armenian minority is stated “as an important part of Turkish society” on the European Parliament report on Turkey.111 By considering Armenian population in Turkey, it can be a mistake to declare “as an important part of Turkish society”. Therefore, Armenian minority can be explained as an important part of non-Muslim communities in Turkey.
On the other hand, the issues between Turkey and Armenia should not be considered as only diplomatic and economic problems that can be experienced between two ordinary countries. Related to events in 1915, Armenians accuse Turkey by claiming assertion of genocide. In order to ensure peace in the bilateral relations, they declare that Turkey should accept this claim. Recognition of this claim by Turkey is Armenians first condition.
So-called Armenian genocide of 1915 come in to question time to time by the EU member states politicians in the context of EU accession of Turkey. In fact, some of the European countries, which are also member states of the EU, unilaterally recognized Armenian claims genocide through their parliaments. As well-known France is one of these countries that requests from Turkey to recognize this claim. In 2005, however, the association Liberté pour l’Histoire (Freedom for History) was founded against to the political intervention in the assessment of events. The association gave its first appeal with the signatures of 19 prominent historians of France. Appeal 2005 clearly specifies that “History is not a religion. Historians accept no dogma, respect no prohibition, ignore every taboo. Historical truth is different from morals. The historian’s task is not to extol or to blame, but to explain. History is not the slave of current issues. History is not memory. History is not a juridical issue. In a free state, neither the Parliament nor the judicial courts have the right to define historical truth. State policy, even with best case will, is not history policy”. 112 Liberté pour l’Histoire determines several French laws as “French Memory Laws” including two laws related to the so-called Armenian genocide.
A bill on so-called Armenian genocide was introduced in France on October 2006 that the people, who deny this, will be punished with one year’s imprisonment and a heavy fine. Even though, the bill was passed from the National Assembly as the lower house of the bicameral French Parliament, but it was blocked by the Senate that it could not be approved.
On May 2011, a similar bill was come out again with the same punishments, but this time, other recognized genocides by France were also included. As a result of these occurrences, there has been crisis on relations between France and Turkey. After passing the bill again from the National Assembly on December 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that “Today, nobody talks about the 45,000 Algerian deaths in 1945 or the role of France in the massacre of 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994” by underlining “this bill directly targets the Turkish Republic, the Turkish nation and the Turkish community in France and is seen as hostile”.113 Even though, Turkish government had warned France for the “serious and irreparable” consequences of the bill;114 after a month, on January 2012 the upper house of the bicameral French Parliament, namely the Senate approved the bill by 127 votes to 86.115 Nonetheless, French court rejected so-called Armenian genocide denial law by stating that “the Council deems the law unconstitutional”. Related with the result, the Turkish Foreign Ministry made a declaration that “…a grave mistake has been corrected by the highest legal authority in France. ... We hope France will from now on be in a constructive attitude for the dispute between Turkey and Armenia on history to be considered on a fair and scientific basis, and will make contributions that support a solution rather than further deepening the problem ... Such an attitude will contribute to the Turkish-French relations to improve in all areas as well”.116
It is necessary to underline here the Fundamental Rights of the European Union which are based on the European Convention on Human Rights and all the member countries of the EU are obliged to apply these rules. In other words; the Fundamental Rights of the European Union took place on the Treaty of Lisbon by making reforms on the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty). In comparison to Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights, it was presented very clearly that Fundamental Rights of the European Union117 is just the similar version of the European Convention on Human Rights.118 Article 10 and 11 on the Fundamental Rights of the EU respectively refer the freedom of thought and freedom of expression while the European Convention on Human Rights present the same rights in detail on Article 9 and 10. In connection with the issue, freedom of expression has crucial important. In both, it is written that “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers”. 119 In addition to Fundamental Rights of the European Union, however, in Article 10 para 2, it was stated that “the right to conscientious objection is recognised, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right”. In this context, all the EU member states have right to conscientious objection according to their national law.

In this context, when so-called Armenian genocide is referred by the politicians of the EU’s member states, it is understood, by the people who are against to the membership, as a created obstacle to Turkey’s EU accession process. Consequently, this situation creates the negative effects on the relations between Turkey and the EU by taking into account the growing opposition in Turkey against to the EU accession.

VI.2.1.2. The Kurdish Question
As a Turkish author, journalist, news anchor, and political commentator; Banu Avar wrote a book named “Hangi Avrupa?” (Which Europe?) that based on her documentaries which she prepared by using her interviews with prominent people from various sectors and foundations in Europe. Avar interviewed also with Patrick Devedjian, who is a French politician, close adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy and his ethnic origin is Armenian. By considering his ethnic origin Avar asked the prospective steps of Armenia in the future and “Je n’ai pas qualité pour parler au nom de l`état Arménie. Je suis citoyen Français. Je ne suis pas citoyen Arménie” answered Devedjian. (Translation to English: I am not qualified to speak on behalf of Armenia `s state. I am French citizen. I am not a citizen Armenia.) Then Avar continued by saying “but you would know”. Devedjian replied that “… Je ne peux pas parler pour Arménie. Je ne suis pas Arménien comme citoyen ... mais Je suis un Français, moi, Je suis un Français”. (Translation to English: I cannot speak for Armenia. I'm not Armenian as citizen ... but I'm a French, myself, I am a French.) 120

Besides being an EU member state, France is a state where every citizens of France are accepted as French. As it can clearly be seen from the interview of Banu Avar with Patrick Devedjian; even though he is ethnically Armenian, Devedjian strongly emphasizes that he is French. His behaviour is understandable; because, in accordance with the French law, every citizens of France are French. In other words, it is illegal to collect data on ethnicity and ancestry. The situation was defined very clearly by Oppenheimer, “in France, where a central principle of republicanism is that the only legitimate identity in the public sphere is citizenship, it is unacceptable for a state agent to ask a person for her race or ethnicity … It is central to the French ideal of equality and citizenship that the state refrain from making distinctions based on race or ethnicity. The principle has its roots in the revolution of 1789 and the resulting Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The most recent French Constitution adopted in 1958 carries forward this principle, banning all distinctions based on racial identity”.121

The reason why France is given as an example is because, besides being one of the most powerful countries in the EU, France has the similar principles in Turkey. These principles are also known as six fundamental principles of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk that also crates the basis of today’s main oppose party in Turkey, which was established by him, Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP – “Republican People’s Party”).122 These principles emphasize the unity of all Turkish citizens and homogeneous society without castes or privileges. Moreover, as it was explained by Villalta 123 “The secularism of the state proves its tolerance in religions affairs, which it limits to the conscience of the individual. The State’s judgment is not disturbed by any dogma”.124 During the establishment of the Republic, the constitutional law and the civic code; European sources were utilized that based the common political values and classical roots. For this reason, there is no difference between the European countries and Turkey in the case of implementation of identity. The citizens of the countries are known with the name of their countries; for example: Germany – German, France – French, Czech Republic – Czech, as same as, Republic of Turkey – Turkish.

One of the interviews of Avar was with Lord Russell-Johnston who is “the architect of Kurdish Report”125 As well-known; Lord Russell-Johnston presented a report named the cultural situation of the Kurds to Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, that he also introduced his suggestions. Avar asked him to explain one of his crucial suggestions to determine how many Kurds live in Turkey.

Lord Russell-Johnston, the Cultural Situation of the Kurds, Article A.4. and A.14.7 (July 7, 2006) :

“A. Draft Resolution

4. The number of Kurds is not known as none of the countries where they mainly live (namely Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey) include ethnicity in their population census. Estimates range from 25 to 30 million, making them one of the largest “stateless nations”.

14.7. paying particular attention to the correct registration of the Kurds at the next official census;”

Lord Russell-Johnston answered this question simply as people can define themselves. However, this is not simple in Turkey, especially, where the people are homogenous by coming from many different ethnic origins. There were and are many marriages from the different races and ethnic origin of the people. As a natural result, there are many people who were born with all ethnic differences. In this context, how those people can define themselves, in accordance of which ethnic origin. If an example should be given; imagine a person who has not only his/her parents from different ethnicity, but also grandparents. With reference to this ethical diversity how that person can declare himself/herself as from only one ethnic origin. Moreover; by trying to look from the point of view the children who are under 10 years old (e.g.), how they can give such a decision without knowing the meaning of ethnicity. Do they really have to make a choice between ethnic origins of their mother or father? If not, who will give a decision for them? Furthermore, what if some people do not know exactly what is their ethnic origin; what if they never needed to learn or they could not learn, so, what they can write for these people; what if some group of people are under pressure or force the other people to say how they wanted. These examples can be reproduced. On the other hand, instead of presenting forecasts and estimates, one can question that why all the EU member countries do not ask their people about their ethnic origin in their census that they can have exact numbers of each ethnicities for their countries that can also present a good example to show the way to Turkey.
The Kurdish question is not limited only with the definition of terminologies or separation of national identity of Turkey; but also decentralization of the territory. Prof. Manisalı points out that since 1990s the Kurdish question constantly on the agenda of the EU that it is easy to find almost in all European Parliament resolutions and regular reports from the European Commission on Turkey by emphasizing some parts of the documents from different years.126 2000 Regular Report from the Commission on Turkey’s progress towards accession can give as an example of one of these.
2000 Regular Report from the Commission on Turkey’s Progress towards Accession127 (8 November 2000)

“There has been no particular change at the level of regional and local administration. Control by the central administration over local government remains strong. The draft law on local government, which is aiming at further decentralisation and is currently under discussion among Ministries, remains to be adopted.”

In accordance with the Treaty of Sèvres, there was a plan to create a Kurdish country under the name of Kurdistan; when the treaty was disapproved, the plan was removed. However, it is questions if the western countries were really given up from their targets to create this plan. The former British Labour Party politician, Tony Benn emphasized that the west, which had been seen the Soviets as a threat, made a balanced policy with Turkey to do no offend it, therefore they gave up from this target.128 Furthermore, the chief editorial writer and a columnist at The Independent, Mary Dejevsky specified that the borders of the countries can change by giving example from Kurdistan that hard to band together its pieces from Eastern Turkey, from Syria, Iran and Iraq.129
In this context, it is necessary to indicate what they mean Kurdistan. ".. In the old Ottoman Kurdistan, the inhabitant were generally known as Kurds, when there was in fact an indisputable racial majority of Turks in its Anatolian part, and if the latter called themselves Kurds it was because they came from the region called Kurdistan. ..."130 This information should be taken into consideration from the scholars and people when they are speaking about ethnic originality of that area. Even today, Kurds are not alone in the area. There are many other ethnic origins as well as Turkish. For this reason, nobody can proclaim that the South-eastern area of Turkey is only belongs to Kurds.
In this context, it was also stated before as well that the demands from Turkey with regard to EU accession are redolent of an image as EU tries to divide Republic of Turkey by homogenous feature of Turkish population. Demands or suggestions of the EU, especially, about decentralization of Turkey in accordance of some areas are caused to support this image which was already formed by people who are against to the EU accession of Turkey. The Kurdish Question is one of the hardest and deepest issues as well as all the questions of ethnic origins regardless the countries. Therefore, such issues should be considered more carefully and sensitively to avoid any chaos that may occur in the future.
On the other hand, recently, there are several thoughts and intentions about a federal system in Turkey, even though its possibility is very disputable. “Recalling that the Ottoman Empire was a state founded on a federal system, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that implementation of a federal system might come onto the agenda as of 2023, the centennial anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey.”131 With this regard, it is important to evaluate how the people in Turkey will response the statement of the Turkish Prime Minister as well as the prospective statements or declarations from the parliament members, prominent scholars, intellectuals and Turkish citizens. Thoroughly examination and analysis the positive as well as the negative approaches of the people to statements are crucial to understand or estimate the future of Turkey and the reactions to the EU that may occur in the future.

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