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Yıldız Technical University-Daily Cumhuriyet.


March 31, 2000, Turkey


I should start my presentation by underlining two historical processes which shapes Turkey today.

First of all, Turkey reached to Europe through a long walk lasted centuries, starting from Central Asia around Fourth Century, presently stop over Anatolia nowadays and extends itself to Europe.

For about two millenniums, this migration toward West shaped not only the social structure but also the ideology of the present Turkish Republic.

Turks, on their way to West, met Islam around Ninth Century when they reached to Near East.

Then, in Fifteenth Century, being the inheritors of the Byzantine Empire they started to extend itself to Europe not only in territorial terms but also in ideology and culture.

After the defeat and the collapse of the Ottomans at the end of the First World War, the new Turkish State was founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his friends after the contemporary nation-state model of the West.

Starting at around the middle of 1960s, Turkish workers continued to go toward West, and now they present about two-and-half million Turkish population namely European Turks in Western Europe.

This long and adventurous process of moving toward West represents the bright side of Turkish-EU relations with regard to the Turkish commitment to the West.

The second historical process that I am going to mention will underline the problems of such integration.

Turkey is a nation-state which was formed through a War of independence, over the remnants of an agricultural-religious empire which lad lost the chance of industrialization as a result of structural and complicated reasons emerged after the fall of Constantinople.

Thus, while the EU countries emerged as nation-states as a result of industrialization process of Eighteen and Nineteenth Centuries, Turkey has emerged as a result of a liberation war and as a country which was way way back of being an industrialized nation-state.

So, the main concepts and institutions of a modern nation-state such as human rights, secularism, democracy, freedom of press, strong trade unions, existence of powerful NGOs and the like were imposed upon to the society by the founders of the Republic and their followers, rather tan being developed through spontaneous socio-economic changes.

This of course means that the present Turkish social, political and economic structure still lacks the “ideal types” of democratic institutions of a contemporary democratic nation-state.

In other terms, Turkey is still in the process of building a modern democracy which has stemmed from the industrialization process of centuries in the Western Europe.

It is my personal belief that the integration process of Turkey with EU would help a great deal in this “democracy building” efforts.

Nevertheless, we should always keep in mind that Turkey is still in the process of building and reshaping her democracy according to the contemporary standards.

Underlining these two main characteristics of Turkish society which stem from the historical facts, now I can move to discuss the present problems that are facing Turkey on its way to EU.

Turkish population has a deep belief in “Western” identity of Turkish society.

In all the public opinion polls, the population revealed this commitment in great majorities.

To quote most recent ones, the PİAR-GALUP survey in November 1999 showed that 68.6 % think that Turkey should join EU, and it is beneficial for Turkey.

On the other hand 44.4 % of the same population think that the conditions that EU puts in front of Turkey to delay this integration, such as freedom of speech, human rights, Turkish-Greek relations and the Cyprus problem are not realistic, whereas 30.7 % think that EU countries are right in citing such conditions. About one fourth of the population said that “they have no idea about the issue”.

Above results show clearly that Turkish citizens have commitment in such integration but a considerable part of it is “ignorant” about the issues and problems of it.

Another research carried out (under my project directorship) in the spring of 1999 in İstanbul, reveals that 84.7 % of the İstanbul population want to see Turkey as a “European Country”, whereas only 9.8 % want to see it as a “Middle Eastern Country”.

Those results show us clearly that the commitment to EU is quite accepted by Turkish population as a goal for Turkey, but the price for it is not fully realized.

In such a milieu, it is not surprising that the Helsinki decision to integrate Turkey into the circle of the candidate countries was acclaimed very highly by the Turkish media and Turkish public opinion.

The problem with regard such an integration lies with the main characteristics of Turkish social, political and economic structures which are stemming the historical deficiencies of industrialization process.

In socio-cultural realm, such characteristics can be summarized as follows:

Lack of respect to the rules and regulations of everyday life and law.

Lack of respect to time.

Lack of respect of the “rights of the others”.

One can easily see that such deficiencies come from the historical bounds to the rural life, namely distorted feudal values which are not replaced by the industrial urban values yet.

With regard to the public realm, the following deficiencies come to the fore:

Ineffective and out-dated educational system which falls short to meet the technological and ideological needs of modern times and a democratic society.

Ineffective judicial system, since the laws and regulations are quite old and judiciary processes are very very long.

A legislative system, which is busy with its own problems created by itself, rather then finding rational solutions for contemporary issues, such as integration with EU.

A media busy with its own monopolistic economic interests and formation of the public opinion, rather than informing it.

Now, how can we tackle those problems?

The first and most fruitful way seems to speed up the formation of the NGOs and make the existing ones effective in the course of democratization and industrialization of the country.

This of course would not only enlighten the public opinion but also put certain pressures on public administration and legislative body for the integration process with Europe.

As a concluding remark I can say that we should reshape our society totally from judicial system to legislative system, from educational structure to media according to the needs imposed on us by the 21. Century.

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