Europe Revisited

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Europe Revisited

Europe Revisited


Seyfi Taşhan


The Second World War ended with greatest human loss and suffering history ever witnessed. This tragedy led to attempts aimed to prevent the repetition of the calamity of war through union of nations. The United Nations was to be the most influential instrument to prevent conflicts among nations of the World; and Western Europe chose to create institutions that would  lead to ever growing  integration among European nations. However, division of ideologies between Eastern and Western Europe divide, a fear of war, as Churchill said, an Iron Curtain fell between Eastern and Western Europe.  While socialism and commumnism were the dominant ideologies  in Eastern Europe, union through democracy and human rights  was expected to serve greater union among European nations. The Council of Europe would bring all European nations together oncve they accepted to adopt democracy and respect for human rights as the guiding principles of nations. Through the creation of a Human Rights Court and a mechanism of arranging multinational legislation leading to cooperation among Euroopean nations in all fields of life. However, Council of Europe’s role remained somewhat limited in fulfilling its aim of creating greater unity among member states.

It was soon fealt that the developed democratic countries of Western Europe could create an economic community that would lead to the estblishment  of the European Economic Community through creation of a single market for goods, labour, services and capital among the member states and creation of  common transport and agriculture policies.

Beginning with 6 Europen nations, it gradually increased its membership. The success of the Economic Community was impressive and led to the Maastricht Treaty transforming the Community into the more ambitious “European Union”,  overtaking most of the functions of the Council of Europe, thus creating not  a dicotomy in European legislation. As Soviet Union broke down in 1991 all Eastern European countries except Russia and Ukraine became candidates and eventually taking part as full members of the Union.

In 1995 EU Council, at its Madrid summit, decided that all European countries would eventually become member states and Russia, Turkey and North African countries   would become strategic partners.

However, Turkey had signed in 1963 the Ankara Treaty with the aim of becoming European Community member according to a step by step arrangements. In 1995 Turkey had concluded all of its obligations under the Ankara Treaty and established a Customs Union with the EU. On the other hand, the European Community and Union did not fulfill its obligations towards Turkey such as creating free circulation of labour and services.

In 1999 EU changed its attitude towards Turkey by accepting it as a candidate country of the EU. However, political neccessities made Europe forget its obligations under the Ankara Treaty, candidacy for membership, once the Customs Union was established. It was only in 2004 that chapter by chapter negotiations could begin. Even then the process was open-ended and is still continuing at snail speed due to the political attitudes of some member states who unilaterally put embargos on the progress of negotiations.

Has the European Union done enough progress to achieve its role of creating a real union,  establishing a union that would create a geniune subsidiarity and reduce nationalism among its members?

To answer this question we could mention the economic development of all European countries as a positive factor. Whereas impossibility of creating multinational defence and government functions in a united Europe must be considered as the greatest impediment in the creation of a United Europe. Strength of nationalism among the member countries in varying degrees prevented the creation of a real Europe and community members had to accept regional arrangements such as Monetary Union and Schengen travel arrangements became destabilazing factors in European politics instead of serving towards full Union. Furthermore, Community institutions were not of a character that would be capable od representing the entirety of Community members. Parliament was given large advisory powers but limited positive acts. Parliament approved the budget, approved new members to the Union.

The most important decision making organ is the Council composed of representatives of all member states’ governments with varying voting rights. This structure makes, in effect, the entire Union as an intergovernmental organization and because of the voting pattern, population factor makes votes in the Council stronger. In other words, Germany and France have more power than others.

The attempt to establish a European Constitution  could not enjoy the support of all member states. After 2001 terrorist attack on the US and increasing migration gained ground. We have, at this point, the  concept of security shifted from military purpose to a united fight against terrorism.This situation also led to xenophobia and particularly  Islamaphobia. This development also led to open war against Islamist led terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. The exodus of people from Syria shook the foundations of the European institutions. On this issue, UK decided to leave EU because it did not want to have to participate in sharing the quota of Muslim immigrants, further reason for Brexit.  The influx of refugees from Africa and Middle East will be continues and unavodiable problem for Western Europe.

The orther economic problem concerned Southern countries of Europe. These, comperatively less developed Mediterranean countries  of EU had spent more than their exconomies could support. Particularly Greece underwent great trauma for obtaining from EU institution funds that would allow only a modest way of life in contrast to supporting their luxurious spending among government isntitutions and peoples. Italy, Spain and  Portugal also suffered. The crisis in Italy is very grave and prevents governments from daring to impose radical social and economic refıorms. To a lesser degree, this situation is also valid for Spain and Portugal.

For Turkey the egreeement between the EU concverning return of illegal immigrants to Turkey aginst lifting visa restrictions for travel of Turkish citizens in European countries become a problem. However, the increasing migration into Turkey, Turkey’s inability to fulfill all of the demands of EU to make necessary revisions in the Turkish legislation, terrorism and ensuing verbal exchanges between European and Turkish leaders led the EU Parliament to ask for suspention of negotiations with Turkey but the EU Council, where executive decisions are taken, decided for the continuation of negotiations. The current economic and political  situation in Europe ias such that no one could expect any further enlargement of Europe in the near future. Because of this situation there is a sharp devision in the Turkish public opinion whether Turkey should join the EU.  Secular part of the population which is around half of Turkish population usually support closer relations with Europe. The other half has strong ideological objections.

Inspite of all that has happened,  the EU countries enjoy very high standards in their life styles. Behind the minds of Europe’s thinkers there is always a worry whether Europe can maintain such standards against challanges of rising economies, particuylarly of China and India. One of Europe’s main hopes was to establish a free trade arrangement with the US, but under  Donald Trump’s presidency and his already expressed doubts about free trade zones, it is not likely that free trade arrangement with Europe can ever be materialized.  There is the possibility that Brexit may naturally be a boon for British economy. It could establish closer ties with the US commonwealth countries while maintaining free trade with EU .

The lack of a proper European security institution is expected to be remedied by the NATO Alliance. Whatever the Washington Treaty says, in reality it makes NATO a guarantee for European countries against a possible Russian agression. In the realization of NATO goals, it is not absolutely clear whether in case of a Russian agression in Eastern Europe the entire Alliance will sufficiently react. In Turkey, we have from time to time observed strong doubts about the conditions of guarantee as embodied in the NATO Treaty. For example, we have observed at the time of President Kennedy the withdrawal of Jupiter missles located in Turkey, to pursuade the Soviets to withdraw their misslers from Cuba without consulting or even informing the Turkish Government. President Johnson openly threatened for not helping, Turkey in case of a Soviet attack in the event of a Turkish intervention in Cyprus. Again because of  Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus based on its obligations  arising from an international agreement, US Congress adopted a resolution imposing military sanctions against Turkey and the US President of the time, Gerald Ford, did not veto this resolution.

American involvement in the Middle East has been the result of  flimsy worries of US Presidents rather than real cases as need. Afghanistan was a reaction to the terrible  terrorist attacks in the US on 9/11 in 2001 and was quite justified in the world public opinion, even though originally the US had supported Al Qaeda against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In Iraq Saddam thought he would get away with his invasion of Kuwait. Many Americans thought US dominance in the Gulf should not be challenged and senior President Bush’s response was swift and successful. He did the right thing: after evacuating Kuwait of Saddam’s forces and putting out oil field fires US withdrew its forces. One cannot reasonably understand the motives of junior Present Bush to attack and invade Iraq. British intelligence services said Saddam was building nuclear weaspons. Instead of denying such attempt Saddam werbally insulted Senior Bush. Were these unconfirmed reports enough justification for the Second Iraq war? Furthermore, there was not a clear UN Resolution for military invasion of Iraq.  The war was conducted on how to find and punish Saddam in the absence of any nuclear facilities. The result was a divided Iraq and a Sunni-Shiite conflict, an Islamic Constitution that would worsen the internal situation in a multi ethnic and religiously divided Iraq. Soon religious fundementalises started the war in Syria together with other opposition forces to remove President Bashar Assad  and create an Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). Many people thought that they would sweep away Esad quickly and outside support in terms of human power, Money and weapons poured into Syria. The war that ensued has been continuing for the past  5 years. Assad instead of being deposed enjoys the support of Russia which has traditionally had a naval base in Syria. Assad now seems to dominate in Western Syria and has under its rule all major Syrian towns. Russia has established two more military bases in Syria and is now a major power behind the Assad regime. Furthermore, Iran is also involved  with its military support for the Assad regime. With continued  ISIL terrorism, Turkey also entered into Syria to help destroy ISIL forces and push them away from the Turkish border. In this manner Turkey is fighting a regular war in Syria against ISIL and a war against ambushes and terrorist attacks of PKK in South Eastern Turkey, as well as with its extension in Syria.

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