Our EU Membership and Global Peace

Our EU Membership and Global Peace
Huseyin Gulerce

European Commission President Romano Prodi and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Günther Verheugen are in Turkey for a two-day official visit.

We all know that this year, 2004, is the most crucial year for Turkey’s EU membership, and we have entered the critical months in which we need to focus all our attention and efforts towards that goal. Unfortunately however, we cannot avoid political tensions and artificial agendas within. It is no secret that both outside and inside circles against Turkey’s EU membership, will foment [political] tension in the country as we get closer to December 2004.

Both Europe and Turkey have made vain excuses on the EU membership issue for 40 years. While Europe has put us off on many occasions, we have turned down several opportunities. However, the membership issue has become a necessity for both sides today. If we perceive the force of fate through Europe, the clash of civilizations becoming less of a possibility and more of an inevitability, is the Western world’s nightmare. Due to many reasons, the Islamic world’s geography is the source of global terrorism. Being treated contemptuously, colonized, the continuing oppression inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel and the U.S invasion of Iraq, are some of the first reasons that come to mind.

However, there should be ways to avoid the clash of civilizations and the polarization of the world. The wisest path to follow is to contemplate the feasibility of the clash through dialogue and compromise, and the participation of nations that will help pioneer this development.

Considering the Islamic world, the country that stands out is Turkey, and we are not the only ones preaching this plain truth. Referring to Justice Minister Cemil Cicek’s statement to ZAMAN, “The Islamic world should take stringent measures against terrorism without any ‘buts’ or ‘howevers.'”

Thomas L. Friedman in his column in The New York Times on January 11, 2004, wrote the following: “If we want to help moderates win the war of ideas within the Muslim world, we must help strengthen Turkey as a model of democracy, modernism, moderation and Islam all working together.

“Nothing would do that more than having Turkey be made a member of the European Union. If, despite the huge number of reforms Turkey has undertaken, the EU shuts the door on Turkey, extremists all over the Muslim world will say to the moderates: ‘See, we told you so – it’s a Christian club and we’re never going to be let in. So why bother adapting to their rules?’

“Turkey’s membership in the EU is so important that the U.S. should consider subsidizing the EU to make it easier for Turkey to be admitted.'”

Verheugen made similar remarks to the German Focus magazine 10 days ago: “Many EU governments and and heads of state, who did not want Turkey’s membership, now want Turkey’s membership due to foreign policy and security issues. The development began on September 11, 2001.”

So the shock, experienced in America on September 11, 2001, in the biggest terrorist attack in human history, actually stresses the importance of inter-civilizations dialogue and Turkey’s importance in this dialogue.

The West knows this, volunteer foundations and people with common sense in Turkey also know this. Yesterday, members of different religious groups, led by the Turkish Journalists and Writers Union, prayed for peace in Istanbul. The heart’s desire is that at this major turning point in our collective destiny, Turkey’s rulers would understand this fact as well.

What Actually is Abant Platform?

Hüseyin Gulerce

New Jersey- Before we (participants in the Abant Platform) leave the U.S., I would like to make one last appraisal of the Abant meeting that was held in the U.S. capital, Washington.

Turkey’s intellectuals have been coming together since 1998 in Abant. In these meetings they try to reach agreements on basic issues, particularly those that are a cause of tension in society. The concluding declarations, issued after each meeting, are a culmination of compromises reached throughout the meeting.

Undoubtedly, this is very important for our country. However, even more important is that the meetings bring together people from different beliefs, thoughts and life styles. Even if these people of intellectual courage do not talk about anything, just by being together, sitting next to each other and shaking hands in the Abant Platform, each of them is a pioneer or even a hero of dialogue and tolerance. I do not want to mention their names one by one; history has already noted them. If there is a spirit of Abant, atmosphere of Abant and attitude of Abant today, it is because participants of Abant Platform are the ‘representatives of our nations’ broad conscience. Perhaps the greatest gain of our intellectual life over the last two centuries is the Abant Platform. The dialogue and tolerance that winds from Abant to Anatolia’s provinces and towns excites our people. The torch lit at Abant still shines just as bright since it actually enlightened Anatolia. The seeds of tolerance and dialogue planted in Abant develop into huge sycamores that are planted all over Anatolia.

Abant Platform has a value that transcendence all others since it allowed us to reclaim the values that our nation has in our genes and moved our own dynamics. Abant Platform is a course in learning to integrate ourselves into the world. Abant is accepted since it responds to society’s deep expectations. Our nation now knows that there is a way out from the polarization and the tension that it brings upon itself. It teaches about loving each other, respecting each other’s position, instituting dialogue and tolerance as a social ethic and caring about human rights, social justice, the universal values of democracy and the rule of law. Like Mr. Mete Tuncay said, “To show everyone that we meet, we can meet at one point.”

It was not only us, but also Americans participating in the Abant meeting in Washington that said this as well. For example, Jenny White from Boston University said: “There are factors that bring Turkey to a middle road; Ozal’s performances, economic development, investigating the malpractices… but we should not forget that the Abant meetings have also had role in coming to this point.”

The Abant Platform is the real indicator of our intellectual experience. Politicians have participated in Abant meetings, but the Abant Platform has never been politicized or become a political ground. It has gained distinction because of this.

I would like to convey an anecdote that Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Mr. Kemal Dervis told during the Abant meeting in America:

“I worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina for six years. We were sitting with Mufti and the Chief Rabbi together in Sarajevo one day. The Chief Rabbi said: ‘There is a very important book for us Jews that tells about the Jews that emigrated from Spain to Sarajevo. During the Second World War, Nazis searched everywhere for this book. The Chief Rabbi at that time gave our book to the mosque’s Imam since he trusted him very much. The Imam returned our book after the war.’ What the Chief Rabbi said proves that Ottoman and Turkish traditions were the same.”

A hospitable country

Monsignor Georges Marovitch (Turkey)
Last December the European Union authorized the start of negotiations with Turkey with a view to its possible entry into Europe. Turkey is the heir of a great empire with a rich civilization; for centuries its capital Istanbul (Constantinople) was among the most splendid of the European continent and gave rise to the meeting between various ethnic groups, cultures and religions, enabling them to live in peace together for many years. This vocation was also founded on the Koran where it says in sura (chapter) 5, 48: “If God would have wished to do so, he would have made of you a single Community, but he did not do so in order to test you in what he gave to you. Vie with each other, therefore, in good works”. It is worth recalling that in more recent times, in the period of the Cold War, Turkey, as a member of NATO, was the shield of Europe against atheist Communism. If admitted to the European Union, we are all convinced, Jews and Christians alike, that Turkey could be a bridge between West and the Islamic countries, a factor of peace and a source of material and spiritual enrichment for the whole of Europe.





By helping her to achieve the level of prosperity of the other European states, Turkey, a huge country rich in natural resources, could give hospitality and work to many and Turks themselves would no longer have a need to emigrate. They are hospitable people who love work; an example of this are the Turkish immigrants who work in Germany, Belgium, Holland, in the countries of Eastern Europe and in Central Asia where they have established thriving businesses and industries.

Turkey, though constitutionally a secular state, has a Moslem majority. But it has peacefully lived together with those of other religions and has preserved many of the values that have been lost in the West: great respect for the name of God (Turks never blaspheme), the family and work; a disinclination to become addicted to vices such as alcohol; a taste for modesty and decorum in television programmes; a sharing of moral values that it holds in common with Christianity; and tolerance for other religions.

It remains a fact, however, that at the present time, the legal situation of the non-Moslem communities still has problems, not so much for freedom of worship, but for the maintenance of real estate useful for the performance of religious and liturgical activities. It should also be noted that during the period of the fall of the Ottoman empire, some members of our communities collaborated with the enemies, and after the establishment of the Republic, as a reaction, restrictions were introduced (such as the non-recognition of their juridical personality, something that slowly caused the confiscation of properties; they are debarred from receiving legacies or economic benefits for the maintenance of their churches and for their charitable institutions). More recently, however, with Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union, new laws were promulgated that abolish these forms of discrimination, but their application is very slow due to bureaucratic obstacles of various kinds.

We are also convinced that the signing of a “modus vivendi” with the Holy See would resolve all the problems of the Catholic Church in Turkey. Lastly, it should be recalled that this country still preserves all the historic memories of the early centuries in the history of Christianity. Indeed, we might go so far as to say that the real roots of Europe are in Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus and Nicaea, in Cappadocia; all of them places in which the Fathers of the early Church lived. Still today the house of Our Lady at Ephesus is a place of dialogue visited by large numbers of Turkish Muslims, almost more so than by Christians. Indeed, Moslems consider her, as we do, the purest and most holy Mother of humanity, and give the name of Mary (Meryem) to many of their daughters.

(Servizio Informazione Religiosa)

*Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicar in Istanbul