From “ENERGY TRIBUNE”
Peter C Glover
President Obama has been banging the drum for Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Not that there’s anything new in his policy. Turkey joining the EU has been US policy for every recent occupant of the White House, including George W. Bush.
Obama sees a ‘European Turkey’ as a win-win situation both for Europe and the United States. He believes, as does the Turkish PM Recep Erdogan, that it is the natural quid pro quo for Turkey’s development as Europe’s east-west energy bridge. Obama also perceives it will restore US-Turkish strategic relations in a volatile region. But, above all, Obama believes accession would send a powerful message to the Islamic world –Turkey’s population is 99.8 percent Muslim – that the West is not the enemy.
“The United States and Europe must approach Muslims as our friends, neighbours and partners in fighting injustice, intolerance and violence, forging a relationship based on mutual respect,” Obama told EU leaders in April. “Moving forward toward Turkish membership in the EU,” he went on, “would be an important signal of your commitment to this agenda.”
Fine-sounding words. So why did they go down like a lead balloon in Berlin, Paris and other EU capitals? To understand why, Obama and American policymakers – of red and blue persuasion – need to stop isolating energy and strategic international considerations from social and cultural ones. Put bluntly – and it is not what the ‘listening’ Obama wants to hear – the last thing most European states want is Turkey’s Islamic millions unleashed on a Europe increasingly struggling with a burgeoning self-imposed Muslim apartheid. In the view of key EU leaders, a United States still largely undiluted by multicultural soup-ism, just doesn’t get it.
The energy bridge
There is no doubting Turkey’s potential role as an east-west energy hub that can help Europe achieve greater diversification from Russian oil and gas dependence. The ‘great pipe hope’ is the Nabucco gas pipeline scheduled for construction in 2011. However, the 7.9 billion euro project to transport gas from Turkey to Austria through Bulgaria and Hungary, reducing European dependency on Russian gas, has been fraught with problems since conception. Not least over the viability of non-Russian sources of gas to run through it. Most of Turkmenistan’s gas distribution is already managed by Russia’s Gazprom. Iranian gas exports are subject to US and UN sanctions over its nuclear enrichment program.
Such is the lack of confidence Nabucco will ever prove viable, that a recent EU energy summit dropped it entirely from its Priority Project list. Nabucco’s developers breathed a sigh of relief, however, when the project was reinstated with seed-funding of 200 million euros. But within weeks of the EU’s cash commitment in early March 2009, Nabucco received a further devastating blow. Nabucco’s first phase had always been reliant on two new gas fields coming online in Azerbaijan. At a ceremony on March 27 in Moscow, however, the head of Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy company signed over the gas rights to his nation’s Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli and Shah-Deniz II fields on the Caspian to Russia’s Gazprom. Nabucco, once again, is in crisis over where it will get its gas.
But as much as it is a blow for European energy diversification hopes, it is also a blow for Turkish accession hopes. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, has already linked EU-Turkish energy prospects to stalled talks over Turkey’s EU membership even refusing to attend a recent conference on the pipeline’s construction until new membership talks make progress. With prospects for Nabucco weakened, so too is Turkey’s leverage over EU talks. Without Nabucco, Europe – particularly Germany, which has constantly undermined Nabucco, preferring to cut its own deals with Russia – can call time on Turkish hopes once and for all. But why should they want to? While Obama and US policy may perceive the accession of Turkey’s almost 80 million Muslims into what Islamic nations (and Obama) may see as a ‘Christian’ club as a useful international, intra-cultural olive branch, Europeans perceive the issue in far darker social terms.
Germany and France already have enormous social problems with their un-integrated Islamic millions, many, especially in Germany, from Turkey. Germany, France and Britain are all currently struggling with mass immigration problems after accession was granted to poor eastern European states. But Turkey is poorer still, having only one-third the standard of living of most European countries. Mass Turkish emigration across Europe if accession is granted is seen as inevitable. More specifically, Europe’s concerns include:
Turkey is not culturally ‘European’
Accession will unleash a wave of Turkish (Muslim) immigrants on Europe
Turkey is too big and will thus wield too much power in Europe
Turkey is too poor and will cost the rest of the EU too much in subsidies
Denmark, Greece and Cyprus are among Turkey’s other detractors. France’s Nicolas Sarkozy swept to power in May 2007 on a tide of anti-Turkish/Muslim sentiment in the wake of France’s on-going street riots – again linked to disaffected, un-integrated, Islamist youth. Germany and France want Turkey offered ‘privileged partner’ status. But for Turkish PM Recep Erdogan anything less than full membership is a non-starter if the country’s hopes for modernization are to be realized – at the expense of European taxpayers. The EU’s own polls consistently reveal cross-European support for Turkey’s admission hovering around 30-35 percent. The most comprehensive, in 2005, showed only 20 percent support in France and 21 percent in Germany. Even in Britain, where support is highest in Europe, it is just 44 percent. In that sense the US-UK-backed policy has no democratic support from Europeans. If anything those percentages since 2005 can have only dropped further. Far from demanding acceptance or integration – the alleged multicultural ideal – Muslim communities in Germany, France, Britain and across Europe generally are increasingly demanding the right to exercise Sharia Law via their own courts, as well as live in cultural separation in schools and society. No wonder Europe enthusiasm for Turkish accession is wholly at odds with that of current American policy. But internal social concerns are only the half of it.
Turkey: the reality
Obama’s assertion that Europe, the US and Turkey hold, “common values that we share as democracies” does not bear closer scrutiny. While the White House persists in speaking of a Turkish secular state, domestically PM Recep Erdogan, with the apparent blessing of his people, plainly has other aspirations. Turkey’s Islamist leaders see Erdogan’s Islamist aspirations as positioning the country as the champions of a new caliphate. Erodgan’s wife is not only a practising Muslim but a politically active one. She wears the veil and in 2006 her husband’s government attempted to criminalize adultery, amongst other more radical Islamist moves. On assuming the premiership, Erdogan attempted to appoint Ahmet Sezr, an Islamist who perceives monetary interest as contrary to Koranic teaching, as head of the central bank. In April 2007 Erdogan nominated Abdullah Gul, his former foreign minister and another Islamist, as president. This gave the prime minister a virtual political free hand.
Erdogan travels more often to other Muslim countries than to Europe and has openly been accused of Islamizing foreign policy. In 2006 Erdogan even stunned Western friends by hosting the leaders of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. In April 2007 at a meeting of the Arab League in Sudan, Erdogan outspokenly rejected Western accusations that the Khartoum government was guilty of genocide in its Darfur region. “Foreign policy is definitely taking on a more Islamist tone under this government,” confirms Ali Tekin, a teacher of international relations at Ankara’s Bilkent University.
The ‘values’ of which Obama speaks must, above all, include the democratically protected right to free speech. Yet Turkey recently blocked NATO Secretary General, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, from taking office because of his principled support of free speech during Denmark’s Mohammedan Cartoon affair. And, as recently as March, the EU had cause to warn Erdogan’s government, after it imposed a massive $500 million fine on the Dogan Group, Turkey’s largest media group. The draconian fine was interpreted by the EU and other Western observers as an attack on free speech in the Turkish press.
Does any of this sound ‘European’ to the Obama administration? Does any of this sound like a country moving towards “common values shared by democratic states”? Handcuffing EU states to a ticking demographic cultural and social time-bomb – as Germany and France attempted to warn the ‘listening’ Obama – on the altar of Islamist appeasement is just too high a price to pay for an ‘energy bridge’ that already looks like a pipedream. Obama might talk Turkey, but his EU-Ankara policy patently is one.