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From Ottomans and Europe in the past to Turks and the EU today June 1, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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There are 5 million Turks living outside Turkey in 118 countries, 4 million of which are in Europe. There are 5 million Turks living outside Turkey in 118 countries, 4 million of which are in Europe. A workshop titled “Second and Third-Generation Turks Abroad” was recently held at the Yeni Yüzyıl University in İstanbul. Today’s interactive toolbox Bookmark and Share Video Photo Audio Send to print Send to my friend Post your comments Read comments The problems faced and suggested solutions were put forward during this workshop which I also participated in, presenting a paper titled “The differences between the influence and lobby powers of Turks in America and Europe.”

This workshop is planned to be continued under different titles. What kind of lifestyle or lifestyles emerged for the Turks, who are the part of a multicultural society, living in Europe and the United States? Papers on a variety of subjects, such as the state of the new generations of Turks living abroad, differences between Turks who migrated to the US and Europe, the establishment of nongovernmental organizations and the problems and experiences of Turks who returned from abroad, were presented. It is seen that the quality and quantity of the Turks who are familiar with the mainland Europe and Turks who are one of the more recent migration groups of the New World have gained ground in increasing power for themselves and for Turkey in recent years.

The Turks who migrated to Europe and the US have become more powerful in recent times and the younger generations being prominent and successful in every sector in the countries where they live is one of the main factors in creating change, while the NGOs established by Turks seem to be fragmented, polemical and cliquish. When it is summarized in a general profile, it is seen that there are 5 million Turks living outside Turkey in 118 countries, 4 million of which are in Europe. Of these, 850,000 have the right to vote.

The Turkish population in Europe, as well as their economic might, is currently greater than that of some EU countries. There are 140,000 Turkish entrepreneurs in Europe. They employ 640,000 people. Their turnover is 50 billion euros. More than 5,000 Turkish associations have been established. The younger generation of Turks, who have recently had integration problems, is undergoing a change. There are currently three generations of Turks living in Germany. The average age of the second generation is 30-45 while the third generation’s average age is about 20. Five hundred thousand third-generation children study. Some 30,000 of them are undergraduate students. Trying to believe in Europe from past until today… The presidents of France and Germany, who have stated clearly and scores of times that Turkey does not belong to the EU, ignore a point beyond measure.

The current political geography of Europe was shaped mostly during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent and emerged through the power and struggle of the Ottoman Empire. He accepted France as an ally thanks to his regional interests in Europe against the Habsburgs. King Francis I of France made a well-known statement, the original copy of which is kept in the Venice Archives but is never mentioned in Europe. Loosely translated, the statement says: “The ottoman sultan is the biggest ruler in the world. The small states in Europe may only survive under his aegis.” France explicitly opposes Turkey’s EU membership today. It is also apparent that Germany and France, as the main countries obstructing Turkey’s joining the EU, do not want the unstable region to the east of Turkey to be on the EU’s eastern borders.

In an interview published in Russia in an issue of Time Out magazine, the writer Orhan Pamuk says: “Civilizations do not have to be in conflict with each other absolutely. One must believe that the different civilizations do not have to treat others as an enemy. Different ideas, cultural diversity, more liberalism and freedom of speech are important in Europe. According to European standards, we are partially a closed society.” In reply to the question “What can Turkey offer Europe apart from cheap labor?” Pamuk said: “Europe will have to accept the notion that Europe is not established on the basis of Christianity if it accepts Turkey into its ranks. The supporters of Turkey in the European Union are liberals and social democrats. If you talk about the labor force, Europe is getting smaller and needs growth. Europe needs other cultures and religions to determine its own destiny, to survive and to have a tangible influence. Turkey also needs European values.” It is argued that the Turkish immigrants have not assimilated. In reply to the question “Are Turks ready to accept European values?” he suggested that the problems of the Turkish immigrants in Germany, Holland, Finland, Switzerland and Austria resulted from a class problem in these countries. He also stated that Turks and dark-skinned people were considered to be lower class — as the Jews had once been considered in Germany. “But do they try to assimilate?” “Yes they try to assimilate. But the problem is neither the result of their efforts or Turkish culture. This is the problem of the ruling class of Europe. They mistreat the immigrants and do not give them the opportunity to study.

Therefore, they cannot adapt themselves to the other society. Treating immigrants in that way, they are told: ‘You are treated like that because your culture is like that.’ But I cannot suggest that only the Turks have problems. This is not a big problem in general. This is a matter of class in these countries.” The historian-writer Stefanos Yerasimos, who knew Turkey very well, in his last interview before his death (published in the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet in 2005), said that it is useful for Turkey to show herself in Europe as it is quite difficult to change her image and time is needed. His words were implying that Turkey came to the fore through Fatih Akın’s films and the success of her football teams. New people have been added to that list within last five years, people such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan. There is a remarkable point of which neither the civilians nor the state policy are aware. Can the Turkish people, who even have problems participating in the events they stage, become involved in the various issues, problems, activities and celebrations and commemorations of the country where they live? As Orhan Pamuk asks, how can the Turks, who do not even leave their small neighborhoods, interact with others they consider strangers, even though a process of being assimilated into European society is continuing? It is a fact that mistreating immigrants impacts on this. “Turkey has unwittingly made herself an outcast on numerous occasions at the international level because she has less interest in the anniversaries and activities of Europeans. She turns a cold shoulder if the event is not related to the Turks. She does not participate in them. For example the importance, of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was mentioned a great deal in the French media. It was also discussed in Europe but Turkey did nothing. Supposing ‘this is the matter of Europeans, they suffered from it, it is not our business’ is not the solution.” Progress has certainly been made since Yerasimos stated that while Turks living in France and Europe thought the Europeans were preventing Turkey from being a member of the EU, this was a result of Turkey’s unwillingness to change its own order. “When Turkey starts to change, nobody can say they do not want Turkey,” he added. But not much has changed in terms of Turkey becoming a European power.

Yerasimos was talking about the indifference of the Turks. However, we may see the French viewpoint from a comment by Vural Öger, a member of Socialist Group in European Parliament, published in ABHaber.com. He says: “They do not know Turkey. They think Turks are Arabs. European societies have different ideas about Turkey’s EU process. The French have fallen in love with their culture and, as a culturist nation, think that they have a very developed culture.” His statement put forth the viewpoint of the French towards Turkish influences. In a survey of 388 students majoring in social sciences at the University of Hamburg and the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg (M. Yağbasan, “A Survey to Perceive the Image of the Other by the German Public in Terms of Intercultural Communication”) they were asked what the German public’s image of the “other” was in terms of intercultural communication. Of the students surveyed, 82.8 percent had a “negative” perception of the other. They said this image evokes “Islam, Turks, blood, tears, barbarity, terror, pain, starvation, savagery, those who are not with us, foreigners, atheists and enemies of the West.” The 17.2 percent of students who thought that the “other” is positive thought that “they are unknown, our richness, our neighbors, nice people, Turks, those who have hearts and are hospitable persons.” According to these results, German students have positive attitudes towards foreigners provided that they are not Turkish or Muslim. The change which has happened year by year must be considered when the question, “Would the results be so marginal if these sorts of surveys and statements about the image of Turks are applied to the general public?” is asked. The economic capacity of Turks abroad, the work and success of the second and third-generation Turks in business, their having a say in the scientific field and showing up more in public life are a way to change the status quo that conveys the historical ties negatively and tries to hinder our efforts to Europeanize.

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