Turkey was a major threat to Europe for much of its
history, epitomized by the siege of Vienna (1529). World War I toppled the
German, Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, with catastrophic
political results everywhere – except Turkey. Under Ataturk, reform and
change were far-reaching, and Turkey became a responsible state in the
region. Present relations between Turkey and the West should be warm, but
are not: Turkey stood up to the Soviet Union (late 1940s), supported the
United Nations war effort in Korea, maintained NATO’s southeastern flank
throughout the Cold War, sacrificially supported the Gulf War, cracked
down on political Islam inside Turkey, and now offers a rare hand of
friendship to Israel.
Turkey outdoes most other non-European regimes in
international standards of human rights and democracy, and aspires to
European Union membership. Yet, the EU is consistently critical and
negative in its responses to Turkey, scrutinizing for errors, excesses and
violations to find excuses for Turkey not entering the EU.
This is partly due to an increase in racially motivated
violence across Europe. EU states crack down on racists and neo-Nazis but
also try to minimize the source of resentment by restricting the influx of
immigrants, refugees, and guest workers, most of whom originate in Turkey.
Geographical and demographic statistics show Turkey could well be
important in European councils, flood the continent with workers, and
become by far the largest recipient of EU subsidies.
Crucially: European failure to deal justly and fairly
with a politically sound, economically adequate Turkey may cause an
Iranian-style revolution, and turn Turkey militant and pan-Turkic, or
become so demoralized that the nation collapses. That would create a mess
and show the EU had chosen the wrong path.