Will the world be westernized someday

"Westernization has weakened Turkey"

In the Istanbul district of Fatih there is still a touch of the Orient. Far away are the chic bars and discos of Beyoglu. Most of the men have beards, as the Prophet commands, and cover their heads piously; the women headscarves and modestly long clothes; there is an Islamic bookstore on every corner. There are no tourists here, at least those from the west, but guests from Sudan or Yemen stroll through the alleys. Islam is still a way of life here.

A group of older men sit in front of a small tea house and philosophize about the sense and nonsense of Turkey joining the EU. They don't think much of it. "Nobody can turn a pig's skin into a warm fur that you put under your feet in winter," says one. "And an unbeliever will never become a friend."

This triggers age-related nodding and waving of the head. Quite different, however, when Western journalists ask more precisely. Now it is politely said that joining the EU is not a bad thing if the Europeans behave "fairly" in the process. However, none of those present seems to expect that.

It is not easy to get an idea of ​​what the more devout Muslims in Turkey think of Europe. Ten years ago, political Islam was vehemently anti-European here. From this movement, however, emerged precisely those men who are now joining the EU: Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Gül. In addition to these changed Muslims, there are still those who think Europe is the wrong way.

Why? This is perhaps best explained by Bahri Zengin, chief ideologist of the Islamist Saadek Party (Party of Happiness). Initially, when the EEC was just an economic community, "we rejected it because we thought this was a Christian club that wanted to impose Christian values ​​on the whole world," he says. Later, "when freedom, the rule of law and human rights came to the fore in EU rhetoric, we initially changed our minds. We too want everyone to live peacefully together."

The problem, however, is that the EU is lying: "They do not adhere to agreements and arrangements. And they also do not know the equality of cultures. Merkel and Chirac say there can be no democracy until one accepts the fundamental values ​​of Christians. We should accept the European values ​​unilaterally, they themselves consider their values ​​to be superior to all others. " Europe wants to undermine the Islamic values ​​of Turkey and then "hold the country in front of the Middle East as a Muslim label" in order to achieve something similar there.

Zengin mentions another concern: "Turkey has wanted to westernize itself for 250 years, and during that time it has only grown weaker." This is a view that Islamists and right-wing extremists share: In the west lies the downfall of Turkey.

The nationalists of the MHP party, of course, fear the division of the country more than the death of Islam. Ihsan Barutcu is the head of the Istanbul MHP. In the conversation he tries to use symbols with echoes of the times of the Ottoman cavalry armies: "The EU is like a horse," he lectures. "You can only climb it if you can steer it. If you don't hold the reins firmly in your hand and are thrown off again immediately, you lose face."

Basically he is not against EU accession, the big but lies in the details - at the core it is about the fear of a Turkish loss of sovereignty and Kurdish claims to self-government, about European attempts to exploit this to weaken Turkey. In contrast to the Islamists, which are currently of little political relevance, the MHP is enjoying growing popularity thanks to the EU debate.

In addition to Islamists and nationalists, there is a third influential group of EU opponents: prominent economists and academics who are of the opinion that Turkey is already being colonized and literally plundered by the EU, and that this will only be exacerbated by EU accession . The core thesis is that since the Customs Union (1996) Turkey has entered into and is fulfilling unilateral commitments, which are accompanied by extraordinary economic losses, while the EU is simply not complying with agreements.

"Turkey's foreign trade policy is already being dictated by the EU," says economist Erol Manisali. "Because of the customs union, trade agreements between the EU and third countries are binding for us. Our market is flooded with cheap imports from China just because there is an agreement between the EU and China. We are powerless."

Sinan Aygün, head of the Chamber of Commerce in Ankara, sees it the same way. Turkey, he says, has opened its market, but the EU never paid the promised transitional funds for the Turkish economy - because Greece prevented this. In his opinion, the country has suffered at least $ 100 billion in damage. In the opinion of the two men, the profit that the EU has gained from Turkey so far is so enormous that the money now finances "a third of the EU's deficit". Manisali accuses a clique of Turkish military and politicians of having orchestrated this with the EU, to the detriment of the Turkish people.

Speaking of the people. 63 percent of Turks are still in favor of joining the EU. Still the majority, but it was more than 90 percent. With all the talk about whether one is for or against the EU, it is perhaps worth asking whether the Turks even know what the EU is. A survey of 4,500 high school students, the elite of the young generation, found the following: 35 percent thought the USA was the leading EU member, 25 percent thought the European Parliament in Paris and just as many named the dollar as the European currency. 62 percent think the EU has only twelve members.

There is still room to get to know each other, but joining is still a long way off.