The “mad cow crisis” had an influence on the representations of how Europe discriminated against Britain in the nineties.
Image by Juan Ramón Parrilla – Flickr
Political, economic or sociological arguments concerning Turkish membership of the European Union have always been discussed. A missing part in this polemic is however the opinions and conceptions of ordinary citizens in Turkey. Evaluations of Turkish citizens” structures of thinking regarding the European Union are rarely made, and tend to be hasty and lack in-depth analysis. So, it appears necessary to consider some proper issues in daily life that are not in the agenda of politicians but on the real agenda of Turkish people..
Recent history has marked 2005 as the beginning of the accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey. However, incontestably, Ankara agreement for membership dated well before on 1960″s. So what happened during over 40 years? Before 1999 the progress in this long and thorny relationship, went 3 steps forward and then 2 steps back like a band of janissaries: it was relatively slow given the political conditions on both side. However in 1999, thanks to the Helsinki Intergovernmental Summit where Turkey, was finally recognised as an official “candidate state”, the hopes and excitement to become member of the EU reached a higher degree. Then, national as well as international repercussions were so high that heavy press coverage took place during the initial period.
Nevertheless, it is after the decision to start accession negotiations in 2004 was made by the Copenhagen Council, that debates and public campaigns have gained ground. At the same time that the EU was facing its own identity and constitutional crisis vis-à-vis prospective new comers, Turkey was also changing its moods very rapidly. Before the opening of talks, the EU Representative to Turkey, Hans-Jörg Kretschmer, declared in an interview for the newspaper Sabah on 17th October 2004, that “Turkey is a special case and never has such a big country joined to the EU. So the use of special procedures is normal“. He also stated that Turkey should work a lot and improve her dialogue with the EU.
One of the remarkable incidences at the beginning of accession talks was the debate on a Turkish meal, namely Kokoreç. The consumption of this Turkish product, shared also by also other countries, was considered by the Veterinary Committee to enhance the risk of spread of the mad cow disease which was affecting Europe at that time. However, this simple issue was a part of hot debates on Turkish media linked with membership to the EU. The discussion about whether to give up eating national food had so much influence on public opinion that even a famous Turkish pop singer made a song called Kokoreç describing a passionate love relationship that outsiders were trying to destroy.
People from EU Member States have also some basic concerns on Turkish accession in their minds. So politicians” discussions seem to be irrelevant from the perspective of citizens in their daily concerns. To improve the relationship on both sides, we should not only work on the political agenda, but also try to analyze the ways in which people conceive and assess the accession process of Turkey to the EU. In the end, identifying people”s state of mind in Turkey and the EU can also be one step forward. Consider the questions that citizens are asking to the EU Information Office in Istanbul: these are not political but related to practical implications of EU membership. For example questions concerning ‘the length of the military service” or ‘the taxi service system in the EU” are highly practical and have nothing to do with a political agenda. During the process of accession, this kind of daily matters should be addressed in a more positive way. Together with more theoretical conceptualisation and political estimation, more analysis on public opinion in practical matters will be constructive for mutual understanding between societies.
FIND OUT MORE
The website of the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey provides useful information on the situation of the accession process: http://www.avrupa.info.tr
Some questions and answers mixed both in English and Turkish can be found on the Delegation web site: http://min.avrupa.info.tr/QA/forum/index.php?lang=0
EU seminar on 21.06.2006, information about Kokoreç, in Turkish: http://www.abgs.gov.tr/index.php?p=39776&l=1