The shifting winds of the latest Greek and French elections turned the June 2012 European Summit in Brussels into "a defining moment for European integration." Now that the collapse of the euro has been averted through easy-term bank bailouts and an empowered European treasury, it's time to reflect on why Europe got into this mess in the first place.
What lies at the heart of Greece's insolvency, Europe's economic woes and, by extension, the global economic crisis is the scuttling of the admission process into the European Union. It has become evident now that Greece was admitted to the EU with a marginal economic performance to spite its archrival Turkey, which was denied admission despite its impressive 9 percent GDP growth.
Zeus may have blinded Plutus, the Greek god of wealth, so that he would give money randomly and the Sufi mystic Bahlol may have distributed Sultan Mahmoud's treasure among the rich because he gave it to those to whom God has given, but the mythically intertwined Greek and Turkish destinies were playing on a European stage against a backdrop of religious bigotry.
The candidacy of no other state generated more controversy than that of Turkey. European leaders portrayed Turkey as a threat to Europe. The French Prime Minister Jean Marie Raffarin said, "Do we want the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism?"
Speaking at Oxford University in 2004, Erdoğan argued for a European "union of values," not "a narrowly defined geography or a union of rigidity," and called for a "peaceful cohabitation between Christians and Muslims." He added that the idea of a "Christian Europe belongs to the Middle Ages. It should be left there."
But mindsets reflecting the dark ages still saw the EU as a "Christian Club." Frits Bolkestien, a former EU commissioner and head of Dutch Liberal Party in rejecting Turkey's bid, said the "relief of Vienna [from an Ottoman army siege in 1683] will have been in vain." Peter Ford of the Christian Science Monitor sums it up bluntly: "It's more or less spoken or more or less hidden, but the major component in popular rejection of Turkey's admission is Islam."
Turkey bent over backward in making concessions on Cyprus, on its Kurdish minority, and a host of other human rights issues in order to meet a threshold of European demands, but to no avail. The hostility was not just toward a Muslim majority state, but also toward a state under the stewardship of a non-secular Islamist leaning AKP, the Justice and Development Party.
The Turks found an answer in the cause and clause of its European rejection and turned to the Muslim East where its economy thrives along with its many welcoming trade partners. Had Europe treated Turkey fairly and admitted it into the Union, its formidable growth engine would have pulled Europe out of such doldrums. Erdoğan's prophecy at Oxford is coming true in suggesting that "Turkey represents a burden-relieving dynamic for the EU."
Turkey's 8.8 percent unemployment doesn't compare in a favorable way with Europe's: Portugal's 15.2 percent; Latvia's 15.3 percent; Croatia's 15.8 percent; Greece's 21.9 percent and Spain's 24.6 percent. Youth unemployment has reached a record high in Europe, and in Greece and Spain it is 52.1 percent.
The key economic indicator of debt-to-GDP ratio in several EU member countries has passed 100 percent and in Greece it has reached near 200 percent. Turkey, on the other hand, plans to decrease an already-low 40 percent debt-to-GDP ratio to 37 percent.
The Justice and Development Party has effectively wedded Islamic liberalism with economic liberalism debunking every stereotype of Islam's incompatibility with modernity and industrialization. Turkey's economic growth in industrial development, international trade, and responsible banking and finance stands in stark contrast to Europe's succession of economic crisis.
The Erdoğan administration runs such a tight ship that in the midst of global financial crisis, not a single Turkish bank has gone under. Forbes magazine has ranked Istanbul as the fourth largest financial capital in the world. Turkey is the fourth largest shipbuilder in the world, the sixth largest motor vehicle producer and the largest television producer in Europe. Turkish Airlines is one of the fastest growing in the world and has won Europe's Best Airline award. Industrial growth in the cities of eastern Turkey has earned them the distinction of "the Anatolian Tigers."
European leaders have conveniently blamed Greece through a flurry of vicious comments insinuating that the Greeks are lazy and irresponsible while they hide their own acts of sheer folly.
Europe's religious bigotry has also resurfaced in Spain, whose economy, like that of Greece, was saved by the EU's bank bailout, but where Muslim immigrants get targeted for the Spanish police "arrest and fine" quotas. Lest they forget that it was the Reconquista and Inquisition campaigns scaring away the best and the brightest that lead to the decline of Spain as a European superpower.
Worse yet, racism is spreading to Europe's pacifist north to the lands of Wallenberg, Hammarskjöld and Galtung. This gives credence to the claim that religious and ethno-linguistic "superiority" in Europe is determined by a spatial and directional gradation favoring the north and west. The subliminal cross in the logo of NATO subconsciously implies the superiority of a Western alliance of the North (Atlantic Treaty Organization). In this twist of irony, Turkey on the shores of the Black Sea is too far for an economic integration, but Libya in North Africa and Afghanistan, "a major non-NATO ally" in Central Asia are close enough for Western military power play.
A genuine European political and economic integration requires a mindset upgrade receptive to racial and religious diversity.