Wednesday, October 05, 2005

European Turkey or Croissant?

After much heel dragging by Austria, the first significant European embrace of Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation, has occurred. Turkey has been trying to join the European Union for a decade but suspicion and even fears of its seemingly alien non-Christian culture has hampered its inclusion while some Johnnies-come-lately like Slovenia and the Baltic nations were swiftly incorporated.

Turkey has also human rights disagreement with the principal values of the European Union but then, so did those former Eastern Bloc nations. There has been undoubtedly a bias against a non-Christian non-European mainland nation.

Austria has been the main objector. Austria had a terrifying experience with an invasive Turkey in the 17th Century when the powerful Ottoman Empire marched into Europe. Fortunately for the Asutralians, Polish forces lead by one John Sobieski came to the rescue and saved Vienna. They defeated the Turks.

To celebrate the victory over the Turks, the Viennese, famous for their pastries and cakes, created a special pastry in the shape of the Turkish cresent. This was the origin of the croissant.

Mehmet Ali Birand, a leading Turkish writer, stated that Turkey’s membership of the European Union would "mean that our crisis of identity - does Turkey belong to European values or the Islamic world? - will be over".

The battle for full membership is not over yet as any of the European Union nations can still veto Turkey’s inclusion, which seems to be highly possible. But certainly it is a fantastic step forward. The inclusion of Turkey will make the European Union one of the most powerful blocs with a population of 500 million people, roughly twice that of the USA.

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