How did the Christian Democrat party, shortly called CDU prepare its position on the Turkey file. That could teach us something important on the question how much influence our public really has had on formulation of our Turkey related policies.
Our case is about Holland, but similar weaknesses may be found in political parties all over Europe. It would be very useful to compare notes and gather documentation on this unhappy chapter of European policy making
How did the CDA come to its position on Turkey, many years ago ?
Three moments and three personalities were most important and determined the outcome. There never was a free open discussion
The very choice of personalities to prepare the CDU’s policy position already prejudged the outcome>It was clear that a basic choice had already been made outside the public eye.
I remember this the more clearly since the Dutch statesman Norbert Schmelzer at one moment hadexpressed satisfaction when he heard that I was doing something about this topic. He said “that finally the party should come up with more precise ideas”. (personal correspondence)
In reality in the present case from the first moment a position was chosen by the party leaders. The process of due preparation which was followed to justify the initial choice in fact was very much determined by the choice of persoinalities who were to guide the process.
To begin with……
In something which was presented as a first “free”, “scientific” orientation session the Party leaders invited a University Professor to guide the politicians. Was that not a sign of objectivity, of honesty? But who was chosen? Professor Zurcher , a wellknown turcologist in Leyden university. Is there anything wrong with that choice ? Yes.
Whatever the high qualifications one may attach to that turcologist, everybody will understand that a turcologist depends for his career and for his life’s network on relations with Turkish officials, and non-official turkish academic and general networks.
Should he be identified at any moment as blocking or even doubting about Turkey’s ambitions and Turkey’ place in the European Union his whole life work and even his daily bread would be in danger. Of course, from Professor Zurcher the party members heard :”go ahead”
Then, when a basis favorable to Turkey’s candidacy had been prepared…..
the CDA found the Netherlands head of mission to the European Union, Ambassador Dr Ben Bot willing to assume after his retirement from the diplomatic profession the function of Minister of Foreign Affairs. The choice of Dr Bot was in many ways an excellent one since the Dutch government had to face its six month long rotating chairmanship of the European Union. Dr Bot had the distinguished career and a recent and long term acquaintance with the procedures in Brussels as head of the Netherlands delegation in Brussels. He was obviously an ideal person to guide the Netherlands through that period of EU Chairmanship.
The CDA leadership however forgot one thing, namely that Dr Bot had at an earlier time also been Netherlands Ambassador to Turkey and in his function and outside his function had shown himself as a distinct proponent of Turkey’s accession to the EU.
The inclination of Ben Bot toward Turkey’s candidacy has a few connotations which were not the outcome of prudent statecraft but rather from an idealistic frame of mind Turkey’s acceptance by the EU would be in his view a marvelous gesture of Europe towards the world muslim community. In the vocabulary of Dr Bot the word “ruimhartig” (meaning broad minded, large-mindedness) is not uncommon. He has had that noble attitude and even used the very word “ruimhartig” on other occasions less dangerous to the future of his own country and of Europe (for instance with respect to Indonesia. Mr Bot was born in old Batavia, now known as Jakarta and has kept the original reading in his passport. It is a wonderful show of liberal attitudes.No wonder that he was the person chosen to represent the Netherlands in Jakarta on a recent Indonesian official occasion showing that the Netherlands accepted the claim that Indonesia’s indepdence did not date from the officval recognition by its former colonial master, but from the day it was proclaimed by Soekarno
Nobody would be surprised if Dr Bot would foster closer dialogue with the Islam.But would fostering the accession of Turkey to the European Union be the best method to achieve that ? The arab world for instance would never understand why a gesture to Turkey, the former overlords of the arabic world should be seen as a message intended for themselves.
In statecraft idealism and gestures must take second place after prudence. The safety of the state is the primary responsibility of state leaders.
For the CDA the primacy of prudence however did not count. Apart from seeking out Dr Bot the party had long been engaged in it own actions of broadmindedness, like on immigration. The underlying reasoning was often that “open borders” would be in tune with the good worldwide “rentmeesterschap” (stewardship) doctrine for which the party though they found found instructions in the Bible Itself !
The third phase .
When the moment of policy formulation came on the question of Turkey’s candidature whom did the pary choose to direct this work towards a more concrete formulation?
Obviously on the suggestion of the VNO-NCW, the powerful Dutch employers union, its staff member Mr Wynand Quaedvlieg was appointed to this job.
The VNO-NCW had made the extension of the EU to Turkey already one of its key priorities, mostly on arguments derived from economic expansion needed for the Netherlands industry. There was the earlier decade-long experience with cheap Turkish labour, which the employers had imposed on the Netherlands government. I myself during the years of my job as deputy chief of mission at the Embassy in Ankara crossed every morning at the entrance of our offices the long rows of turkish candidate workers lining up in order to get their health certificates and admission papers. Dutch industralists (and one should add their colleagues in Germany and other European countries had opted for the short term solutionm, the easy way out, by relying on cheap labor and getting it from Turkey.Rather should they have followed Lee Kuan Yu of Singapore who at one time ordered:”let’s get rid of low qualoity mass production and aim for the higher stuff where we can pay higher wages !”
The fierce positioning of VNO.NCW in favor of Turkey’s entrance in the EU was confirmed personally to me by its Chairman Mr Schraven to whom I had among others sent a little essay on the topic. Promptly and businesslike as you could expect he sent me an anser thanking for my effort but pointing out that he had a totally different opinion and that therefore he would not be interested in keeping subscribed to my messages.
(see the text as a note).
How could one expect from Mr Quaedvlieg being a salaried staff employee of VNO anything else than as full force endorsement of Turkey as a member of the EU ?
Throughout the preparations of the Netherlands Christian Demcratic Party in its three phases one sees clearly that a political choice had been made in the very beginning and on a narrow basis, namely in keeping low wages available and possible expansion of Netherlands business in a young dynamic Turkey. Other elements related to the political process in the EU top or on a lower level of social cohesion of the Netherlands nation in view of ther fact that Turks integrate very difficultly, did not enter their considerations.
We are now a few years further and meanwhile we have seen in December 2005 how far Erdogan dares to push his demands for admittance during the Netherlands Chairmanship. The Turkish do not limit themselves anymore to a gentle tap on the door, it is drastic and pushy demands which we see from them.REvery day their lobbyists are at the doors of the members of the European POarliament and the Commission officials.
Have the Netherlands political leaders learned something in the process? Speaking with a Dutch member of the European parliament one could get a sense of prevailing perplexity concerning the ultimate goal, but at the same time unwillingness a lack of courage to change direction :
Example :a leading CDA parliamentarian said to me :
a) For reasons of political convenience we cannot stop talking with the Turkish government on accession. If we should reject any perspective of ultimate inclusion of Turkey, all other political parties would find our party out of fashion and would not be willing to talk to it. If we expresses a clear “NO” to Turkey we would be excluded from any political dialogue and we canot assume such a risk
b) However, – the same EWuroparliamentarian said to me – as a practical matter in the process we in the CDA and elsewhere will try to find new obstacles to Turkey on its road to accession, “ and so we can gain time. Perhaps at some moment this Turkish nightmare” will be taken away from us.”
One might shake one’s head and ask the questions whether for a party which seeks to adhere to the BIBLE such an attitude is appropriate in terms of worldly and biblical decency. Does the Bible not say that our “yes” should be “yes” and our “no” a “no”?
It looks rather as if many European politicians have found their own form of “taqiyah”, a behavior we attack if we see it practiced by Moslims
The European Union will not get real strength from extension of its area of membership or inclusion of untold miliions of Turkish people (not only the 80 mln of present Turkey, but also the many million Turks who would come from Central Asia)
When the “European Constitution” was up for a referendum choice our government schoolmasters complained that we were bad students by not not keeping ourselves strictly to the theme proposed in the referendum. We should have expressed a vote only on the “text”. Indeed in the French school system there is no more mortal sin no harsher judgment than if the master throws “hors sujet” at you. .
But in politics it is different. There nothing is “hors sujet” because often the “sujets” have not been put properly and fairly before the people.Any occasion to show displeasure is then a rightfyul and legitimate one.
Over a too long time our people were not consulted on Copenhagen criteria or on anything concerning the Turkish demands.
Therefore our people yesterday and also tomorrow, have a clear right to judge not only on “TEXT” but also on “CONTEXT”, In politics you are never “hors sujet”
Therefore we may expect that the faulty preparations on the Theme of Turkey’s candidature for accession to the European Union, will be at some point be countered by the people, by hook or by crook. In politics you are never “hors sujet”