Excerpt from Feyzi Baban and Fuat Keyman (2008) “Turkey and Postnational Europe: Challenges for the Cosmopolitan Political Community”, European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 11 (1), p. 107-124.
Drawing on the cosmopolitan and post-civilizational perspective proposed by Beck, Habermas, and Delanty, we analyze the question of Turkey’s membership according to the premise that cosmopolitanism is a two-way relationship in which encounters with the Other require a mutual acceptance of living with differences and of the possibility of being transformed as a result of this encounter. What this means is that Turkey’s membership requires Europe to rethink its borders and identity. It also requires Turkey to rethink its identity and its commitment to the basic ideals that lie at the foundation of the EU. In other words, the potential for a pluralistic cosmopolitan future for the EU depends on the possibility of a postnational, multicultural, and global Europe with the capacity to contribute to the creation of democratic global governance, which in turn will depend to a large extent on both Europe’s decision about Turkey’s full membership and the ability of Turkey to deepen and consolidate its democracy (Leonard, 2005).In the following two sections we discuss the impact of Turkey’s membership on the cosmopolitan visions of the EU within the contexts of: (a) Europe’s geopolitical place in the global world, and (b) postnational Europe and European identity. Finally, in the third section, we turn our attention to what a cosmopolitan Europe means in terms of Turkey’s ability to consolidate its democracy and develop a multicultural understanding of modernity.
Debates about Turkey’s membership force Europe to discuss what are often contradictory visions of cosmopolitan Europe in the global world. For instance, one of the arguments in favor of Turkey’s membership is that in order to balance US unilateralism, the EU has to develop capabilities in the areas of military, population, and economic productivity and that Turkey’s incorporation into the union would only strengthen the EU’s role in the world (Ostanhof, 2005; Sauron, 2004). Another argument that supports the view that Turkey’s inclusion would contribute to the geopolitical standing of Europe is that Turkey’s membership provides Europe with the opportunity to make a statement that the European project is not culturally sealed but allows Europe to bridge the gap between the West and Muslim countries (Touraine, 2004; Touraine et al., 2004). In fact, this point about bridging the gap between the West and Muslim countries is commonly used to argue that, contrary to the US’ so-called war on terror, which is based on security and conflict, incorporating a predominantly Muslim country into the EU would resolve tensions that have emerged between the West and Muslim countries (Benessia, 2004). Some suggest that – just as Monnet defined securing peace among European nations as the main objective of the EU– Turkey’s membership would serve the purpose of providing peace among cultures (e.g. Duisenberg, 2005). Similarly, it is also argued that including Turkey would prevent Europe from becoming increasingly isolated, culturally closed, and irrelevant in the global state of affairs (e.g. Kuntz, 2004).
However, others argue equally forcefully that although Turkey’s geopolitical condition is hard to ignore, the cultural differences between Turkey and Europe are just too great, and incorporating Turkey into the EU would pose insurmountable institutional challenges and further weaken the EU’s place in world politics. According to this line of argument, as emphasized by French President Nicholas Sarkozy (Aybet, 2006: 538), it is therefore more desirable to establish a privileged partnership with Turkey that would be effective in incorporating Turkey’s geopolitical advantages into the sphere of European influence without importing cultural incompatibilities into the EU’s domestic sphere (Pfaff, 2004). Notwithstanding cultural differences, Turkey, with its large and relatively poor population, could become a big drain on EU resources and a potentially large source of immigration, which would overwhelm the domestic configurations of European countries (Welfens, 2004).
This polarized debate about Turkey’s geopolitical place within the European project is about not only the geopolitical place of Europe in the global world but also the cosmopolitan nature of Europe. The arguments for Turkey’s geopolitical importance are that Turkey’s inclusion into the European project would benefit Europe through the creation of a highly dynamic economy and the possibility of bridging the gap between Europe and Muslim countries; furthermore Europe’s geopolitical significance in the global world mostly depends on its ability to go beyond a culturally sealed and essentialist European identity. However, arguments against the geopolitical importance of Turkey tend to downplay cultural pluralism and do not necessarily acknowledge multiculturalism as an integral part of Europe’s geopolitical strength. This ambiguity between geopolitics and cultural identity is further pronounced in debates about the EU’s Postnational character and European identity.
Debates over the postnational future of the EU are also indications of the current impasse over whether further integration will remain simply one of economic and political cooperation or evolve in a more radical direction. Whether this postnational future should be based solely on a procedural framework – as described by Habermas’s constitutional patriotism – or whether it requires a more elaborate construction of political community that is similar to national public spheres, is further complicated by the increasing cultural diversity of the EU. It is now clear that Habermas’s emotionally disengaged constitutional patriotism may provide the EU with contractual governance, but it certainly lacks the emotional attachment that would turn the EU into a real political community. A crucial question surrounding the postnational future of the EU is whether it is desirable to form a European public sphere that would provide citizens of member states with political attachment and shared political and social space. The more important question is whether this European public sphere is going to be any different from its national counterparts. National public spheres are integral parts of the national narratives that play a crucial role in consolidating national identities. The long history of the modern national public sphere is full of examples of national publics that are not hospitable to plurality, difference, and multiculturalism. In fact, in most cases, national publics have been sites of homogenization and marginalization of differences in national discourses (Eley, 1992). Imagining a postnational Europe that depends on a European public sphere appears to run the risk of ignoring the growing cultural plurality within European countries. Yet, emulating the model of national public spheres is just what the EU appears to be doing in order to counter the deep loyalties felt by Europeans to their national identities (Shore, 2004). Methods such as the European flag and anthem, song contests, and projects geared towards rewriting European history are all similar to those used by nation-states to create consolidated national identities. Yet, creating a postnational Europe as another form of national project goes counter to the growing cultural plurality of Europe.