Archive for the ‘Turkey-Realpolitik?’ Category

Multicultural UK

mercredi, mars 9th, 2011

Is there a lack of clarity surrounding Coalition government policy on multiculturalism, which has left the British public confused? This was suggested by Caroline Flint, the Labour Shadow Communities Minister, commenting on a speech last week in Luton by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, in which he called for engagement with extreme groups even if they appear to hold deeply unacceptable views.
The multiculturalism picture drawn by Mr Clegg is of an open and confident society in the UK which welcomes diversity but resists division, it being better to fight the views of extremists rather than to ignore them and to win such people over through smart argument. He, therefore, rejects the idea of a multicultural society in which there is more segregation and people lead separate and parallel lives. This is a very liberal position to take of course which assumes the other side will listen and respond to what e.g. Mr Clegg considers reasoned arguments based on traditional British values. There is, however, the problem in any such negotiation process that if one side wins the values argument the other side must by definition have lost. Each side, therefore, needs to concede something for a win-win outcome in which by definition the more liberal or tolerant is likely to give more than the extreme.
His views do not seem that different from those of the Prime Minister as expressed in a speech at a security conference in Munich last month, when he attacked the doctrine of state multiculturalism in the UK which had encouraged different cultures to live separate lives. His speech was not only welcomed by the right-wing of his Conservative party in the UK but also in France where Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the far-right Front National, saw a parallel with their policy on immigration. Where the more muscular liberalism of Mr Cameron might appear to diverge from that of Mr Clegg is in calling for an end to engagement with groups which do not share British values about e.g. human rights, equality of women, integration and democracy. However, this could also be viewed as only adopting a tougher initial negotiating position than Mr Clegg.
Essentially the main multiculturalism issue still seemingly being debated within government is how to address Muslim extremism and if by definition an extremist group is an organisation with which no negotiation is considered possible. Even Mr Clegg says that he supported the proscription of the Pakistan Taleban adding, however, that proscription must always be a last resort and not just an automatic reaction. Perhaps the difference in tone, language and values of the two speeches reflects the need for both leaders to reassure their own party members on this sensitive issue rather than the country as a whole.


mercredi, octobre 20th, 2010

An anti-immigrant wind is also blowing in Germany it seems and Chancellor Merkel has had to modify her position somewhat after e.g. angrily rejecting the claim of French President Sarkozy that she was also thinking of (as in France) a similar return to Romania of problematic, Roma traveller families from their shantytown-type settlements (a sensitive issue given the still relatively recent German past). It was only this summer that the multicultural German football team which comprehensively defeated England in the World Cup in South Africa, was celebrated in Germany as emblematic of a young country enriched by decades of immigration, the latter encouraged particularly from Turkey to meet critical labour shortages following the Second World War.
Now, however, Germany is debating the role of its 4 million Muslims and a recent opinion poll had 55% of Germans considering Muslim immigrants a burden costing the country much more socially and financially than they have contributed economically. Another poll published in Bild the largest circulation tabloid, showed 66% of the public believing that Islam does not belong in Germany. It has not helped that there are reports of German Islamic militants, the children of first generation immigrants, receiving training as terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan with several also recently reported killed by American CIA-operated drones. Mrs Merkel has now, therefore, been moved to tell her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) members at a party conference that Islam in some of its forms is not compatible with German law and that tolerance must stop at e.g. forced marriages and honour killings, which are not considered part of basic German culture. Of course Germany is not alone in being caught up in a wave of anti-immigrant feeling that is developing across Europe, with far-right and /or anti-immigrant political parties now also in e.g. Holland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France and the UK.
Even on the religious front, the Catholic Church is concerned at the diaspora of some 27 million Christians (including 6 million Catholics) spread across the Middle East and which is moving to the West, reflecting the difficulties encountered in their daily lives from the rise of political Islam, as the influence of Islamic fundamentalists increases. They are also under pressure in the Philippines, India and Pakistan. Above all, such Christians are put into a rather precarious situation of being considered as non-citizens when Muslim extremists mix religion and politics and do not accept their right to freedom of religion and conscience. The Vatican trusts, however, that working together with what it sees as still a vast majority of more moderate Muslims to combat such religious extremism, the Christian faith can continue to prosper in the Holy Land at least.
Considering the rather lax attitude taken to controlling immigration to the UK in the most recent past, taken together with the promotion of Islamic Turkey for membership of the European Union (EU), the view from France is that the UK needs to reflect more on what sort of society it wants for the future and to reaffirm its common cultural heritage with Europe. Certainly the Coalition government has already set stricter limits on immigration from outside the EU and which in the current economic slowdown, can more easily inflame emotions in areas where immigrants are competing for limited low-cost housing and jobs.


dimanche, juillet 11th, 2010

William Hague the British Foreign Secretary, has spoken of Britain championing Turkish membership of the EU as part of the new foreign policy committed to building relationships with emerging economies, particularly if enjoying robust growth. Contrary to the arguments of politicians in France, Germany and other member states, he considers the EU turning its back on the membership aspirations of the predominantly Muslim Turkey as an immense strategic error.
There is concern in the West that Turkey in response, is turning its back on an unwelcoming Europe and embracing the Islamic world e.g. by voting against sanctions on the nuclear programme of Iran and embracing Hamas, considered by the US and the EU as a terrorist organisation. However, compared with the EU, the economy of Turkey is booming with 11.4% growth in the first quarter of 2010, government debt only at 49% of GDP and strong export business due partly to its closer regional ties with Iran, Syria and Russia.
Mr Hague accepts that Turkey needs to improve in areas such as human rights, competition and media freedom to support its case for EU membership but there is potential for a major increase in trade flows, currently £8.6 billion a year between the two countries. Turkey is also a key Nato ally strategically placed between Europe and Asia with channels of communication different from the West. It would also appear that with the West in financial recession, Turkey is looking towards the East to explore opportunities and exert influence with its new financial power.
The British policy towards Turkey, therefore, seems a very pragmatic piece of realpolitik which again calls into question the future evolution of the EU into a common trading bloc or free market of neighbouring nation states, a single political union based on a common Christian heritage or something in between.