Without realizing that his verses would one day adorn the text of the “Hymn of Europe”, Friedrich Schiller, an influential German playwright and thinker, conceived his poem “An die Freude” in the summer of 1785. to celebrate the communion of humanity. Almost two centuries later, the Council of Europe chose the outstanding piece to extol eternal European values and promote “communion” between countries, with Schiller’s words accompanying the libretto of the final movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But Schiller was never satisfied with his work of art. In a letter to a friend in 1800 he even called it a “failure” and “unreality”. German intellectuals have always had a strong nose. The anthem is now very detached from its original core; it is sung only in the antiquated ceremonies and boring events of the European Union. It literally failed to achieve what it set out to do. Yes, you heard me right, we are talking about not understanding the work of Schiller and Beethoven. Well done Europeans, you have achieved the impossible!
Sometimes fair and sometimes unfair, the EU has been heavily criticized time and time again. From Britain’s infamous divorce deal to the poison of populist and isolationist tendencies, several cracks have left sores on member states’ shoulders of late. Some things turned out to be a burden. The economic recession, for example, is currently an absolute nightmare for the entire euro zone. If you ask economists, it’s too late to bury the bloc. Today, “end times” scenarios are being propagated in credible think tank research, commentary, and news analysis, while Quora-like platforms have already upped the bet and started questioning whether or not the bloc will collapse. The majority of users have closed Brussels’ shutters.
If you ask me, we should refrain from asking direct yes or no questions in politics because there is never black or white in the global system; ie the color of the policy is grey. So it’s pointless and irrational to join the train of doom-and-dark pundits grumbling about the near end of the EU. However, the EU system suffers from loud isolationist voices and is losing its raison d’être, which is indeed a fundamental truth and principle for modern states.
A simple look at the history of the EU mindset shows how plurality, diversity and universal values are at the heart of the EU philosophy. For example, the bloc’s funding policy is especially doing its best to build a better future where all identities enjoy bliss and freedom. In addition, the educational initiatives and programs are wonderful. Everything is fine in theory, but in practice things are not going so well.
In almost every non-Western periphery there is always a famous critique knocking on the EU’s door, which the bloc openly rejects. The argument is that the EU is nothing more than a Christian club that invents excuses to keep non-Christian states from joining the organization.
Türkiye on a critical front
Türkiye is on the critical front as it faced several difficulties and “too many double standards” on its way to full EU membership. From the Copenhagen criteria to irrelevant domestic politics, the EU has so far found “reasons” to keep the country waiting long outside Brussels.
The history actually goes back to the late Ottoman period, when the western-oriented modernization process of the Turks gained momentum. But let’s not get caught up in history. Yes, the earth was created, Adam was born, we began hunting, wars began and Samuel P. Huntington wrote The Clash of Civilizations and the Reshaping of the World Order. While we may all be aware of this, the EU misses the point that Türkiye is a bridge between the West and the East, cliche as that may be.
From conservatives to secularists, there is one metaphor every Turk uses when it comes to describing Türkiye’s brain – the compass metaphor by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi. Rumi says, “The needle leg of the compass is firmly anchored in my religion, but with the other leg I travel through seventy-two nations.” Here the Muslim Sufi paints a picture of the Muslim ethos, saying that an ideal Muslim mind adheres to the principles of Islam while at the same time enjoying exploring the world. Türkiye is the physical manifestation of this metaphor as it is a Muslim nation (with the pluses and minuses) and open to the western world (again with the pluses and minuses).
The EU, on the other hand, never accepts the charge of being a Christian club or of double standards, being very sensitive to being a “club for democracies”. The EU is right, but Türkiye is right too. Instead of looking for a scapegoat, both sides can look at the positive side of their relationships. The successes of the EU-Turkiye customs union (although it urgently needs modernizing), the refugee agreement (despite obstacles) and the Erasmus+ program (perfectly fine) spring to mind. There are many more to count.
Yes, the EU is far from what its anthem envisions and no one should wait for an abracadabra moment in bilateral relations in today’s world. However, tomorrow could be different if Türkiye and the bloc remember that the color of politics is grey. That’s what Schiller and Beethoven preach for Europe.