The EU strains relations with Turkey at every opportunity. In this sense, it can be said that the EU is partly right in its reaction in terms of its criteria. If a country decides to make its basic values compatible with EU criteria, but does not display political will to this end, it will inevitably be criticized. Those who set the criteria hold the right to judge.
Certainly, Turkey-EU relations are not so simple and unidimensional. Our EU accession process cannot be addressed separately from our Westernization adventure of the past two centuries. If our relations with the West, especially the EU, were just about principles and wishes, the Europeans would not have made calculations to disintegrate the Ottoman Empire at a time when it approached the West the most or was Westernized the most. It can be said the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire is not only the result of its convergence with the West, but also the direct result of European imperialism. Any voluntary reform initiative that took place or the political results of regulations that were dictated by Westerners cannot be understood without addressing them together with various interests that go beyond wishes and claims about civilization.
The extent of strained Turkey-EU relations reminds us of a compulsory partnership that is about to kick up a storm. It seems that parties seek a legitimate excuse to lay the blame on the other party as they cannot dare to overtly violate the agreement. For Turkey, it is a prevailing perception that Europeans set a strategy that uses all excuses to divide and undermine the country. For Europeans, however, there is a forced alliance with an undomesticated eastern country that cannot agree with the West's universal values. To put it more explicitly, it is a question of whether or not admitting Turkey in the European home. And to put it kindly, for the children of a country that has such a long history with Europe, it means a poor memory to assess the EU and West independently of history. Claiming that states, societies and civilizations are stuck in the past and they do not change means being the captive of obsessions. Similarly, the incorrect interpretation of history leads to self-denial.
Let us remember that an approach which was broken loose from history at a time when Turkey switched to partnership relations with the EU, which was a turning point in relations, dominated the whole country. Turkey's EU relations are not just about wars, and what's more is that European history is a little Ottoman history. The two different civilizations' keen struggle in all areas caused historical, cultural, economic and social transitions. This multidimensional relation which gained different forms in different phases of history cannot be reduced to romantic wishes and interpreted through them.
This old struggle cannot be understood by ignoring Turkey's geopolitical and geo-cultural position which is both an obstacle and opportunity for the EU's ambition to become a global power. The main breakdown in the EU is the question of whether Turkey is an obstacle or an opportunity for this project. Perhaps, the EU's relations with Turkey will be one of the most important factors that will determine whether the union will strategically fall apart or be a global player.
Regardless of whether it stems from a political need like conservatives or the civilization romanticism like West-oriented countries, Turkey's relations with the EU have never been far from strategic skepticism. Certainly, the main reason for this is the deep division that is nourished by two different civilizational values. Although the EU argues for universalism and Turkey argues for the adoption of Western values, the social subconscious will leave aside the official attitude in times of crisis.
No one can argue that an EU project which aims to be a global player does not have political, economic and strategic preferences and calculations. No one can expect that the existing deep strategic concerns can be eliminated through wishes. Moreover, the simple calculations and strategic and cultural differences of nation-states quickly come to the light within the EU in times of crisis.
We need to understand the global world and have historical awareness in order to answer the question of what this strategic calculation is without falling into the trap of conspirators. History is necessary to make sense of such great fractures. In fact, the EU viewed Turkey from an oriental perspective and made the domesticated Turkey wait at the door, instead of embracing it or completely excluding it. It also wanted Turkey to function as a bridge between the East and West, as our Western-oriented elites voiced at every opportunity. This was because, for the EU, Turkey had too great a potential to be included in the union and was too indispensable to be completely excluded.
I think it would be relevant here to refer to a statement Turkish poet Sezai Karakoç made in the 1960s. In brief, he said: “The real disaster will happen if Europe establishes its own union before Muslims found an Islamic union.” Unique societies cannot survive with borrowed concepts and values.