Dr. Kirisci and Dr. Vlad on tour at the Center for International Trade and Security at UGA.

Turkish EU Expert Gives Lecture On Turkey and Accession to the European Union

The debate regarding Turkey’s accession to the European Union is complex and reflects differences in political and historical views of the “Old Continent,” Dr. Kemal Kirisci, director of the European Studies Center at the Bogazici University, Istanbul, told University of Georgia students and faculty in March.

"The fundamental issues are whether the values of the Turkish society are compatible with the European culture, and whether Europe is willing to accept more diversity or to focus on its so-called homogeneity,” Prof. Kirisci argued.

"The latter view is the result of a narrow historic perspective that has perceived the confrontation between the Ottoman Empire and the Western European countries as a clash between civilizations,” Dr. Kirisci said. “My opinion is that the new European architecture cannot be built only by looking into the past. A more pragmatic and modern approach is needed."

Dr. Kirisci made these remarks in a lecture on March 29, co-sponsored by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College, and the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia.

Following the lecture in the Students Tate Center, Prof. Kirisci, who holds the Jean Monnet Chair in European Integration, visited the Center for International Trade and Security and met Dr. Scott Jones, Senior Research Associate at the Center, who specializes in the European Union and security issues in the Caucasus, and Central Asia.

On March 28, Dr. Kirisci had a meeting with Drs. Lee Becker and Tudor Vlad, director and assistant director of the Cox Center, and with Dr. Gary Berstch, director of the Center for International Trade and Security. Dr. Kirisci provided an overview of Bogazici University in Istanbul, which was created in the 19th century as the first U.S. higher education organization located outside the United States but is now a state-supported Turkish university.

During his lecture, Kirisci argued that the media have had a major role in framing Turkey’s accession debate and in influencing the public opinion both in Turkey and in the European Union.

“One of the most powerful newspapers in Istanbul had a big graphic on the day when a decision was made about the beginning of the accession process, Dr. Kirisci said. “The Turkey flag and the EU flag were side by side, and the idea was that a bridge has been built.”

On that same day, a second newspaper had a article on the front page with the headline: “Welcome to 70,000,000 Turks in Europe.” The title seemed positive, but in fact the message suggested that many people in the European Union might lose their jobs in the future because of the millions of workers coming from Turkey, Dr. Kirisci said.

In Kirisci's view, the United States would benefit from Turkey’s accession to the European structures, because his country could demonstrate that there are no irreconcilable differences between the Christian and Muslim cultures.

“Of course, he added, there are major challenges to be faced in the future, and no one claims the process will be fast or smooth, but people have to learn that negotiations are always better than conflict and that compromise is the core of win-win negotiations.”

Prof. Kirisci has written or edited six books, including Turkey in the European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (2004), The Political Economy of Regional Cooperation in the Middle East (1998), and The Kurdish Question and Turkey: An Example of a Trans-State Ethnic Conflict (1997).

Dr. Kirisci has been a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science and Center for Middle Eastern and North Africa Studies, University of Michigan, and a lecturer in International Relations, The City University, London, Great Britain.

Dr. Becker, the director of the Cox Center, met Dr. Kirisci at the Salzburg Seminar, Austria, in June 2003. Dr. Becker served as an observer at a session on "Migration, Race and Ethnicity in Europe," where Kirisci was one of the key speakers. Dr. Becker attended the session as part of an evaluation the Cox Center is conducting under a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

In recent years, the Cox Center has brought to the Grady College distinguished scholars Dr. Denis McQuail from the University of Southampton, Dr. Klaus Schoenbach from the University of Amsterdam, Prof. Youichi Ito from Keio University in Japan, and Drs. Marjan de Bruin from the University of the West Indies to Jamaica.