[FOUNTAIN]Cultures to fuse in the EUIs Turkey in Europe or Asia? Generally, the border between Europe and Asia is considered the Ural Mountains, the Caspian Sea, the Kavkaz Mountains, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. In than sense, Turkey is geographically 97 percent in Asia and 3 percent in Europe.
But historically speaking, Turkey had been the center of Asia Minor, the origin of Western civilization. It used to belong to the Hittites, who opened the Iron Age, and then was under Persian rule, the country that competed for hegemony among the ancient Mediterranean civilizations with Greece and Rome across the Aegean Sea.
A key biblical setting for the Old Testament, Abraham was born and Noah’s Ark was built here. Homer, the author of the Odyssey, and Herodotus, the father of history, were also born in the region. Constantinople, which had been the capital of the Byzantine Empire for a millennium, is today’s Istanbul, which embraces the Bosphorus Strait that divides Europe and Asia.
The biggest reason the Europeans consider Turkey non-European is its Islamic legacy. When the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, the Muslims renamed the city Istanbul and turned the Cathedral of Haghia Sophia into an Islamic mosque.
Inheriting the legacy of the Ottoman Turks, 99 percent of the Turkish people are Muslims. Despite its religious tradition, Turkey could be considered as a part of Europe unlike any other Islamic nation thanks to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secular revolution. He adopted Western politics that separated Allah from political life.
As a result, Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, plays in the European Football Championship and participates in the Eurovision Song Contest.
But ever since Turkey became a candidate for EU admission in 1999, Turkey has been trying to deliver the EU-demanded reforms. Finally, last Wednesday, the European Commission announced its recommendation to start negotiations for Turkey’s entry into the union.
Since the 9/11 terror attacks, Europeans have been increasingly reluctant to accept a poor Muslim nation as a family member. In an age of cultural clashes, the EU and Turkey are about to begin a joint experiment for a cultural fusion.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.