Turkey vs. Rumelia

By Razib Khan | December 4, 2011 9:09 pm

The New York Times has a long piece, For Turkey, Lure of Tie to Europe Is Fading, which outlines the falling out of love of Turkey with the idea of joining the E.U. I believe this is a good thing. Right now the E.U. is being riven by the fact that northern Europeans, in particular the Germans, feel a lack of solidarity with southern Europeans. This is hampering coordination of economic policies. How exactly would the admission of a nation as distinctive and populous as Turkey help the situation? It is arguable that the E.U. needs to be smaller, not larger.

All that being said, it remains the reality that Turks are on average far poorer than the typical European. So where’s the condescension coming from? I wonder if it has to do with the fact that Turks compare themselves to Rumelia, the regions of the Balkans that were under Ottoman control. This zone of the E.U., excluding the strange qualified exception of Greece (it’s face value GDP per capita is obviously inflated), is actually less well off that Turkey!

  • details

    I can’t believe how simplistic your thinking is. Black and white, ignoring the entire context. What makes nuance so hard for people who think like you, I’ll never know.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    As your first chart shows, while Turkey is coming from a low base, their annual GDP growth has been impressive to say the least over the last decade. The economy grew by 9% in 2010, for example. The highest growth in the EU was Sweden, at 5.6% (not in the Eurozone, note), and the average across the EU was under 2%. And this was before the Euro crisis really went full bore. I have read, although I don’t have the data for all countries in the world in front of me, that Turkey has become the strongest economy, measured by annual growth, next to China.

    So, when Turks see themselves climbing rapidly from a low base while Europe is stagnating, and falling behind in some cases. why would they want to be in Europe’s position? Especially when they see what being in the Euro is doing to Greece. Add to this that Turkey has a great option to carve out a real sphere of influence due to the Arab Spring (much better than the misplaced ideas about Greater Turkistan after the fall of the Soviet Union) and it seems a no-brainer that Turkey will be better off standing separately from Europe than wedding itself to it.

    Recently however, watching the Arab Spring, along with the travails of Southern Europe, has made me wonder if in twenty years we’ll see a “Mediterranean Community.” For all their historic enmity, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of Greeks feel more warmly about Turks than Germans in the current situation. And if a good chunk of Southern Europe is kicked out of the Euro and essentially falls into depression, looking toward the vibrant economy of Turkey and the emerging democracies to the south, as new allies makes a certain sort of sense.

    Of course, there’s still the cultural aspect. Still, my perception from my time in Europe is fears of “Eurabia” are far more common in Northern Europe. While Southern Europe can have a very nasty nativist streak, it’s more about prejudice against Sub-Saharan Africans than Muslims.

  • Darkseid

    I always got the feeling it was mainly that the Germans and French are sick of baby sitting everyone else.

  • Naughtius Maximus

    Darkseid, there’s some truth to that but that the same time their banks made some dodgy investments and Irish Tax payes for example are burdened with some of that. Also when Ireland was on a roll the irish leader told people who had genuine concerns about the propery bubble (and the consequences of it bursting) to go committ suicide.

  • http://urbanrealist.blogspot.com John Smith

    Well, what about the Turkish immigrants to Turkey who have been a net consumer of social spending with low education outcomes?


    If you bring them back to Turkey, then Turkey has an additional population of lesser educated to care for, plus they loose out on the remittances.

    Just because the economy is growing fast, doesn’t mean it always will. Turkey simply doesn’t have an educated enough population to have the same per capita as Western Europe. They’ll stagnate around 18,000 per capita I think.

  • marcel

    In re Darkseid’s and Naughtius Maimus’s comments: northern European banks have to be bailed out because they made a lot of bad loans to Greece, and loans to Italy and Spain which were okay, so long as the interest rates for rolling them over remained reasonably low, but not so when they could be rolled over only at higher rates.

    Someone has to pay for these mistakes, whether it be the banks (qua corporations and shareholders), the citizens of Greece, Italy and Spain, or the taxpayers of northern Europe. The banks don’t really care who pays as long as it’s not them. The politicians in southern Europe cannot figure out how to have their own citizens pay for these mistakes and still get re-elected, and the politicians in northern Europe don’t want either their banks or taxpayers to have to foot the bill, since either would cause problems for their re-election and future comfort.

  • Insightful

    #2 Of course, there’s still the cultural aspect. Still, my perception from my time in Europe is fears of “Eurabia” are far more common in Northern Europe. While Southern Europe can have a very nasty nativist streak, it’s more about prejudice against Sub-Saharan Africans than Muslims.

    Karl, why more prejudice against Sub-Saharans than Muslims in Southern Europe??

  • Karl Zimmerman


    The Euro-mess is complicated, and I think you’re simplifying it. There were bad actors, like Greece and Italy, which basically engaged in financial fraud. However, there were also countries that did everything right (Spain, for example), but due to the structure of the Euro, find themselves with a perpetual current account deficit, and cannot create a recovery since the Euro overvalues the cost of their production far too much (in contrast, it undervalues Germany, which allows their economy to do artificially well at the expense of the rest of the Eurozone).


    I think there’s a confluence of reasons.

    First, Muslim immigration is a minor component in most areas. Greece retains a small native Muslim minority, but most immigrants come from Africa or India. Portugal’s migrants mainly come from their former colonies. Italy’s immigrant Muslim community has been overshadowed by migrants from Eastern Europe. Even in Spain, there are now more Romanians than Moroccans. Overall the Southern European counties have Muslim populations about half as large (measured as a percentage) as those of Northern Europe. Since they aren’t numerous, they aren’t seen as a threat.

    The other element which may play a role is simply phenotype. Many people from the Maghreb or the Middle East can blend in quite easily in a crowd in Southern Europe, provided they don’t talk and aren’t wearing a veil, while they do stick out in Northern Europe to a much larger degree.

    In contrast, blacks sadly stick out nearly everywhere. In Spain, black football players get bananas thrown at them, while in Greece it’s still not uncommon for black people to not only be refused entry to clubs, but told it’s because they are black.

  • http://www.isteve.blogspot Steve Sailer

    Turkey has benefited from Greece being too expensive due to the Euro being driven by German exports like BMWs. When I was in Turkey in 2009, everybody told me I had to go visit the Greek island 3 miles offshore. Then they’d tell me its just like Turkey except much more expensive. So I never got around to going.

  • Sid

    I think the Ottoman Empire was the Soviet Union of the 16th century. Every country that came under their rules didn’t suffer massive privations (after the initial conquests), but they stagnated and festered into sterile backwaters.

    Greece was lucky, in that Churchill argued forcefully for their freedom. After being in both Greece and Turkey, I would say that Greece’s GDP might be propped up artificially, but it is still a noticeably richer country than Turkey. Turkey appears to have more of a future, nevertheless.

  • http://abitmoredetail.wordpress.com Randy McDonald

    There’s also strong sentiment in North Africa directed against sub-Saharan Africans–the backlash in Libya against Gadaffi’s pan-Africanism has put paid to any dream fo trans-Saharan unity.

    North Africa is actually the major destination for sub-Saharan African immigrants, as Hein de Haas among others have documented. Yes, Europe is richer, but it’s also further away and considerably more difficult to reach. North African countries as a bloc are richer than their peers on the southern edge of the Sahara, have all manner of historical and cultural ties with Sahelian countries, and have the sorts of jobs that natives don’t want but immigrants would be happy to take up.

    Will this lead to a Mediterranean community? Sure; Europe and North Africa and Turkey all have certain interests in common. Seeing southern Europe pull away from the European Union in favour of alliances with Turkey or North Africa is another thing entirely. While there are any number of historic connections between southern Europe and non-European neighbours, they’re still less significant than the similarities between southern and northern Europe.

  • theox

    Turkey is in the G20, but is poised to be in G10, even without the vast resources those G10 nations possess. There is no other nation the world that has so little resources yet so much potential. Japan and Germany are exceptions of course as they have zero military overhead and have no enemies. Turks are just as pragmatic and resourceful as these nations, but they have to contend with constant Armenian, Greek, Russian, and EU meddling and sabotage from all borders. Despite being utterly alone in the world, the newly found Turkish confidence, the genetic pragmatism, all mixed with the grandeur of the Ottomans is a breath of fresh air in this doom and gloom consumerist world.

  • http://tomprice.net Tom Price

    Just to state the obvious… Serbia, Bos/Herz and Macedonia are not in the EU.

  • Walkmany

    I think the main reason why the Turks are falling out of love with the European Union is that they realize that in the future the EU will be less generous with the handouts. I think one of the reasons why Greece is in such a mess is that the Greeks always thought that their wealthier EU partners would give them whatever money they needed if they got themselves into an economic minefield. The Germans in particular seem to be sick of playing the role of Santa Claus for the rest of Europe.

  • Jacob Roberson

    12. theox Says:
    Turks … they have to contend with constant Armenian … meddling and sabotage

    Wait what? (I don’t know enough – can you specify?)

  • Tiago

    Turkey became disenchanted with the EU after seeing how substantial is the opposition to its ascension to the club. Sarkozy, among others, has said many times that Turkey is not an European nation. That is to say that where most of the current members are of christian origin, Turkey would be a Muslim country. If it became a member, Turkey with its 70 million people would be one of the biggest members of the EU. And all those people would be free to move to London and Paris. Plus the rulings made by Turkish courts would have to be accepted by the courts of the other members. Current members don’t like those prospects and as such there is very little hope of Turkey becoming a full fledged member of the EU in the coming decades.

    I don’t know if the Turks narrative includes the Balkans, I would imagine the Turkish mainstream sees itself as a role model for the Arab world, with its working democracy and Muslim identity (who says no to Israel, the US and the EU when it feels like it). (Its better to be the richest of the poor than the poorest of the rich)

    The opinion that Turkey is better off this way is quite questionable. Membership to the EU would allow Turkish citizens to live wherever they please inside the EU, and sell their goods in the single market. Lots of grants and development funds would also be made available to Ankara (to build roads, schools, hospitals). If you think this would be bad just go to Poland or ask any Polish.

  • Liesel

    I’m pretty sure the Turks heard loud and clear when the German people collectively said “Over our dead body!”

    Turkey is in an odd spot geographically to be an up and coming economy. Their European neighbors are wealthier but their middle Eastern neighbors are either much poorer and not on the same path or petrol driven. Some type of league with the Gulf states might be more realistic.

  • Onur

    Their European neighbors are wealthier

    That is not true. Turkey’s European neighbors are all Balkan countries, and among them only Greece is wealthier per capita than Turkey (Greece’s wealth is largely the result of loans from the EU and that is why it is in crisis now).

    Some type of league with the Gulf states might be more realistic.

    It is not realistic for Turkey to be in league solely with petrol-driven countries, as Turkey’s economy is not petrol-driven and is very different from the economies of those countries.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Their European neighbors are wealthier but their middle Eastern neighbors are either much poorer and not on the same path or petrol driven.

    did you bother to read the post? or can you only write and not read?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    (Greece’s wealth is largely the result of loans from the EU and that is why it is in crisis now)

    largely seems too strong if you control for inflation:


    but, it may be well over 50% of the value, which is still incredible. though even with the EU inflating greece turkey kept up in terms of ratio of per capita gdp between 2000 and 2010.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


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