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Guy Verhofstadt
M. Guy Verhofstadt

The man of the year
L'homme de l'an
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A proven Democrat, protector and fighter for justice and human rights in de wereld.

Een bewezen Democraat, beschermer en strijder voor rechtvaardigheid en mensenrechten in de Wereld.

Un prouvé démocrate, protecteur et combattant pour la justice et des droits de l'homme dans le Mond.

Eine bewährte Demokrat, Beschützer und Kämpfer für Gerechtigkeit und Menschenrechte weltweit.

Dokazani demokrat,
 zaštitnik i borac za pravdu i ljudska prava u svijetu.


M. Hossein Barak Obama

peace in the world

vrede in de wereld

la paix dans le monde

Garantie des Friedens in der Welt

mieru vo svete

mira u svijetu








ESI newsletter

December 16, 2010

Crossing the US-Mexican border Celebrating visa free travel to the EU in Albania (December 2010)

Crossing the US-Mexican border – Albanians and Bosnians celebrating visa free travel to the EU (December 2010)

Dear friends,

Is Europe a continent in decline? What kind of foreign policy can such a continent pursue?  These questions were at the center of a seminar organised by Erste Foundation in Vienna in November 2010 for policy makers and thinkers from across the continent.

You find the argument of the opening presentation here: Europe in Decline – Sit back and enjoy (but not too much). There is the theory that Muslim migration causes the decline of Europe. This was presented with much commercial success by Thilo Sarrazin. It was even earlier developed in Walter Laqueur's "The last days of Europe": a book which starts with demography and ends with the failure of integrating Muslims. Laqueur sees a dark future for a doomed continent which is all the more dangerous because it is still hidden: "on the surface, everything seems normal, even attractive. But Europe as we knew it is bound to change, probably out of recognition for a number of reasons …"

In fact, this theory is also strongly reminiscent of the one developed a few years ago in the US by Samuel Huntington, making a rather similar case about the challenges posed to America's national identity by … Hispanization! Huntington warned a few years ago that Mexican immigration "looms as a unique and disturbing challenge to our cultural integrity, to our national identity, and potentially to our future as a country":

"If over 1 million Mexican soldiers crossed the border, America would treat it as a major threat to their national security and react accordingly. The invasion of over 1 million Mexican civilians is a comparable threat to American societal security, and Americans should react to it with comparable vigour."

Thus, while Latinos are the problem in the US (for Huntington), Muslims are the problem in Europe (for Sarrazin and many, many others), and both for the same supposed reason: they cannot be integrated into mainstream culture! In the US it is Anglo-Protestant Culture which is under siege … in Europe it is the Abendland which is supposedly set to decline. Europe is doomed just as California (which was one of the whitest states in the US) is doomed, and supposedly both are in decline since the 1960s … Some years ago former CIA director William Colby warned about the future emergence of a "Spanish speaking Quebec in the US Southwest." Stefan Luft, a German author, makes the same claims for Germany's cities (for more on facts and misleading or dangerous theories about Europe's decline please go to the most recent Rumeli Observer).

To start the debate in Vienna leading European demographer Rainer Munz presented European population trends and the implications for EU policies as also outlined in the report of the European Reflection Group on Europe 2030. Mark Leonard discussed whether the theses of his book – Why Europe Will run the 21st Century – which appeared in 2005 have stood the test of time. Nicu Popescu talked about the European process seen from his position as advisor to the prime minister of Moldova. Ivan Krastev spoke about the dangers of intellectual complacency about both the future of the EU (Europe a Retired P ower) and the future of the Balkans. You can also follow the public debate on the EU and the future of intervention online here:



Europe's border revolution seen from Amexica

Comparing the choices made in recent years by the member states of the EU with those made by the US has been the topic of a seminar held this week at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, co-organised by ESI. Our opening question was: can anything be learned from comparing the EU and the US approaches to border management?

The stretch of boundary between San Diego and Tijuana is today "perhaps the world's most policed international divide between two nonbelligerent countries." At the same time, trade between the US and Mexico has grown sharply. Increasing commerce and more militarised boundaries – in an age of global insecurity, some claim, such is the global trend.

Except, of course, that this is not the case. Not only is there no militarised border between Germany and Poland; today, there is no physical boundary at all. When Poland joined the EU's Schengen zone in 2007, border installations were dismantled. When Romania joins Schengen sometime in 2011, Germany's external boundary will de facto shift from Poland's Eastern border to the Prut River between Romania and Moldova. Having crossed the Prut from the East, a visitor will be able to travel all the way to Gibraltar in southern Spain.

One of the most interesting trends in the past year has been the acceleration of reforms in small and poor Moldova (the poorest country in Europe), carried out in response to a European promise of increasing freedom of movement for Moldovan passport holders. Turn yourself into a partner, the logic goes, and your citizens can travel to the EU much more easily. It is important to underline that every one of these steps has been controversial, debated, and held up by concerns about security (this includes the next big step, the expansion of the Schengen area to Romania and Bulgaria, currently put into question by France). Likewise, the debate on visa free travel for Turkish citizens promises to be intense. At every stage, Europe's border revolution has been contested; and at no stage c an further progress simply be taken for granted.

Not long ago every book or article about the Balkans started with references to killings and cults of irrational violence. The same is true today in descriptions of the US-Mexican border. A book by John Annerino, Dead in their Tracks – Crossing America's Desert Borderlands in the New Era(2009) includes a "comprehensive border death toll" (2003: 336 people died trying to cross the US-Mexico border; 2004: 214; 2005: 241; … 2007: 237). There is also Balkan veteran Ed Vulliamy's new book Amexica – War Along the Borderline. Or take a look at a recent article in the New York Times from summer 2010 for another horrific description of trends along the border (The Mexican Border's Lost World).  

Now, beyond the sheer human tragedy in all these descriptions, there is a poignant policy question: is this border regime, is the militarisation that has taken place in recent decades, actually in the interests of those in the US who are concerned about security?

For more on the Harvard seminar go to Rumeli Observer: Amexica and other reflections on border wars. For more on the EU-US-Mexico border project please visit our European Border Revolution Website.

Ahmet Davutoglu and Erik-Jan Zürcher

Ahmet Davutoglu and Erik-Jan Zürcher

Turkey's Balkan policy: Pre-modern? Post-modern?

On 1 December ESI's Gerald Knaus was invited by the Turkije Instituut in Amsterdam to speak about current developments between Turkey and the Balkans. Historian Erik-Jan Zürcher gave an introduction on the historical background of relations between Turkey and the Balkan region.

For a reflection on whether Turkish foreign policy in the Balkans today is pre- or post-modern please read Rumeli Observer Multikulti and the future of Turkish Balkan Policy, taking as a starting point the presentation on 16 October 2009 by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Sarajevo, which promised a new golden age for the Balkans:

"Like in the 16th century, which saw the rise of the Ottoman Balkans as the center of world politics, we will make the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East, together with Turkey, the center of world politics in the future. This is the objective of Turkish foreign policy, and we will achieve this. We will reintegrate the Balkan region, the Middle East and the Caucasus, based on the principle of regional and global peace, for the future, not only for all of us but for all of humanity."

For more on Turkish debates on minorities see also our next newsletter before the end of 2010.

Nigar Göksel Tel Aviv University. Photo: flickr/ANATOLI AXELROD

Nigar in Baku – Kristof at Tel Aviv University

ESI from Baku to New York

The next public presentation by an ESI analyst will take place this week in Istanbul on the state of EU-Turkey relations.  

In the past few weeks ESI analysts also presented our research in Tel Aviv (Kristof), in Warsaw (Alexandra, Nigar), in Berlin (Nigar, Besa), in Yerevan (Nigar), in Brussels (Alexandra), in Vienna (Kristof), in Baku, and in Amsterdam (Gerald). Gerald also briefed the Global Board Meeting of the Open Society Foundation in New York.

Paradise lost Leaving Beirut The ornament of the world Sarajevo The world without us

Recommended holiday books

As Germans, Dutch, Bosnians, Turks and Americans discuss the future of multiculturalism, the following books make timely and good holiday reading (and gifts): they are also all discussed on the ESI website:

             Giles Milton (Paradise Lost), on the destruction of Smyrna/Izmir

             Mai Ghoussoub (Leaving Beirut) on coming to terms with the legacy of the war in Lebanon

             Maria Rosa Menocal (The Ornament of the World) on medieval Andalusia

             Robert Donia (Sarajevo – A Biography) on the Bosnian capital

For those who despair of the inability of societies, throughout history, to come to terms with diversity there is finally this vision of a world without human beings:

             Alain Weisman (The World Without Us), on, well, the world without us.

Finally, if you look for even more ideas for holiday reading there are always the recommendations of the ESI literary walk.

Many best wishes, and looking forward to your feedback, including on the ESI Facebook page,

Gerald Knaus

Gerald Knaus


World Security Network reporting from Berlin, December 14, 2010

Dear Cavkic Salih,

Through personal discussions in the German Bundestag, Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann, Founder of the independent World Security Network Foundation, was able to convince those concerned in the SPD, CDU/CSU, and FDP of the significance of a new type of a progress report on Afghanistan. In this way, as was the intention of the WSN from the very beginning, a broad political rolling consensus was achieved in Berlin regarding this question of national importance.
For the first time, the German government has published a comprehensive "Progress Report Afghanistan". (see Fortschrittsbericht Afghanistan der Bundesregierung Dezember 2010 - here in German only) This report derives from an initiative of the independent World Security Network Foundation (WSN) in 2010 and illustrates how foreign policy processes can be creatively supported and realized by an NGO.

In the large Conference on Afghanistan of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) chaired by its newly elected leader Sigmar Gabriel on January 10, 2010 in Berlin, Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann, founder of the independent global World Security Network Foundation (who comes as Mr. Gabriel from the same little town Goslar in the Harz mountains where both served in the city council for different parties) proposed to the Social Democrats:

"The SPD parliamentary group in the German Bundestag should bring forward a parliamentary motion across party lines to produce an Annual Report of the German Government on Afghanistan and Pakistan. This written report containing numerous details should be presented to the Parliament and discussed thoroughly. (This worked marvelously with the Annual Report of the German Government on Arms Control, initiated by me in 1980.) The members of Parliament and the general public have a right to be informed regularly from a single source and in detail from all involved departments as well as the Chancellery as to what extent the military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan have progressed." (see Afghanistan & Pakistan: A new and comprehensive NATO Double-Track Decision is needed from January 22, 2010)

The SPD parliamentary group took up this WSN proposal, but due to lobbying by the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin it was expanded to include an independent group of experts. This, however, watered down the binding nature of an official government report and found no agreement in the governing coalition of CDU/CSU and FDP in the Bundestag.

Through personal discussions with the foreign policy spokesmen of the FDP and the CDU/CSU, Dr. Hoffmann was able to defuse the government side's initial skepticism of the opposition SPD's suggestion. He was able to convince those concerned of the significance of this new type of a progress report on Afghanistan. In this way, as was the intention of the WSN from the very beginning, a broad political rolling consensus was achieved in Berlin regarding this question of national importance. This mirrors the case with the German government's Annual Report on Arms Control, initiated by Dr. Hoffmann in 1980, which at that time came from the opposition parties CDU/CSU and found agreement in the governing coalition consisting of the SPD and FDP.

In the opinion of Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann, according to the experience with the arms control report over the last 30 years, an annual report on the situation in Afghanistan will have the following six advantages:

First, it forces the diverse, involved four ministries and the chancellery to a unified presentation rather than varying observations from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Economic Cooperation and Development and the Interior.

Second, it represents a unified governmental document for policy and the public instead of an atomized collection of various speeches and declarations of different ministers from two parties and the chancellor.

Third, the parliament will be strengthened as once a year all facts concerning Afghanistan will be presented and discussed openly and honestly in the Bundestag.

Fourth, the soldiers are entitled to an account of why they have been deployed on such a dangerous and potentially life-threatening mission.

Fifth, the federal government will document its position with respect to other nations including Afghanistan and Pakistan, NATO and the allies.

Sixth, in this way a unified line will be drawn for the government and ministries and an invitation is given for reflection upon the goals that have been achieved and those that have not and necessary action for the future.

The federal government, according to its own description, fulfilled this duty of the federal assembly "gladly" and presented its report as a public document to the Bundestag in December 12, 2010.

Ambassador Michael Steiner, the Special Envoy of the German Government for Afghanistan and Pakistan, wrote in his preface letter to the "Progress Report Afghanistan" to all members of the German parliament:

"It draws a well-founded, deliberately realistic picture of the situation in Afghanistan and presents what has until now been achieved through the German mission - and what has not yet been able to be realized. The Progress Report comes at the end of a year during which the international community, at the urging of the federal government, has committed to a new joint strategy and has made this operational. This is a strategy that defines realistic goals for the international engagement in Afghanistan, which considers that ultimately only a political process of reconciliation can bring Afghanistan lasting stability, and determines for the first time a binding schedule for the international military engagement. In the period between 2011 and 2014, the international community will return security responsibility to the Afghans."

All total, the report provides information on 27 subject areas. It was produced under the leadership of the Foreign Office with the assistance of the Chancellery. The departments involved in Afghanistan - the Foreign Office, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development - produced the current report together under the leadership of Ambassador Steiner.

The report is based, among other things, upon expert consultation and evaluations of, all total, around one hundred ministerial employees in Berlin and Bonn, the Embassy in Kabul and its external offices, German representatives in international organizations as well as the reconstruction teams in areas managed by Germany in northern Afghanistan.

At the same time, even during the determination of the subjects and criteria to be examined, the federal government relied on the advice of external experts. Economic consultations were heard - also during the public hearings of the Foreign Affairs Committee on November 23, 2010 - and were read and evaluated and are partially quoted in the text. The structure of the report corresponds to existing schemes which have been agree to in an international context, for example, that of NATO or the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which reflect the international agreements between the international community and the Afghan government.

In very close cooperation among all involved, in the view of the federal government an attempt was made to portray the German engagement in Afghanistan as a long-term, concrete contribution to the foundations of the reconstruction of an independent, stabile nation. Naturally, the German engagement in northern Afghanistan stands in the forefront, observed however within the context of the development as a whole and other international contributions.

The report also provides a reminder of the starting point and continuing justification for the enormous military efforts and sacrifice of the German Armed Forces, as well as civilian representatives and development aid workers: namely, the threat to the Federal Republic of Germany from international terrorism and Islamic extremism.

This report also makes mention of the ongoing corruption in Afghanistan and makes a plea to the Afghan government to fulfill its responsibilities. With regard to the parliamentary elections that took place under the suspicion of significant election fraud, the report comments that criticism of locals on national problems was indeed possible.

The progress report states that the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be won by military means. Negotiations with the insurgents are therefore necessary. The government has already started negotiations with the insurgents. In the event of Taliban participation in power, it is the opinion of western nations that certain achievements such as in the area of women's rights must not be surrendered. The progress report also mentions this "red line".

The report also refers to modest economic success: Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world; however, taken from the lowest point in 2002, a dynamic economic development can be seen. Improvement can be observed in coal production, exports and also in per capita income.

The World Security Network now promotes annual reports on Afghanistan in other countries as well.

This newsletter is dedicated to the memory of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who as a high-octane U.S. diplomat made the Balkans a safer and more human place and created a new AfPak strategy as the special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan including vision, realism, and humanity.

ESI newsletter

October 21, 2010

The Great Debate on Turkey and Turks
Germany abolishes itself?
"Turko-Islamic Culture" and EU enlargement
Visa – the final curtain?

Dear friends of ESI,

On 3 October, on the 20th anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany, President Christian Wulff spoke in Bremen about the need for a second process of German unity. As he told his audience, in addition to Christianity and Judaism, "Islam also belongs to Germany":

"When German Muslims write to me, 'You are our president,' then I answer, wholeheartedly, 'Yes, of course, I am your president!'"

This was, so the general secretary for the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, a "clear, explicit and important message to all Muslims in Germany. Wulff's speech is a sign that Muslims aren't second-class citizens."

German President Christian Wulff speaking to the Turkish Parliament on 19 October 2010. Photo: Bundespräsidialamt

German President Christian Wulff speaking to the Turkish Parliament on 19 October 2010. Photo: Bundespräsidialamt

This week Christian Wulff became the first German president to address the Turkish parliament in Ankara. His message was similar and clear. Turkish immigrants "belong in our country." Immigration had made Germany "more diverse, open and connected to the world." In Germany Muslims were able to practice their religion. He pointed to the growing number of mosques being built there. And then he turned to his host:

"At the same time, we expect that Christians in Muslim countries be given the same rights to practice their beliefs in public, to educate new religious leaders and to build churches … Religious freedom is part of our understanding of Europe as a community of values."

On the face of it, neither of these statements should have created a big debate. It should be obvious that in a country with an estimated 2,738,551 German Turks (Turkish citizens resident in Germany, German citizens who were once Turkish citizens and those with at least one Turkish citizen as a parent) Islam "also belongs to Germany".

Ankara. Photo: flickr/brewbooks Berlin-Kreuzberg. Photo: flickr/M Kuhn

Ankara – Berlin-Kreuzberg

It should also be normal that in Turkey, a founding member of the Council of Europe and a candidate country for EU accession, Christian citizens, a tiny minority of less than 1 percent, have the right to freely practice their beliefs.

But today the first is not yet obvious in Germany; and the second is still not normal in Turkey.

ESI's ongoing research into the position of Christian minorities (Greeks, Armenians, Protestants) shows the challenges they face and the mindset they confront. In May 2009 Emruhan Yalcin, a retired captain in the Armed Forces and graduate of the Turkish Land Forces Academy, who has spent some years in Germany in the 1990s, published a whole book on the Halki Orthodox Theological School which is still closed. Its title: "The Last Crusader Fortress" (Son Hacli Kalesi). The final chapter of the book is as clear: "Why the Theological School on Heybeliada should not be opened".

For Yalcin the reopening of the Theological School "has to be evaluated as a political demand symbolizing Hellenic and Orthodox aspirations" Religious education of "men who are enemies of the Turks" will "transform Istanbul under the roof of a cultural and tourism centre into a Vatican-style religious city with the status of a state, dividing Turkey and building on the divided parts, following the framework of the "Megali Idea", a Great Byzantine Empire."

(For more on this debate see Rumeli Observer: Obama, Wulff and Christians as enemies of Turkey and forthcoming ESI Turkey reports.)

At the same time, the heated debate in Germany about Islam and Turks suggests that there too one finds different opinions about Europe as a community of values based on religious freedom.

From today a whole section on our website will be dedicated to what we call Germany's Great Debate on Turkey and Turks. This debate bridges the border between foreign and domestic policy. It links arguments about the integration of German Turks in Berlin with those about the integration of Turkey in a wider Europe. Germany matters and the quality of this debate and, most importantly, the policy responses it generates, will leave a defining mark on German domestic politics and the future shape of Europe.

In order to open this debate up to a wider interested public (including non-German speakers) we begin today by introducing some of the main thinkers and voices: intellectuals such as Necla Kelek, Thilo Sarrazin, Bassam Tibi, Henryk M. Broder, Stefan Luft, Ralph Giordano, Claus Leggewie, Werner Schiffauer, Seyran Ates, Feridun Zaimoglu, Zafer Zenocak, Peter Schneider and Fatih Akin.

In the coming weeks we will expand this section further. And if you want to share certain arguments, publications and materials more widely please visit the ESI Facebook page on Germany's Great Debate.

Germany abolishes itself?

In August 2010 Thilo Sarrazin, a member of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) and until recently board member of the German central bank (Bundesbank) published a book. By the end of October 2010 1.1 million copies of the book had been printed of which 750,00 had already been sold. Its title: "Deutschland schafft sich ab" ("Germany abolishes itself").

"We have to assume that for demographic reasons the underclass section of the population is growing steadily. Among migrants we have seen that the birth-rate is highest among those groups of migrants with the lowest levels of education, in other words those from Turkey, the Middle East and Africa. Studies on the workforce have come to similar conclusions. These show that women who are poorly or not at all integrated into the labour market are more likely to have children or increase the size of their fold. But intelligence is 50 to 80 percent hereditary and thanks to the class-related reproductive rate, this unfortunately means that the hereditary intellectual potential of the population is continually shrinking."

In 2009 Sarrazin had already explained his thinking in a long interview with the cultural magazine Lettre International: "Klasse statt Masse" ("Quality, not quantity"):

"I don't need to respect people who live off the state, despise that state, don't properly care for the education of their children and constantly produce new little headscarf-girls."

"The lower the class the higher the birth-rate. The share in birth-rates of Arabs and Turks is two to three times higher than their corresponding share in the population. Many of them are neither willing to integrate nor capable of doing so. The solution to this problem can only be no more immigration; and those who would like to marry should do this abroad."

"The Turks are conquering Germany in the same way the Kosovars conquered Kosovo: by using higher birth-rates. I would like this if it would be Eastern European Jews who have an IQ which is 15 points higher than the one of the German population."

Thilo Sarrazin

Thilo Sarrazin

Most of Germany's politicians united in a choir of disapproval. Chancellor Angela Merkel described Sarrazin's ideas as "nonsense". Sarrazin's statements were "contemptuous of entire groups of society … His language is socially divisive," she said in a TV interview. Shortly thereafter the chairman of the Bundesbank asked German President Christian Wulff for permission to remove Sarazzin from the bank's board. A few hours later the SPD filed for his expulsion from the party. While the procedure for Sarrazin's expulsion from the SPD is still ongoing, he has withdrawn from the Bundesbank board.

There has been a lot of debate in all the mainstream media. As one article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "So wird Deutschland dumm" ("This is how Germany is becoming stupid"), on 25 August 2010 put it:

"'Germany abolishes itself'" tells the tale of a nation's decline. And the Muslims who make up a mere six percent of the population are being held responsible. It begs the question as to what the remaining 94 percent have spent the past decades doing to secure the future of their country. Sarrazin's book is an attempt by a disoriented elite to exonerate itself. No wonder it is such a success."

The Frankfurter Allgemeine on Sunday observed that the book is an attempt

"to establish a very different understanding of culture … For him, culture is the reflex of a biological process. The fact that in Germany ever more children are being born to families from the underclass milieu automatically results in the dumbing down of society … education, which he refers to contemptuously as a 'mantra', is powerless as a vehicle for intellectual advancement. Individuals and entire nations are limited by their genetic and ethnic dispositions."

Others have come to defend him. Also in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung German Turkish author Necla Kelek asked why Sarrazin had been demonised:

"So he doesn't want to live in a Muslim Germany because he is suspicious of that sort of society. What's wrong with that? The economist in Sarrazin has calculated that the 750,000 Turkish immigrant workers now number almost 3 million and that 40 percent of the able bodied among them live off the state instead of working. This makes no economic sense for him and leads him to ask whether immigration, in its current form, is not a mistake."

For more on this debate go here.

"Turko-Islamic Culture" and EU enlargement

Sarrazin also accuses German society of refusing to even discuss the problem:

"In Germany, a host of integration researchers, Islam scholars, sociologists, political scientists, interest groups as well as a flock of naïve politicians work hand in hand and intensively in belittlement, self-delusion, and denial."

This does not seem an altogether convincing claim. In fact, his book – and the debate it triggered – are part of a very intense discussion stretching back at least five years.

Necla Kelek

Necla Kelek

In early 2005 the publication of the book "The Foreign Bride" (Die Fremde Braut) was one of the turning points in the recent German debate on Turks and Islam. Hundred of thousands of copies were sold and the author, Necla Kelek, turned into a media star almost overnight.

At the centre of her argument was the claim that the wide-spread practice of forced and arranged marriages had turned tens of thousands of Anatolian women, coming to Germany to marry German-Turkish men, into modern-day slaves. They live repressed by their husbands and receive insufficient support from a largely indifferent German society. Behind the outrage of modern-day female slavery was what Kelek calls "Turko-Islamic culture", a culture which in her view has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

In 2006 another book appeared. It had the title Farewell to Multikulti (Abschied von Multikulti) and focused on "ethnic colonies trapped in a vicious circle" in Germany's cities: going to bad schools, with no incentives to learn good German, a collapse of values, religious radicalisation.

The author, Stefan Luft, predicted that in the future things will get even worse. In the district of North Neukolln in Berlin 17 percent of those older then 61 are of foreign origin, compared to 42 percent of those aged 3-6. His chapter headings make clear where all of this is leading: "Influence of Islamism", "Ethnic colonies, violence and crime", "Wall of silence", "Youth and violence", "Religion and violence", "Organised crime", "Honour killings".

Stefan Luft

Stefan Luft

Both Kelek and Luft also argue against Turkey's accession to the EU. As Kelek put it: "I am against all forced marriages, whether for young people or for states. For me the 'Turkish bride' is not yet of marriageable age [for the EU]." In a 2006 article Kelek called Turkey a "country without progress." In fact, she usually refers to Turkey in her books as a country sliding backwards in all areas. There is the Istanbul of her youth, "stolen" from her through rural migration, which brought "ignorant brides from the villages, covering the metropolis with a veil." And there is the AKP government setting out to "Islamicize the country."

According to Luft the priority of German policy must also be to stop further immigration into ethnic colonies. This, says Luft, requires a German veto on possible Turkish EU accession. Luft's Turkey is as grim a place as his Neukolln. The Turkey he describes is one where only 68 percent of girls go to school, where entire regions remain underdeveloped, and where a huge reservoir of unskilled potential workers awaits the chance to move to Germany. "It is unclear whether Turkish policy makers and economic growth can solve these problems":

"Germany is the EU member which would be most affected by Turkey's EU membership. Without doubt it is not in the interest of Germany that Turkish citizens obtain the full freedom to move within the EU as a result of Turkish accession."

Are Necla Kelek, Stefan Luft and others winning the argument in Germany? Or does the future belong to people like German author Zafer Senocak?

Senocak criticises those who argue that "integration has failed":

"That one can come to such a conclusion, which is widely accepted in the media and in the public, although everybody knows that a serious integration policy has in fact not even been implemented, compromises the whole debate."

"What conditions do we need to make the migrants identify themselves with the host society and to see themselves as part of this society? Even those who attend beginner classes in psychology know that the first step cannot be to convince the migrant of the inferiority of his culture … A successful host society needs, as a first step, to show the willingness and readiness to receive."

For Senocak the perspective of Turkish EU membership is crucial for the country's reforms:

"If the position of women is to be improved one should be a b advocate of EU membership, one should want for European institutions and European law to gain influence in Turkey … A Turkey that is left outside cannot be better for women's rights than a European Turkey."

Zafer Zenocak
Seyran Ates

Zafer Zenocak – Seyran Ates

Or take Seyran Ates, one of Germany's leading human rights lawyers fighting violence against women, an author of her autobiographical Große Reise ins Feuer (Great Journey into the Fire, 2003)?

For more on Kelek, Luft, Senocak, Ates and other voices in Germany's Great Debate go here.

"I am absolutely in favour of Turkey's accession to the EU so that people can see that there are also 'other' Turks. Turkey offers a chance to peaceful co-existence of Orient and Occident. Islam is of course compatible with democracy. Other religions are similarly hostile to women, but have developed further. Islam, too, is capable of developing. Europe has to succeed in dealing with Turkey – this is a great opportunity."

(lecture at Humboldt University, Berlin, 29 January 2007)

Visa – the final curtain?

On 8 November 2010, EU interior ministers are scheduled to vote in favour of lifting the Schengen visa requirement for the citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These are bound to breathe a deep sigh of relief, like their neighbours in Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia did a year ago when the EU did the same for them.

The vote will mean that after almost two decades of "life behind the Schengen Wall", as it has been often described, almost all citizens of the Western Balkans will be able to travel freely to the Schengen area, without having to obtain a visa from a consulate beforehand.

ESI has published a lot also in recent weeks to help ensure that EU decision makers will not lose courage at the last moment. For the press coverage on this debate please go here.

Many best wishes,

Gerald Knaus

Gerald Knaus

Further reading

  • The Great Debate –
  • New Rumeli Observer: Obama, Wulff and Christians as enemies of Turkey
  • New Rumeli Observer: The march of Balkan history? – Gerald Knaus 5th October presentation
  • ESI Balkan Visa Campaign – latest media echo
  • Interview with Turkish president Abdullah Gul on integration, Islamophobia, Turkish EU accession, and "Islamic Calvinists"
  • ESI in Bratislava – 21 October
  • ESI in Budva – 8 October
  • VACANCY: ESI Turkey fellows
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Frameless Pictures of Globalisation - written by: Dr. Jernej Pikalo, 16-Feb-07