With her plan to start a petition drive against Turkey's EU entry, the head of Germany's largest opposition party risks a dangerous polarization and stirs up old memories, writes DW-World's Baha Güngör.
The petition would be seen as a vote against Germany's 2.5 million Turks
A petition campaign opposing Turkish entry into the EU -- as recently suggested by opposition conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel -- would be seen as many as a German vote against the Turkish nation and culture.
And also as a vote for or against the Turkish people -- 2.5 million of whom currently live and work in Germany, with 4 million living and working in the European Union as a whole.
Turks in Germany say they feel deeply wounded by the suggestion of the petition drive, and rightly so. The discussion is a "declaration of war," they say.
Populism is not diplomacy
Merkel's suggestion lacks even the slightest scrap of reason, instead scraping the barrel of the lowest kind of populism. But populism cannot be a guideline of political diplomacy. It can't take the place of informed debate. Would anyone in Germany actually want to rebuild the Berlin Wall -- automatic firing devices and all -- simply because polls show more and more people who are upset with the economic situation in the country want their Wall back?
EU expansion to the east and southeast is a necessary, and thus correct, decision. For a long time now, the EU has been more than just a group of nations seeking to improve economic conditions for its members. It has become a federation that seeks to solidify and promote certain systems and values: democracy, human rights, protection of minorities, and a dialogue between cultures and religions. And it seeks to do this far beyond the geographic borders of Europe.
This is exactly why a decision for or against Turkish accession to the European Union is such an important test of whether Europeans are serious about having more decision-making power -- and greater influence -- on the world stage.
In other words, Turkey is a test case for whether Germany and the European Union can really take on a role of "global player." But politicians and countries that call for a popular "yes/no" referendum on the matter of Turkish accession (such as French President Jacques Chirac) seem to lack the necessary maturity to take on such a role.
Even more primitive is the idea of the Christian Democrats in Germany to start a petition drive.
The suggestion has, rightly, met with loud opposition in Germany; in the current government and within the ruling parties, but also within the Union. Thus, acting Union floor leader Wolfgang Bosbach speaks of "misunderstandings" and a "queasy feeling" in the face of his party leader's newest idea.
Jumping the gun
Never mind that Bosbach himself is opposed to Turkish entry into the European Union, because he fears Turkish accession will lead to more terror inside Europe. This fear is in itself baseless, since the blasphemy of terrorism is not bound by religion or culture, and kills irrespective of a person's political or religious beliefs.
The question remains: is such a polarization necessary just now? Because up to now, it hasn't even been definitively decided whether to being accession talks, let alone allow Turkey imminent EU entry.
It will be at least 15 years before this question needs to be addressed -- if it ever needs to be addressed. In other words, there is plenty of time for a political and societal discussion on the basis of fact. The only sure thing now is: there are plenty of good reasons to be in favor of accession, and also several understandable fears that speak against Turkey's entry into the EU.
The Union suggestion paves the way to a spiral of opposing positions that could lead to excesses that would harm Germany's carefully-groomed image of being an enlightened, humanitarian, and tolerant democracy.
A right-wing fire attack on a home inhabited by Turks in May 1993 in Solingen killed five people.
There is the danger that populism aimed at lampooning a people, its culture and religion, could have incalculable results: Unruly masses shouting "Turks get out" in Germany's streets; boycotts of Turkish stores, and perhaps even physical attacks on Turks (throwing stones, torching shops and apartments.) Such actions would not only wake recent memories of victims of racist fire attacks in Mölln und Solingen, but also memories of November 9th. No, not the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but of the Jewish pogroms in 1938.