The 2008 UEFA Football Championship, commonly referred to as Euro-2008, a sports event, has found itself involved in dirty politics. Austria’s notorious politician, Joerg Haider, set out his indignation about the participation of Russia and Turkey at the European Championship. He was particularly concerned about Turkey’s success.
Haider’s open self-promotion at Euro-2008 uncovered a very serious political problem for the European Union – future relations with Turkey and a huge Turkish community in the EU countries.
Euro-2008 continues for three weeks already. Fortunately, football has not been dragged through the mud of politics. However, hardly had Russian and Turkish national teams made their way to the semi-finals, when one of Europe’s most scandalous politicians, Joerg Haider, released a political statement on the matter. He was particularly angered with the success of Turkish footballers at the Championship.
Mr. Haider said he did not understand why Euro-2008 semi-finalists Turkey and Russia had been allowed to play in the tournament. “I wonder what these two nations have to do with Europe,” Haider, the governor of the Austrian state of Carithia was quoted as saying in an interview with Die Presse newspaper.
Haider is known for his comments on Nazi concentration camps, which he described as “labor and punishment camps.” When his party became a part of the ruling coalition in 2000, 14 EU countries considerably diminished their cooperation with Austria and introduced sanctions against the country. Haider was strongly against the expansion of the European Union, as well as against Austria’s incorporation in it. The politician believes that it would be better to unite Austria with Germany – a remark, which made many draw a parallel between Joerg Haider and Adolf Hitler, since Hitler was the last person in the world to touch upon such an idea.
It is worthy of note that Haider is not alone in his concerns. One of the most prominent US experts on Islam, Daniel Pipes, said: “I originally supported Turkey’s membership in the European Union, but now I am opposed to it. This is not in the interests of either Brussels or Ankara. I think that the Turks and the Europeans begin to realize it despite quite contradictory statements. My concerns are connected with a possibility for Turkey to become an Islamic republic rather than with a threat of spreading Muslim terrorism in Europe.”
The two politicians are partially right. Many Turkish Islamists oppose to Turkey’s incorporation in the European Union. Tens of millions of Muslim Turks will inundate Europe if Turkey becomes a full-fledged EU member. Only 57 percent of the Turks back up their nation’s membership in the European Union, whereas 40 percent stand for military dictatorship against the European election system, opinion polls show.
Two-thirds of the Turkish population would not let their daughters marry “the unfaithful.” To crown it all, the same number of the Turks believe that even students must wear head scarves. Forty-two of the polled believe that tourism endangers the national morale in Turkey, whereas nine percent insist on the introduction of Shariah laws.
The match between Turkey and Germany originally looked quite explosive due to the existence of over 2 million Turkish guest-workers in Germany. The story of Turkish immigrants in Germany began in 1961, when the governments of Germany and Turkey signed a labor force agreement. The document subsequently changed the lives of many Turkish and then German citizens. Every guest-worker from Turkey dreamed to make money in Germany and return to their native land driving a German car. However, many of them eventually decided to stay in Germany for good.
It is worthy of note that over 3 million Germans choose Turkey as the country of their holidays every year. This number continues to grow steadily. Specialists say that German tourists in Turkey will become the driving force of Turkey’s incorporation in the EU.
The situation in Austria is quite dangerous too. The number of Turkish guest-workers in the 8 million strong country is about to reach 100,000 people. Many of them do not even wish to adjust or adopt the customs and habits of the local population. One of Austria’s far-right politicians once said that the Turks would soon start to tend their sheep and rape women on central squares of Austria’s biggest cities.
It goes without saying that Joerg Haider has made a political clown of himself as he mixed football with politics. However, Euro-2008 as a major sports event, which attracts the attention of millions of people, has unveiled very important issues in modern politics.
Sergei Balmasov, Vadim Trukhachev
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