Posted by: bklunk | April 2, 2007

I Was President of France and All I Got Was a Lousy Mug!

Are symbols really unimportant?  Turkey feels more than miffed that the talks about their accession to the EU have been suspended over what they feel are trumped-up charges. Many Turks believe the real reason is that France and Germany (and some others) simply don’t want a Muslim state in the EU.

Don’t they have anything more important to bicker about?

I mean, honestly, this is possibly one of the most rediculous stories I have heard. According to Knut Albert’s Beer Blog, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave an antique beer mug to French President Jacques Chirac as a retirement present. This has caused outrage in Turkey and the Turkish Foreign Minister says the European Union needs to stop looking at the past and look to the future. What is the problem, you ask? Apparently, the mug depicts Napoleon’s 1799 victory over the Ottoman Empire in Egypt. This image makes the Turks feel alienated from the rest of the European nations. Personally, I think Turkey needs to get over it. No offense was meant against Turkey. The German Chancellor knows that Chirac enjoys German beer more than French wine (something I am sure does not please his people) and gave him suitable gift. One would think the European leaders would have more important things to do than squabble over art. This is just like Iran screaming bloody murder because they feel “300″ is offensive. It is a movie about a historical event (although it is highly inaccurate, but that is another story). The Germans are not offended when they are depicted in our World War II movies. The British are not offended with Revolutionary War movies. Both Iran and Turkey need to realize that history occurred, and something that happened more than 200 or 2500 years ago should not be a cause of debate today.

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  1. I completely agree with the blogger’s view. Bad feelings over a retirement beer stein? Really?!? Yes, France and Germany are making noise about Turkey becoming part of the EU, but it is a big decision. Is it possible that there are lingering feelings of prejudice? Maybe. However, I find it hard to believe that France and Germany are dragging their feet on letting Turkey into the EU soley, because they are a Muslim state. I would like to believe that the stalling lies in realistic issues, not discrimination. However, as I type this, I very well know that it could be idealistic and naive.

    The blogger’s point is a good one. Aren’t there more important things to worry about than what is painted on a beer stein? I recognize that at this point, Turkey is probably very frustrated with the delay on being let into the EU. At the same time, I think that they are fishing for any solid evidence that they are being discriminated against.

    My advice? Keep looking.

  2. I think that Turkey is overreacting about the mug. It is true, that depiction of Napoleon’s victory over the Ottoman Empire is in the past. I think that Turkey is overly paranoid and is just finding reasons to express their anger at any nation of the European Union. I think this is so because Turkey is extremely frustrated that the EU is not openly welcoming Turkey into the EU. I think that Angela Merkel is smarter than the indirectly offend the Turks. I think she realizes how important it is to cooperate with other countries, especially those which could become a member of the EU. Overall, I think that Turkey overreacted.

  3. I agree that Turkey may be overreacting; however, I also think that it was not a prudent decision on Angela Merkel’s part. Put into context Turkey’s unhappiness with the decision does not seem totally unwarranted. They are the first Muslim state to try to enter the EU and both Germany and France have been critical of their acceptance, and keep in mind it was not the mug that Turkey had a problem with rather it was the depiction on the mug. It does come at a time when they feel particularly insecure about their relations with Europe and that relationship is in fact a dominant subject in international news. Of all of the images for one major EU player to light-heartedly give another at this point in time it does seem less than prudent. Though Turkey may have overreacted I do believe that some reaction is justified. Finally, many of the most prevalent conflicts or ‘debates’ of the modern world stem from events that occurred “200 to 2500 years ago”, the debate in Belfast or the Middle East for example.

  4. I agree that Turkey has a right to be frustrated with the European Union for dragging their feet on whether or not to let them in. It Such a vehement reaction to a simple present was uncalled for, however. I can see Andrew’s point that the past causes debates today, but it was Turkey who said we need to stop looking at the past. I am merely responding to their comment. They seem to be the ones who are trying to defend the image of the Ottoman Empire and not look to the future.

    My comment was in response to Turkey’s and Iran’s attempt to ignore historical events. The conflicts in Belfast and the Middle East are not trying to ignore the past. They are conflicts of who the land should rightly belong to, not of a historical battle. In my opinion the two are different issues, but my initial statement left it ambiguous. I hope I have clarified it.

  5. I agree that it is absurd that Turkey got so perturbed at the beer stein. Personally, I think that they took it way to seriously. I do however, understand that tensions might be high, and the gift might have been in poor taste. But, I think that it is a symbol of French pride in their history and victories, perhaps not a message that is meant to be sent to the Turkish people.

  6. We just talked about this at the end of my World Politics class today. I thought Turkey was leaning more towards joining the EU. According to my book, since 2002 Turkey has been making changes, including abolishing the death penalty and improving human rights to try and improve to win EU membership. This was practically 5 years ago, and I know these things take along time, but maybe Turkey is closer to joining the EU then we thought. If they want to join and they are making a lot of changes to better their public, I cannot believe that France and Germany would have that much power in preventing them to join the EU. There are 25 other states part of the EU who could decide otherwise and let Turkey join.

    I find this really funny that Turkey got upset over such a small action. It doesn’t seem that the German Chancellor even considered the repercussions of his gift. I think if the Turkish Foreign Minister wants to tell the EU to stop looking in the past, they should do the same. If they did this, Turkey wouldn’t have been offended in the first place by the gift. The gift may not be new, who knows maybe the mug was an antique, not something new that is still being made or promoted, which shows European Countries have moved on.

    Its too bad that Turkey is making such an issue about this. Like people, states should pick and choose their arguments. This way the seem more credible. Hopefully Turkey can work through this and join the EU if its government and people want to, after all the changes they have been making in hopes of becoming an new member.

  7. Like most who have responded to this blog entry, I agree that Turkey is overreacting to this beer mug that Chancellor Merkel gave to President Chirac. If France and Germany had such a problem with Turkey becoming a member of the European Union, I would think that they would say so in a much more direct way than through a gift to an outgoing leader. I understand, though, that some Turks might find a reason to make an issue out of the image depicted, but I honestly don’t think that Angela Merkel’s objective was to offend the entire nation of Turkey or any member of the former Ottoman Empire. I think that the examples of the British not being offended by Revolutionary War movies is a very good one. To me, it would seem that the British or the Germans (if we are talking about World War II) would have more of a case to be legitimately irked by such depictions in arts/entertainment.

    The point that the blogger makes at the end is important for not only Turkey and Iran to understand, but all people of a state with any history at all. We learn and grow from history. One can be upset that those events had to happen at all, but the point is to understand that we have learned from those events and strive to avoid repeating those that caused pain and unnecessary conflict. Turkey needs to grow up and discuss what is really causing them so much distress involving their acceptance into the European Union.

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