I don’t normally deal with politics on this blog. I stick to competencies and software. This morning, though, I read news which will affect the UK and EU skills base, and I can’t avoid it just because it is political.
A Turkish publisher, Ragip Zarakolu, was sentenced to five months in prison after a judge ruled that The Truth Will Set Us Free, written by George Jerjian, “insulted the Turkish republic”. The sentence was under Article 301, revised in April.
As the Guardian puts it:
The altered law banished the crime of insulting “Turkishness” and reduced the maximum sentence from three to two years. It also lay down that all prosecutions need prior approval from the justice minister.
What does all this have to do with UK and EU skills?
As it happens, quite a lot.
Most people put the time-scale for the accession of Turkey to the EU at about 20 years. Personally, I think it will happen sooner.
Turkey has a population of 70 million, half of whom are under 30. As the population of the EU ages, the prospect of tapping into this increasingly well-educated work force is going to seem increasingly appealing.
Put simply – sooner than most people think, the EU is going to need Turkey to join.
But there is no way that a country that bans free speech will – or should – be allowed to enter the EU. The April downgrading of the penalties under article 301 was a sop, a typical Turkish compromise designed not to anger anyone.
And there’s another very good reason why Turkey should drop Article 301. It doesn’t need it.
Right now Euro 2008 is proving a great success. Turkey have played some brilliant soccer, coming back in dramatic fashion to win their last two matches of the group stage.
Because none of the home nations managed to qualify, everyone in the UK seems to have picked a team to support. I have chosen Turkey, because I have spent some time there and also because (when their players remember to avoid gamesmanship) they play some attractive football.
Tonight they play Croatia in the quarter-finals, thanks to a goal scored a minute or so from full time by Nihat. Here it is:
For me, this is the goal of the tournament so far – Nihat showed brilliant skill to turn his man and then place the ball – from outside the box – in the top corner, beating the world’s best keeper, Peter Czech.
But even more than the goal itself, listen to the crowd as they chant “Tür – ki – ye! Tür – ki – ye!” If this country ever felt unsure of its place in the world, or in a European context, that time has gone.
Article 301 need never have been enacted in the first place. It certainly isn’t needed now.