Monday, January 23, 2006

Turkey and Freedom of Speech

Today comes the wonderful news that Turkey has dropped charges of "insulting Turkish identity" against Orhan Pamuk, author of the excellent books My Name is Red and Snow. Pamuk was accused of telling a Swiss newspaper that no one would discuss the Armenian genocide during World War I, in which Turkey killed over a million Armenians, or the deaths of 30,000 Kurds in the last few decades.

The dropping of the charges represents not just a victory for free speech, but also one of institutional suasion. It seems impossible that Turkey's decision to drop this case was entirely based on its desire to join the European Union, which has expressed serious concerns over Turkey's human rights record in general, and over Pamuk's case specifically.

There is no doubt that the EU succeeded where the UN could not have. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the UN has nothing that anybody wants, and therefore can offer no carrots to induce compliance with international law or adherence to moral norms. The EU, however, has lots that states such as Turkey want. Thus, states are faced with a choice: Maintain old traditional customs and laws and remain outside of a valuable institution, or adopt more internationally accepted laws and standards and benefit from institutional membership. Western institutions, such as the EU, the WTO, or NATO, are sufficiently valuable and powerful to make that a difficult choice, with many countries choosing to move towards Western values and conceptions of law. The UN is not.

1 comment:

smilerz said...

It seems impossible that Turkey's decision to drop this case was entirely based on its desire to join the European Union, which has expressed serious concerns over Turkey's human rights record in general, and over Pamuk's case specifically.

Are you missing a negative in there somewhere? It appears that you want to say "It seems impossible that Turkey's decision ... was not based entirely ..."

In either case, I think you are right - the EU succeeded, by having something that Turkey wants where the UN couldn't.

I'm really enjoying your blog, keep up the good work.