Columnist Ibrahim Kalin comments on European Turks. A reprint of his column is as follows:
"It has been more than half a century since a large number of Turkish workers first migrated to Europe. They accomplished their original task and provided Europe with a major labor force. But after 50-some years, they are not just manual workers. And this is a fact Europe has to cope with.
Today, around 4.5 millions of Turks live in Europe. Geographically, they are scattered all over the old continent. They work in practically every field of business life, from small shops and doner kebap salons to media and trade. As an immigrant community, they display remarkable diversity. Among them are conservatives, religious groups, democrats, liberals, leftists, Alevis and Kemalists. Some are well-integrated, speaking the language of their countries as well as Turkish though the third generation has a major problem with the latter. Some are trying hard to integrate without much success. Some have given up on the idea of integration because some European countries impose integration as a smokescreen for assimilation.
At a time when concepts such as integration, assimilation and multiculturalism are being reworked and readjusted, Turks in Europe continue to struggle to create a living space for themselves in an increasingly confused Europe. For many Turks, survival rather than living a full life in Europe is the key goal. More than half a century later, many of them still feel insecure, isolated, marginalized and without a precise goal for the future. They survive every day rather than making a strategic investment for the future. The policies of European countries as well the social and cultural attitudes of Turkish immigrants have contributed to the creation of an invisible wall between Turks and their host societies. As a result, Turkish communities have turned inward, preferring a self-imposed isolation over full engagement, which they fear would end up in the loss of their identity and cultural values.
I don't have any precise data, but as of today, the vast majority of Turks living in Europe still work in manual jobs or operate their own small businesses. This is fine and nothing to be ashamed of. Turkish individuals and families try to survive in the European job market as much as any other group. The problem is that they are still far from making an entry into the other strategic areas of European life. Last week I asked a group of Turkish students in Vienna associated with the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), one of the most promising Turkish organizations in Europe, how many Turkish academics are in Austrian universities. The answer was practically none. The situation is not any better in Germany, France, Denmark or the UK. One can ask other questions as well: How many Turkish CEOs, broadcasters, filmmakers, parliamentary deputies, local politicians, state or federal administrators are there in Europe? The answer is not very promising.
A new study by Professor Talip Kucukcan of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in Ankara and Veyis Gungor of the Turkevi Research Center in Amsterdam entitled "Turks in Europe: Culture, Identity, Integration" provides important perspectives on the situation of Turkish communities in Europe today.
The book is the largest collection of essays on Turks in Europe and covers a wide range of issues. The key issue for the Turkish communities is the process of becoming full citizens of Europe while remaining connected to Turkey. Is this possible? Can European Turks be full citizens in Europe and maintain their social, cultural and economic ties with their home country? European assimilationists think not. But they are mistaken, and they don't realize the cost of forced integration. There can be a modus vivendi between European citizenship and Turkish identity because the concepts of citizenship, identity, belonging and loyalty have all become very sophisticated, transparent and multifaceted and provide new possibilities for peaceful coexistence. There are already promising signs of this.
But above all these, there is a completely new dynamic affecting the lives of European Turks. It is the new Turkey that is emerging. As Turkey becomes a major regional power, Euro-Turks will have to pay more attention to it. But more importantly, they will have to recalibrate themselves to catch up with Turkey. The Turkey they left behind half a century ago is a very different place now. As Turkey raises its profile, so must the Turkish communities in Europe. Turks in Europe no longer look at a small Turkey but a major economic power and political actor. This will certainly change the dynamics of living in Europe as a Turk. I hope both Europeans and Euro-Turks realize what this means for future relations between Turkey and Europe."
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