Turkey is vital to Europe’s future

Posted on September 6, 2007


The Daily Telegraph (LONDON)
David Miliband
SECTION: FEATURES; Comment; Pg. 20

In the 20th century, Britain’s national security came under threat from hostile nations. Today, the threat is from terrorist groups, such as al-Qa’eda, operating within failed states, seeking to fracture the world along religious lines.

The response by the police and the Army, at home and abroad, is necessary, but on its own not enough. To marginalise extremists, we have to address causes as well as symptoms. We must tackle the gulf of understanding and empathy that too often exists between religions and regions of the world. This does not have to be only the stuff of sermons; it needs to be central to hard-headed diplomacy. The activities and narrative of al-Qa’eda seek to emphasise that which divides us. Our task is the reverse: to nurture understanding, tolerance and commitment across religions, ethnicities and nations and to marginalise extremists.

That solidarity is founded on shared values and interests, whether a belief in individual human dignity or a common determination to tackle climate change or promote free trade. But shared interests and shared values are not enough to unite us. They need to be embodied in shared projects and shared institutions.

That is why I am visiting Turkey this week. In bridging the gap between Europe and Asia, in showing that common humanity overshadows religious differences, there is no more pivotal country than Turkey.

Turkey gives lie to the argument that democratic values and a secular democratic state are incompatible with a Muslim majority. As Turkey’s new president said: “A country cannot claim to be contemporary if even a single citizen is being discriminated against based on his or her religious, linguistic or ethnic characteristics or economic status.” [more]

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Note: David Miliband is British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.