Today’s Zaman published Markar Yesayan’s recent article on EU’s recent progress report on Turkey and Turkey’s reaction.
Full article is presented below:
Regardless of its results, Turkey’s bid for EU membership is a win-win process for the country.
Turkey wins either way and accordingly in the first scenario, Turkey complies with EU membership requirements and the union acts fairly, granting it membership. In the second, Turkey is denied membership and concludes that it doesn’t need to join the EU anyhow, similar to Norway, which has nonetheless recently awarded a Nobel Prize to the union.
But in this case, if we are not sure that Turkey is more democratic than the EU by its standards, we have to admit that the EU membership perspective still remains motivation for democratization in Turkey. Regardless, it seems that the prospect of EU membership has been absent from Turkey’s agenda for a while. The government has recently criticized the EU for what it sees as double standards coming from the bloc. But this was much more the case in 2005 and in 1999, when the prejudice against Turkey was even stronger; since then, Turkey has gone through a huge transformation that has included democratic steps.
Turkey is not a homogenous country; likewise, EU member countries and the European parliament are not homogenous either. There is both support and dissent for Turkey’s membership within the EU bloc. But the discrepancy in position regarding Turkey doesn’t alter Turkey’s status as a candidate country, one that has been in membership talks since 2005. The process is ongoing and represents a vital issue for Turkey, even if it’s not the number one agenda item at the moment.
For this reason, strong reactions within Turkey to the latest EU progress report on the country, despite praise for these reports up until 2007, don’t bode well for national politics.
It should be noted that the EU raises such criticisms vis-à-vis its own member states as well. Hungary, for instance, is being strongly criticized for its policies regarding the Roma people and foreigners. We have to get used to the criticisms and avoid being reactionary.
What are the reasons for this reaction and opposition within Turkey? Why did the government’s EU minister say that Turkey no longer needs the EU? Why did the chair of the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission throw away the progress report? Why did Turkey’s economy minister argue that the EU is the most hypocritical institution in history, and that it actually deserves a Nobel Prize for being hypocritical?
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is a pragmatic party that has relied on Turkey’s EU membership bid as a source of legitimization in its war against the military guardianship during its initial years in office. There was no other way than democratization and introduction of reforms to defeat military tutelage. Additionally, there was a demand among the public for EU-related reforms. Therefore, the government’s objectives overlapped with demands for reform by the EU and popular support was in line. But with the conclusion of the dissolution case in 2007 and the adoption of the constitutional amendments in a referendum on Sept 12, 2010, the government acquired the power it was seeking and “won the war.”
Around the same time, EU membership became less popular. Visible achievements were made and the enemy was defeated. So the government concluded that there was no longer any need for EU membership.
But there is a serious problem. Is it really true that Turkey does not need the EU? Is the reform process in Turkey complete? Is it really possible to argue that there is reversal from the reforms and that the deep state has been fully defeated? As I noted earlier, regardless of the final outcome, did Turkey become a democratic state by the EU standards such as to make membership unnecessary?
I don’t think that this is the case. True, Turkey has introduced serious reforms, but these reforms remain incomplete: the process of democratization needs its final touches. There is still the Kurdish problem and the issue of the PKK. Indeed, many criticisms in the progress report appropriately point out our shortcomings in several areas. The remedies for these problems are included in the EU acquis. Interestingly, there is no barrier such as military guardianship standing before the government if it chooses to introduce these reforms. In addition, Turks are still eager for the reforms.
It is clear, then, that the government’s reactions to the EU progress report are not based on any rational consideration.