Almost all of last week’s striking news pieces were reminiscent of the early 1990’s. Listening to the news about the suicide bomb attack in Kayseri, the sentencing of Kurdish deputy Leyla Zana to 10 years in prison, the controversial statements of Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, I had a clear sense of deja vu.
But the news item that struck me the most was about the Danish
foreign minister’s statement. Turkey should take brave steps to resolve the problems of its Kurdish population as it strives to draw up a new constitution, said Villy Sovndal, who is also the current European Union
president. “That’s the bravest statement to come from Europe
for the last couple of years,” I said to myself.
Some may rush to point to other past statements or reports here and there. But this will not change the perception that the EU has been highly insensitive to democratic misgivings under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). In contrast to those die hard AKP opponents, who are unfortunately categorized under the banner “staunch Kemalist or secularist,” and who are completely blinded by their hatred of the ruling party, I will not argue that Turkish democracy progressed backward. Turkey has made considerable progress on certain aspects of democratization and improvement of human rights. But this partial success should not overshadow the bigger picture which is still worrisome.
The EU’s stance on the not so rosy part of the picture has been rather intriguing. I spent the first decade of my career in the 1990’s as a diplomatic reporter
covering the EU’s reactions to anti–democratic implementations and human rights violations. I do not recall the number of stories I have done regarding a European dignitary’s critical statement on Turkey’s policies on Kurdish issue or a European delegation visit to attend a hearing about a writer in jail. I am (ironically) grateful to EU troika ministers, or European heads of states, for secretly sending letters of protests or issuing diplomatic warnings, which were made public by my reports, gaining me the appreciation of my superiors. Gone are the days when Kurds were denied their rights and were victims of extra judicial killings of course. Now that the darkest period is behind us, the EU is not concerned that Turkish democracy still falls short of universal standards.
There could be several explanations for this phenomenon. According to “bon pour l’Orient” theory, the EU might think that the current democratic jacket suits Turkey just fine and there is no need to have a democracy based on universal standards. Besides, a fully democratic Turkey will mean full pressure from Turkey for full membership. According to another theory, pro-AKP NGO’s are extremely well organized in Brussels and other European capitals where they head an extraordinary PR campaign for Turkey’s ruling party. There is also the theory that the EU’s deep state is settling accounts with the old military and judicial order, which was a major stumbling block in their relations with Turkey. Now it is happy to see the elites of the old order lose their weight and influence, seeing certain anti–democratic consequences as an inevitable side effect.
The truth seems to be the mixture of the three.