Partisanship appointment blocks Turkey’s road to Europe

Partisanship appointment blocks Turkey’s road to Europe

Turkey wants to get out of the Council of Europe’s (CoE) monitoring process as soon as possible, according to Hürriyet Daily News representative in Ankara Serkan Demirtaş. 

It is not rocket science to guess what it takes to get out. Whatever it took the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE to close the monitoring procedure in 2004 is also valid after 15 years.

In 2004, European parliamentarians were convinced that Turkey was going through a genuine change of mentality in terms of democratic standards.

The governments preceding the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had already started to adopt reforms to improve democracy and human rights, but the AK Party, which came to power in 2002, brought colossal momentum to the reform process.

In two years’ time, the AK Party was able to convince the European parliamentarians that it was genuinely committed in making Turkey more democratic and in its willingness to cooperate with the CoE as well as its institutions, like the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), to improve human rights.

The governments preceding the AK Party thought they could ignore the warnings from Europe or that the superficial steps they took would be enough to fool the Europeans.

They thought they could act as if taking the necessary measures, while not taking any step at all and expect to be considered a respectable member of the CoE.

The AK Party was well aware of this situation and thus, was able to convince its interlocutors that “it meant business” in terms of improving human rights and democracy.

After a decade, the AK Party went back to the old tactics of the “old Turkey.” It expects to get away with it while distancing itself from European democratic norms.

It was therefore no surprise when the Parliamentary Assembly decided to reopen the monitoring procedure in 2017.

If Turkey wants quick closure of this procedure then it simply has to change its mentality. In other words, it has to first and foremost end certain anomalies that have no place in democratic practices.

One such anomaly relates directly to Turkey’s presence in the ECHR. It has now been more than a year since Turkey has failed to find a nominee acceptable by Strasboug standards to replace Işıl Karakaş, the Turkish judge who finished her term in April 2017.

Those familiar with the issue, journalist Zeynel Lüle among them, who has covered the ECHR for decades from Strasbourg, believe Turkey has resorted to certain tactics to impose its preferred candidate. The rules require to provide three names that fulfill the criteria so that the Court has the liberty to make its choice among them.

One such tactic was to give a list with only one out of the three fulfilling the criteria and two others with relatively lower credentials. That would leave no choice for the commission but to select the only one eligible among the three.

But it seems Ankara was unable to fool Strasbourg. Gone are the days when the AK Party was seen in European capitals as the biggest reformer in Turkey of all time.

The first list sent to Strasbourg in December 2016 was turned down. The second list sent in 2017, which included two (high level) civil servants and a lawyer living in the Netherlands was not accepted either.

According to Lüle, one of the reasons believed to be behind the refusal was the conviction in Court circles that the government wanted to see a civil servant close to it serving in the Court, which goes against the practices in Strasbourg.

In 2018, a new list was set up and this time Turkey rather chose its candidates from among academics. But that list has also proven problematic. To make a long story short: This is where we are at the moment.

Following the interviews conducted with the candidates by the advisory panel last September, it became clear this list would also be rejected. In order to avoid a third rejection one of the candidates withdrew his nomination. That means the issue will be postponed until next year.

There is no shortage in Turkey of candidates who carry the necessary qualifications to be a judge in the ECHR. Yet, the whole process shows the partisanship AK Party endorse while making its appointments.

The domestic political and institutional culture might not be strong in Turkey to obstruct such partisan appointment. That is not the case for Europe and this is the exact mentality change that is asked from the AK Party if it wants to get out of the monitoring mechanism.

The AK Party cannot expect Europe to stand by idly while it tries to bypass democratic norms. That was in the 2000s when Europeans were in a delusional euphoria about the AK Party’s policies. It would be naïve to expect them to be fooled again.

Turkey, European Union, Politics