MURAT YETKİN > Turkey and Europe head to crossroads

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The European Union issued a bitter progress report on its everlasting candidate Turkey last month. It was the toughest one in the last ten years, which means that for the first time in 10 years - the 10-year rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) - the EU started to focus on the empty part of the glass.

Does it mean that the credit that the EU gave to the Turkish government has started to diminish?
That may not be the correct question, the picture is more complicated than that.

First of all, we have to consider those ten years in two different periods: 2002-2005 and 2005-2012, years of rise and decline. In the first period, Turkey had a good performance in passing nine constitutional amendments in order to provide harmony between the Turkish legal system and the EU. The Tayyip Erdoğan government managed to change the Turkish paradigm over Cyprus as well.
However, when the EU upgraded the candidate status of the Greek Cypriot government (also representing the Turkish part of the island) in 2004 - despite a referendum in which Turks voted for and Greeks voted against the U.N. sponsored reunification plan - things started to turn sour.

The EU has been experiencing the six-month term presidency of the Greek Cypriot government since July, a presidency that will be finished by the end of 2012. In a way, individual EU governments listed all their criticisms of Turkish democracy in this year’s progress report, criticisms that many of them decline to tell the Turkish government elsewhere out of economic or political calculations.

When the EU started to put additional obstacles on Turkey’s road in 2005, Erdoğan had said that remaining a part of European system was more important then being a member of the EU, and that if fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria was not sufficient enough for the EU then Turkey could carry on with the Ankara Criteria. In an AK Parti convention over the weekend, he even opened up the issue of bringing back the death penalty while ruling out the release of the imprisoned-for-life leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, because of the ongoing hunger strikes. He did not explicitly say that he would try to bring capital punishment back, but simply said that a majority of Turkish people were for it. Erdoğan thinks a bold move would shake the Kurdish issue into a new balance, but such a move could drag the whole debate back to Copenhagen Criteria, which is about democratization and human rights.

Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s EU Minister and chief negotiator - when he is not blocked from negotiations - tells Barçın Yinanç in the Hürriyet Daily News today that Turkey wants to see a number of new steps from the EU when the Irish government takes over the presidency from Greek Cyprus in January 2013. When asked about Erdoğan’s words to German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week in Berlin about becoming an EU member by 2023, Bağış said Turkey’s patience may not endure until that year, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.

It seems that both Turkey and the EU are testing each other’s patience, and that the coming year might be an important one for both.


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Notice on comments

In A Flap

11/6/2012 7:58:15 PM

as someone who has lived under the more or less unelected EU's edicts since the early 70's I would urge Turkey to think twice about joining the EU. By doing so you may think you will get more out of them than you lose, but you will lose your independence, your laws will be superseded by the EU's, you will lose your currency, you have to join the sinking euro, and you will lose control of your borders. criminals will have more rights than victims. the EU will dictate what you can do. Think now.

Jon Goodfellow

11/6/2012 3:14:31 AM

The road to cutting the Gordian knot over Cyprus lies squarely in Brussels. The Turks surely have their issues, but the EU has greater fault over admitting Greek Cyprus, and more so for giving it the EU Presidency. Such absurdity. Next they will admit the homicidal Serbs before Turkey. Such a sad ending to a noble post-WWII enterprise.

gray wolf

11/6/2012 12:41:40 AM

to start with uri d it has nothing to do with you jews secondly you greek boys will never admit you started your own problems and why should you be allowed to roam the island because you greeks cannot be trusted thats why the island has been divided all these years and will stay that way for ever or until you greeks bust a blood vessel finally who wants to be in the eu and end up like you lot.

Crane Peter

11/5/2012 7:26:43 PM

Apart from resolving the problem of Cyprus for Turkey France in particular is paranoid about the influx of a cheap Turkish workforce. With unemployment reaching historic high levels in europe who would want someone working for 4 euros per hour when the minimum wage is about 8 euros per hour. Even if it comes to a referendum the answer will be no.i

Sid Mark

11/5/2012 6:55:08 PM

When he is not blocked from negotiations?Be serious for once.Nobody is blocking negotiations.Turkey excluded itself because of Cyprus presidency.

Uri D.

11/5/2012 6:18:27 PM

Does anybody genuinely believe that Hamas-terrorists supporting Turkey will be accepted by the EU?


11/5/2012 5:40:37 PM

I often read in the Turkish media about the GC rejection of the five times massaged by Erdogan and Annan ill fated plan. However, as peculiar as it may be, no Turkish journalist ever attempts to write and expose the reasons why this apartheid reunification plan was rejected. So here are some of these reasons. It retricted island wide free movement for GCs, it restricted island wide land owenership rights for GCs and perpetuated Turkey's presence and influence in the Republic of Cyprus. Regards

Red Tail

11/5/2012 11:55:59 AM

The reading is sad. And that is that the press in this country is sooo nationalistic. An extreme case of "We are always right and they are wrong" rethorics. Why can we not have any self critical press in this country which actually reads the progress report and then ask the Government why it has totally failed in its promisses about progress which it signed when the negotiations started. In the West the press is always questioning its leader on everything from corruption to wars. Not in Turkey.

Alex Kader

11/5/2012 9:09:13 AM

Take the good ones and let the defective ones. When we are choosing eggs, we are doing like that since those defective eggs can cause a lot of problems. If EU decides to include Turkey into union, they have to accept those defective eggs as well, which is about sixty percent of Turkish population. EU has very high standards and there are about 40 million people in Turkey who will not be happy to apply even the fundamental standards in their lives. The AKP government is reflection of that society
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