Turkey’s relations mellow with a stringent EU

Turkey’s relations mellow with a stringent EU

For good or bad, several processes are taking place at the same time these days in Turkey. Most of them relate to major changes in its domestic policies, namely the Kurdish issue and its position within a developing geostrategic shift in the region. However, while most analysts are focusing their attention on the policies of Turkey regarding Middle Eastern politics, it should not escape our attention that Ankara has appeared ready lately to reheat its engines toward Europe, too. The adoption last week by the Turkish Parliament of a long-awaited law to regulate migration and asylum and grant the status of “conditional refugees” to refugees from non-European nations – thus allowing them to stay in Turkey until placed in a third country – was hailed as a “landmark decision” by human rights organizations. It was also seen by the EU as sign that “Turkey is demonstrating willingness to work in line with the EU and meet international standards.”

The EU is now opening its doors ajar for more talks on granting EU visas to Turkish citizens provided though that thousands of illegal migrants, who have crossed from Turkey into Greece, are returned to Turkey. Also, we recently heard from the Turkish minister for European Affairs, Egemen Bağış, that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “will be visiting Brussels in a few months, once Chapter 22 is opened.” So Ankara is set to revive its process with the EU, and the bloc is becoming less negative toward deepening its relations with Turkey.

But can today’s EU and its core institution, the eurozone, play “an important role in Turkey’s democratization,” as Bağış claimed?

Besides its catastrophic effects on the EU economies and particularly the euro-bound economies of the eurozone, the recent economic crisis has challenged the very foundations of Europe as the land of democracies which protect their citizens, protect their rights to welfare, education, health and employment; as the land of free movement of ideas, people and assets and products; and as the land of deep culture and ancient history which respects diversity.

For the last three years, we have witnessed the transformation of post-war democratic Europe. The Europe of today looks like a land divided into the rich North and poor South where the rich North, with its surplus economies, dictate their policies toward the poor, indebted South through destructive binding agreements which overstep their constituent democratic institutions, such as a democratic electoral system, a Parliament, a system of unionized labor and the right to ownership. The recent developments regarding the “haircut” of deposits in Cypriot banks under a newly imposed concept that depositors are regarded as “investors,” particularly reveals a major shift in the understanding of the founding principles of the EU. To quote a recent analysis by a Greek academic, “The sad conclusion is that the political arrangements of the crisis challenge the core of constitutional institutions and democracy with a radically greater effectiveness than the hypocritically accused extremes. They simply cancel the institutions.”

Europe has become a land where “Germany, as the most powerful economy of Europe, dictates to the European nations how they should manage their economy and their society, undermining their national integrity, their social institutions and democratic principles,” as a German intellectual claims in the same analysis.

For years, Turkey’s declared national target was to fully meet the EU acquis. In the same recent interview, Bağış claimed that the EU accession process was playing an important role in Turkey’s democratization.

“The European process is a process much more important than its end. Looking back, we can see that we have reached a much better place while moving accession forward,” he said.

I am sure he is aware that EU is not the same as when his party came to power. And that if Turkey still wishes to join this club which is run “under new regulations,” it will have to agree that its national policies might be overruled for the greater good of an EU with a homogeneous neoliberal model which cannot tolerate “special cases” as Turkey claims to be.